Carrot Cake Cupcakes – Tender and fluffy, lightly-spiced Carrot Cake Cupcakes topped with a rich Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting. Everyone loves this tasty twist on traditional Carrot Cake.
Are you here for the Carrot Cake Cupcakes or the Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting? Either way, you will be leaving here a happier person. Moist and fluffy, lightly spiced carrot cake cupcakes topped with a rich and luxurious cream cheese frosting – this is what dreams are made of!
Carrot cake was my most requested birthday cake as a child, I have always loved it! So, maybe I’m a little biased, but I can’t imagine that you won’t love these cupcakes. I’ve made this recipe multiple times, and these are always met with rave reviews. Plus, the special twist of adding brown sugar to a typical cream cheese frosting makes these extra special.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Several things set this recipe apart from other carrot cake recipes. Here’s what makes this recipe the BEST:
- The frosting to be the star of this recipe, so I kept the carrot cake simple. A tender and moist cake, filled with finely grated carrots, and lightly spiced with cinnamon.
- I sweeten the cupcakes with a combination of brown sugar and granulated sugar. The brown sugar adds a depth of flavor that you can’t get from white sugar alone. And because we are topping the cupcakes with a generous swirl of frosting, I didn’t want the sweetness factor to be off the chart, so I made the cake itself only lightly sweet. The cake perfectly compliments the decadent frosting.
Note: These cupcakes do not have a high rise. You will not get a large dome shape, but the cupcakes should give a slight dome just above the top of the cupcake wrapper.
Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
This here is the only way I want to top my carrot cake from now until forever. This Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting has a rich and deep, almost caramel-like flavor. It strikes the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. You will LOVE it! Out of brown sugar? Try my Brown Sugar Substitute.
Tips for Making the Best Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Cream cheese and butter should be softened to room temperature. Do not speed this along by microwaving – you will get them too soft, which will result in a runny frosting that will require a lot powdered sugar to thicken it. I leave my cream cheese and butter at room temp for 1 hour or so.
- Your brown sugar needs to be super fresh, moist, and free from lumps. The best brown sugar I have found is Target “Market Pantry” brand. Soft, fresh brown sugar is essential for this frosting.
- To avoid grittiness from the brown sugar, make sure the frosting is thoroughly beaten. Scrape the beater, and the sides of the bowl periodically.
- This frosting is a touch softer than a typical cream cheese frosting. It still holds its shape, but I recommend storing these cupcakes in the fridge and bringing them to room temp right before serving.
Tell me you don’t want to swan dive right into that bowl of frosting? As I’ve said before, the baker is in charge of quality control, which means you get stick a spoon in there ↑ and test it out.
You can choose to decorate your cupcakes with a piping bag and tip or you can just spread the frosting on with a butter knife. I like to use an open star tip for this frosting, I think the swirls add nice dimension.
Prefer REGULAR CREAM CHEESE FROSTING? Use this recipe, cut in half, to frost 12 cupcakes.
More carrot cake recipes
Note: This post originally appeared in 2015. I made a few small tweaks in the recipe to allow a higher rise in the cupcakes, and I modified the frosting to thicken it up and increase the brown sugar flavor.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup all purpose flour, see note
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, increase to 2 teaspoons, if desired
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup vegetable or canola oil
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups FINELY grated carrots (loosely measured, not packed), about 2 medium carrots
- ⅓ cup finely chopped walnuts, optional
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened to cool room temp
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to cool room temp
- ¾ cup brown sugar, light or dark, make sure it's really fresh
- 2 cups powdered sugar, plus more if needed
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon molasses, optional, see note
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12 count muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
- Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk oil, applesauce, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. Add dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until combined. Stir in carrots and nuts (if using).
- Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
Frosting and assembly:
- Place the butter, cream cheese and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for 1-2 minutes at medium speed. If necessary, scrape the sides of the bowl and the beater, then beat a little longer. Let this mixture sit for 5 minutes, to allow the brown sugar to absorb into the wet ingredients (this is to avoid grittiness).
- Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and molasses (if using) and beat until smooth and creamy, scraping the beater and sides of the bowl periodically. If you prefer the frosting thicker, add more powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency (this frosting is on the thinner side). Lastly, give it a mix on high speed for one full minute.
- Spread the frosting on top of each cupcake (I used a pastry bag and open star decorating tip, but you could also spread it on with a butter knife). I like to store these cupcakes in the fridge, and bring to room temp before serving.
- To properly measure flour: Fluff the flour with your measuring cup, then scoop a heaping cup and level it off with the back of a knife.
- MOLASSES: A little bit of molasses helps to intensify the brown sugar flavor. If you don't have it you can skip it, but if you do have it, I highly recommend adding it.
- If the frosting gets too soft you can refrigerate it for 30 minutes or so.