Carrot Cupcakes

By Chef Megan Joy / April 7, 2012

Easter snuck up on me again this year. I hadn’t even realized how quickly the end of March had flown by. Things are winding down in Vail and at the restaurant as we prepare to head into our ‘off season’. The temperatures are warming up, snow is melting, and less tourists are in town.

This weekend was the Taste of Vail and I participated in the Mountaintop Picnic. We dragged all of our prepped food and gear up the gondola to the top of Vail mountain, along with numerous other chefs, restaurants, and liquor venders.

Needless to say, everyone has a pretty good time, as we all trade with each other. I made a lemon curd ice cream that I served in little dishes with glazed huckleberries and tiny butter shortbread coins. Classic flavors that went so nicely together.

So back to Easter. It’s practically here and I haven’t done any holiday baking. On my days off this week, I wasn’t inspired enough to make hot cross buns or an Easter bread, so I decided to do something with carrots.

Carrot cake cupcakes it was.

Come to think, I haven’t made any carrot cake variation in a long time. I always kick myself because I forget how delicious it is.

So easy. And you all should really make it more often, myself included.

How to make this high altitude recipe:

Carrot Cupcakes (adapted from Everyday Food)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons thick yogurt or sour cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (from about 4 medium carrots)

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a muffin pan with baking cups. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, egg, yogurt, and vanilla. Stir in the carrots. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, until just mixed.

Portion out into the 12 muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes until puffed, and the centers spring back when lightly touched.

About the author

Chef Megan Joy

MeganZ - January 30, 2013

Hi Megan, I am glad I stubbled onto your blog and I hope you will see this and can answer a couple of questions for me. I live in Guatemala (high-altitude) and after 2 failed attempts at carrot cupcakes, I figured I better make some alterations- and fast, as I want to make them for an upcoming baby shower and I’m running out of time for test batches! I want to try your recipe, but it’s very hard to find light brown sugar here. I have dark brown sugar, a Splenda light brown sugar blend, and white sugar. Which of these do you think might work best? Also, can I use regular cream as opposed to sour cream? Thanks for your help!

    Chef Megan Joy - January 30, 2013

    Hi Megan! To make your own light brown sugar, use 1/2 cup dark brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup so you will have a little left over. You could also use the dark brown sugar, although I recommend reducing it by a tablespoon to start, just in case the extra moisture content decides to interfere with your altitude. I wouldn’t use regular cream, although plain yogurt/Greek yogurt/vanilla yogurt or creme fraiche would work as a fine substitute. If you can’t find any of those, combine 3/4 cup whole milk mixed with 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus 1/4 cup melted butter. This will provide you with 1 cup of “sour cream”. Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions!

MeganZ - January 31, 2013

Thanks so much for all the helpful info! I will be trying them this weekend and will let you know how they turn out. I thought of a few more questions- is it best to finely grate the carrots, or is it okay to coursely grate them? (that’s what I’ve always done). Then when measuring the carrots should you pack them down at all? Also, I know real butter is much better, but it’s really expensive here and I need to make 60 cupcakes. Do you think margarine would be okay? Maybe I’ll try both to see what the difference is.

    Chef Megan Joy - February 1, 2013

    The carrots can be grated to your preference. Some people like their carrot cake with only a few specks of carrot (finely grated), whereas others enjoy them with larger pieces (which will also give the cake a little more texture). When I measure carrots I loosely pack them. I make sure they are filling up the measuring cup but I don’t try to squeeze as much as I possibly can in each cup. You could probably use margarine, but of course I will always be an advocate for butter 🙂 You can taste the difference.

MeganZ - February 3, 2013

Hi again Megan, well, I have 23 carrot cupcakes double-wrapped in plastic and in an airtight container in the freezer and ready for the baby shower- in other words, they turned out great! Woohoo! Now I just need to make a few more batches. I used butter, but will try margarine this time. I’m thinking that since it already has salt, I should cut back a bit on the salt.
Also, I’ve been trying to find info on the internet about the cream cheese frosting. I need to pipe it on (I have wraps and toothpick decorations), but the baby shower is in a very hot part of the country. I plan to try to keep the cc somewhat cold even while mixing and to keep the frosting in the fridge until the last minute as much as possible, but do you have any other tips? Can I add a bit of cornstarch like you can for a high-humidity buttercream?
Thanks again, you have been so helpful and I’ll definitely be trying more of your recipes!

    Chef Megan Joy - February 3, 2013

    Hello! I’m glad they came out for you! You can reduce the salt if your butter/margarine is already salted. Also, if I were you I’d make the cream cheese frosting (add a little more powdered sugar than a recipe calls for to make it stiffer and more pipeable), then pipe it on the cupcakes and refrigerate them until 30 minutes before you plan to serve them. If they’re still a little cold that’s ok, people eat chilled carrot cake all the time.

