Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

My sister Jessica came over for St. Patrick's Day weekend, and I was so excited because it's been a looong time since we last had a Lazy Sunday. We did a little shopping, with my sister picking up a few things to decorate her new apartment and me getting a few World Market goodies for my blog. (I get so excited shopping for plates and glasses...That's totally normal, right?...)

Afterwards, we headed over to Nugget Market for beer, pizza, and ice cream. (Guinness, of course!) My sister also asked if we could pick up supplies for baking cupcakes, so that she could bring some to work the next day. Apparently, she'd been talking up my dessert-making skills to her boss and promised to bring my (semi-)famous carrot cake. (Thanks, Sis. No pressure.)

Carrot cake is such a classic, age-old dessert, and so many chefs/bakers have their own variations. Many of those recipes get passed down from grandmothers/mothers/etc.. This is the version that I love to make! Plus, it's been made into cupcakes for easier coworker-distribution. ;)

I got this Better Home & Gardens cookbook when I was 10 years old. My parents gave it to me when they realized how much I love being in the kitchen. (Or, they just realized how I liked making messes in the kitchen and thought it'd be better for everyone if I had actual recipes to follow.)

I first made this recipe for a family party, and all of my aunts and uncles loved it! They're usually a picky crowd, but everyone liked that the cake and frosting weren't overly sweet. I made it for a lot more gatherings afterwards, and that's how it became "(semi-)famous)".

First, you'll need 3 cups of finely shredded carrot. 6-7 medium-size carrots should be enough.

While my sister and I were at Nugget Market, though, these bunches of small rainbow carrots were too pretty to ignore.

There weren't just shades of orange, but also yellow, green, and purple.

Peel and cut the carrots, then place them into a food processor.

Puree the carrots until they're a very fine texture. You don't want large chunks to sink through the batter and sit at the bottom of the cupcakes.

Transfer the carrots to a large bowl, and mix in 4 large eggs and 3/4 of a cup of vegetable or canola oil.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: 2 cups of all purpose flour, 2 cups of white granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. The cinnamon isn't always in carrot cake, but I think that it's a warm, comforting spice that pairs well with the carrots. (PS. I love, love, love my new bumble bee measuring spoons!)

Pour the carrot mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir just until combined. Then, add 2 tablespoons of batter into each cupcake liner in a prepared muffin pan. (Side note: My batter came out a little bit thinner than it was supposed to. I'm not sure why it happened. But let's use this as a "learning experience", not a mistake...This is what thin-ish batter looks like...)

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes in the pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. Use a stand or hand mixer to combine 4 oz of room temperature cream cheese and 4 oz of room temperature butter. Add 1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar, and blend until smooth. At this point, add grated lemon zest (or orange zest, if you prefer) and vanilla extract. (Another side note: I ended up needing two batches of frosting to cover all 24 of the cupcakes.)

Once the cupcakes have completely cooled (because warm cupcakes = melted butter/cream cheese mess), top them with frosting. I like to transfer the frosting to a piping bag for easier decorating. (Souvenir cups make the best piping bag stands, don't they?? SO handy, those Buster Posey cups are...)

A word of caution, though... The purple carrots darkened after baking, so the cupcakes had green-ish spots. Luckily, since it was St. Patrick's Day when we baked these, no panic attacks were had. My recommendation, if you're using a rainbow bunch, would be to use only the orange, red, yellow, and white carrots.

Topping these cupcakes with sprinkles or fondant decorations would be an easy way to dress them up for Spring parties, whether it's for birthdays, showers, or even Easter! (Easter bunny...carrots...I mean, that's perfect.) Chopped pecans or walnuts would also make a tasty topping.

Aaand this is what happens when your excited, hungry, and cupcake-loving nephew crashes your blog photo session...

All on its own, the carrot cake is moist...not too dense...and is light and airy. The rich and tangy cream cheese frosting balances the natural sweetness of the carrot, as well as the spice of the cinnamon. And, as a nice little finish, the lemon zest is a fresh and bright surprise. This is another great dessert to make this Spring!

Carrot Cupcakes with Meyer Lemon-Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Better Home & Gardens; makes 2 dozen cupcakes)

Print Recipe

Carrot Cake:
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 cup White Granulated Sugar
2 tsps Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
3 cups Finely Grated Carrots
4 large Eggs
3/4 cup Vegetable or Canola Oil
Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature
4 oz Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Finely Grated Meyer Lemon Zest (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine the grated carrots, eggs, and oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and gently stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until all of the ingredients are incorporated. 
  3. Pour 2 tablespoons of cake batter into each paper liner. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Leave the cupcakes in the pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
  4. To make the Cream Cheese Frosting, use a stand or hand mixer to combine the cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar. Cream until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and grated lemon zest. Mix until combined.
  5. Frost the cupcakes, and decorate as desired. Enjoy!