Try these fluffy spiced carrot cake cupcakes topped with a rich brown sugar cream cheese frosting. You’ll loves this tasty twist on traditional carrot cake!
The addition of brown sugar to a typical cream cheese frosting makes these cupcakes extra special. We’ve made this recipe multiple times, and these cupcakes are always met with rave reviews. Prefer a layer cake? Try our Carrot Cake recipe.
Why you’ll love these carrot cake cupcakes
Texture: Fluffy and moist cupcakes topped with creamy frosting.
Flavor: Cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla create a delicious flavor combination.
Ease: The cupcake batter comes together in minutes.
Twist on a classic: The carrot cake element is traditional with an updated twist from the brown sugar cream cheese frosting.
- Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon).
- Whisk sugars, oil, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and whisk to combine.
- Stir in the shredded carrots
Divide the batter between 12 lined muffin cups and bake!
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.
Beat butter, cream cheese, and molasses. Allow the mixture to sit at room temp for about 5 minutes, this helps the brown sugar dissolve. Beat in powdered sugar, and vanilla.
Pipe or spread the frosting on the cooled cupcakes.
Brown sugar: Brown sugar is in both the cupcakes and frosting. The deep, rich, caramel flavor of brown sugar really elevates this recipe.
Carrots: Finely grated carrots add moisture and color and help give a classic carrot cake texture.
Applesauce and oil: Using a combination of applesauce makes the cupcakes mist but not oily. The applesauce also adds a bit of natural sweetness.
Tips for the best cream cheese frosting
- Cream cheese and butter should be softened to cool 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 30 minutes to one hour.
- Your brown sugar needs to be fresh, moist, and free from lumps. 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 softer than a typical cream cheese frosting. It holds its shape best if stored in the refrigerator. Once I add the frosting to the cupcakes I pop them in the fridge for the frosting to firm up.
- Prefer REGULAR CREAM CHEESE FROSTING? Use this recipe, cut in half, to frost 12 cupcakes.
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, light or dark, it should be fresh and soft
- 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
- 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, it should be fresh and soft
- 1 teaspoon molasses, optional, see note
- 2 cups powdered sugar, plus more if needed
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 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 whisk until just combined. Stir in carrots using a rubber spatula or spoon.
- Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups (I use an ice cream scoop). Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. These cupcakes do not have a high rise, they'll be just over the top of the paper liner. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
Frosting and assembly:
- Place the butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, and molasses 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 and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy, scraping the beater and sides of the bowl periodically. If you prefer the frosting thicker, add a little more powdered sugar. Give it a mix on high speed for one full minute. This frosting is on the softer side and it will firm up once refrigerated.
- Spread or pipe the frosting on top of each cupcake (I used a pastry bag and open star decorating tip). Place the cupcakes in the fridge so the frosting can firm up a bit. Serve at cool room temperature.
Nutritional Information is an estimate based on third-party calculations and may vary based on products used and serving sizes.