Kessa Poole - February 21, 2013

I love looking at all of your stuff, I just drool. I cant wait to make the cheese centered corn muffins. The Funfetti cake. These look so great but do you mind sharing your cream cheese frosting? I am open to maple cream cheese or any ideas you have at all.

MeganZ - February 26, 2013

Hi again Megan,
I just thought I’d let you know that I’m am really loving your website! The carrot cupcakes were a huge hit at the baby shower. I used the “crusting cream cheese” recipe from cakecentral and it worked great for piping. Tonight I made the pumpkin crumble muffins and they look and taste like they’re from a bakery. Thus my husband is also glad I found your site. 🙂 Thanks again!

Leslie Martinez - June 7, 2013

Hi Megan, I am planning to make carrot cake for my mother-in-law’s 95th birthday party. The recipe I have used in the past is very good and contains crushed pineapple, which is really yummy in the cake, but the cake consistently has a crater in the middle! I want to use your recipe but with the addition of canned crushed pineapple. Any suggestions for a successful cake that doesn’t fall in the middle? (By the way, we are at about 4500 feet altitude.)

    Chef Megan Joy - June 7, 2013

    Hi Leslie. If you’re going to add crushed pineapple, make sure it is drained well. If there’s more than 1/2 cup of pineapple you are adding, I would recommend reducing the yogurt/sour cream or shredded carrots, otherwise your cake may be a bit heavy. To prevent your cake from collapsing, try removing a tablespoon of brown sugar from the recipe and for your altitude of 4,500 ft I suggest using 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. If your cakes still collapse, try reducing the baking powder and baking soda by another 1/8-1/4 teaspoon. If the cake is ‘flat’, try increasing the baking powder and baking soda by 1/8-1/4 teaspoon. Happy baking!

Mel - July 20, 2013

I just made these and substituted 1 1/4 cup+2 Tbsp white whole wheat flour for the all purpose. It was delicious! Definite keeper!

Michelle - July 29, 2013

I am soooo grateful to have found this recipe! I used a different recipe to make carrot cake cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday and every single one of them sunk in the middle (we live in Denver) and weren’t even salvageable. Someone sent me a link to your recipe and I gave it a shot. Not only did they look perfect, but they tasted wonderful too. I am so excited to have this one on hand now.

Carys - October 1, 2013


I love the sound of your recipe and was just wondering whether you could give me any hints for turning it into one big cake?!

    Chef Megan Joy - October 1, 2013

    Hi Carys- This will probably give you two 8″ round layers. If you want a taller cake, double the recipe for four layers. Bake them at 350 F until the center springs back when lightly touched.

Sarah - December 8, 2013

I made these in Denver for my son’s birthday. Overall they looked amazing, the cream cheese frosting was a huge hit, and they were nice and light which is unusual for carrot cake. Just looking for a little more moistness. I didn’t over-bake them but I wonder if I put too much flour in? I usually convert cups of flour to grams and weigh it but didn’t here. Anyway next time I was thinking about adding in a touch of applesauce. Have you every tried this? How much would you suggest?

    Chef Megan Joy - December 12, 2013

    Hi Sarah,

    Applesauce will help, also increasing the carrots slightly (Maybe 1 3/4 or 2 cups), or sour cream/yogurt will too. Just add another 2-3 tablespoons.

Alexi - March 16, 2015

I have made these carrot cupcakes, and they were absolutely delicious! I bake at about 9000 feet, and so far all of your recipes have been very successful at my altitude. I’m planning on using this carrot cake recipe again–only in a 9″ x 13″ pan. Do you think the recipe will need any adjustments?

    Chef Megan Joy - March 18, 2015

    Hi Alexi, I’m glad to hear! This batter will work just fine in a 9 x 13″ pan, just keep an eye on it as it bakes since it will take a little longer. Happy baking 🙂

Lydia - April 23, 2015

Hi Meagan, I live in Bolivia and am so glad you post high altitude recipes!! Thank you! I want to make a carrot cake for our wedding aniversary tomorrow. Can I double or trible the cup cake recipe for a bundt cake molde or do you already have a carrot cake receipe? I don’t see it. PLEASE EMAIL IT or post it if you can. Also it’s hard to find unsalted butter in the pueble, as we are 4 hrs from the nearst city. Can I use reg butter? Thanks for your help! Lydia Salguero, Mizque (Ccchabamba) Bolivia

    Lydia - April 23, 2015

    Just FYI…Cochabamba, Bolivia is at aproximately 8392 Feet high. We live in Mizque a small pueblo about 4 hrs from the nearest city. We pastor a country church working to serve the campesinos in the area.

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