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carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

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For years, I have been on a quest for the perfect carrot cake recipe. And I mean – the real deal.

No healthy wheat flour or applesauce substitutes. No pineapple. No coconut. And heaven forbid – no carrot substitutes. Nope, I’ve been looking for the real deal — moist, light, perfectly spiced carrot cake, topped with that heavenly cream cheese frosting. Worth every calorie. :)

After a few close-but-not-quite attempts, I am thrilled to announce that I have found my recipe!!!! Not surprisingly, it is from the brilliant folks in the test kitchens at Cooks Illustrated, who test-kitchened their way to the perfect recipe. And I mean it, it is everything you ever wanted in carrot cake and more.

Their article (in this gem of a cookbook that everyone should own!) about how they trial-and-errored their way to this method was fascinating. I admit that I, too, was skeptical about the food-processor method and using all oil and no butter. But they proved me wrong — this recipe is perfection. And, thanks to the shredding disk on my food processor, shredding 3 cups of carrots is now a breeze. :)

So if you love carrot cake, do yourself a favor and give this one a try. The only change I made was to add in a 1/2 tsp. of ginger (because I love that in my carrot cake), but otherwise, all of the thanks goes to Cooks Illustrated. Enjoy!!!


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Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 47 minutes
  • Yield: 24 cupcakes 1x


Truly – the PERFECT carrot cake recipe! Delicious, moist, perfectly spiced cake, topped with classic cream cheese frosting. Detailed recipe and photos included.



Cupcake Ingredients:

  • 2½ cups (12.5 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. (6-7 medium) carrots, peeled
  • 1½ cups (10.5 oz) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ cups canola, safflower or vegetable oil

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. cream cheese (not softened)
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt; whisk together and set aside.
  2. In a food processor fitted with a shredding disk, shred the carrots (you should have about 3 cups).  Add the carrots to the bowl with the dry ingredients and set aside.  Rinse out the bowl of the food processor and fit with the metal blade.  Process the sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds.  With the machine running, add the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube.  Continue to process until the mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 more seconds.  Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.
  3. Scoop evenly into the prepared cupcake liners, so that each is about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan at least 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.


Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated


Ali’s Tip:

To get the perfect amount of cupcake batter in the cups, I love using this large ice cream scoop from Pampered Chef. I also used the 1M Wilton tip to frost the cupcakes.

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21 comments on “carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting”

  1. Carrot cake is my all-time favorite! What a great idea to put it into a cupcake. I think I would top the cream cheese frosting with a little bit of chopped walnuts or pecans. Great recipe, Ali!

    • Hey Georgia & Natalie,

      Definitely feel free to add in some nuts if you’d like! I forgot to put that in as an optional ingredient – yum! :)


    • I like that idea of just sprinkling s few toasted nuts on top of the frosting. Then I could leave some off for those weird nut haters.

  2. oh yum! I do love nuts & coconut in mine but so many people don’t, so I’m going to have to save this recipe!! they look beautiful!

  3. Not to confuse the situation when you’ve settled on your winner, but have you tried Rose’s?

  4. Fantastic ! I’ve been trying to find a good carrot cake recipe too. I shall try this one next, and hopefully end my hunt with this one =)

  5. Cool! This cake doesn’t have nuts in it!! My mother and I don’t like pineapples and coconut in this dessert either. I agree that those two ingredients don’t belong in there along with the applesauce and wheat flour. YUCK! I must try this recipe out on my mom. She would love it!

  6. I love Cook’s Illustrated! I just recently got a subscription to the magazine for a present and I love it! Can’t wait to give this one a try.

  7. Ali, I just happened across your page while looking for a recipe for Orange Julius. I made it for breakfast with a little mint leaf and it was delicious. Thanks. I can’t wait to try some of your other posts. My friends and I have play-dates for the kids while we cook (we call ourselves Gourmet Girls -maybe a bit cheesy, but fun) and I will definitely share this blog with them. Thanks again.

  8. We made these last evening. Very yummy! The co-workers enjoyed the extras.

  9. These look great! I LOVE carrot cupcakes.

  10. This looks absolutely delicious. My Dad’s favourite cake is Carrot Cake and I was looking for a recipie with his birthday coming up.

    Do you know what size/how many cake pans it would fill?

  11. I made these today- EXCELLENT!!

  12. Hi how do you think about me?

  13. These are delicious! I baked them this afternoon while talking on the phone with my sister. She was baking your beer bread, which turned out delicious as well.

    My husband is a big fan of spice cakes, and really enjoyed this one. The smell brings me back to childhood Halloweens. Thanks for a great recipe!

  14. I tried this recipe and wow everyone loved it!!! Thanks Ali!!

  15. These look delicious! Perfect for easter! Should they be stored in the refrigerator?

  16. Going to me my first time using this recipe and I’m looking forward to baking this

  17. Thank you for taking the best carrot cake and cutting it down to cupcakes! My neighbor loves this cake but it is just too much for one or two people and we can not resist it! I can’t wait to make these for her birthday. Your recipes are amazing! Cathleen, 78 year old baker