Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

In my early years at IMAX, I had many a heated debate with several coworkers about whether pineapple was a key ingredient in carrot cake.  I pretty much don’t order or eat a piece of carrot cake unless I know it has pineapple in it.  There is something about the pineapple that just adds moisture along with a little something special, and I think most bakers look to raisins to do this.  I LOVE cooked raisins, but I just don’t think they belong in carrot cake!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes - Cross-Section
Carrot Cake Cupcakes – Cross-Section

The IMAX Annual Thanksgiving pot luck is usually my opportunity to try out a new recipe on my office guinea pigs colleagues, so I thought I’d try to make a carrot cake cupcake.  Obviously after all the pineapple talk, I wasn’t about to try a recipe that didn’t have pineapple in it. Paula Deen’s self-proclaimed Best-Ever Carrot Cake Cupcakes sounded promising.  I loved the cake so much that I made these several times – for the aforementioned potluck, the 2013 Annual Kawasaki Family Christmas Party, Kevin’s friends Christmas party, and once for Christmas lunch with Kev’s family.  The cupcakes were well-received across the board, but I think it was best with a bit of toasted coconut on top.  A lot of cupcakes make great minis but I don’t know if I loved these as minis (I tried that, too).  The batter is a bit chunky, so the dough doesn’t cook consistently in each cupcake.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Carrot Cake Cupcakes

As much as I loved Paula’s cupcake recipe, I also didn’t love the cream cheese frosting recipe.  It just seemed a bit bland and liquid-y for my preference. I changed it up a bit, adding more powdered sugar to stiffen it up a bit and some extra butter to add some creaminess.

Here is the recipe as adapted from Paula Deen’s (original recipe here):

CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS (Paula’s version):

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 8-oz. can of crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Small pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 cups grated carrots (or more!), grate with a food processor to make your life easier

    Fresh Shredded Carrots
    Fresh Shredded Carrots

FROSTING INGREDIENTS (my version):

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 C powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Fresh coconut, shaved and toasted for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, apple sauce, sugars, pineapple and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
  3. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and small pinch of ground cloves.
  4. Stir in carrots.
  5. Fold in pecans.
  6. Pour into muffin tin lined with beautiful paper or foil liners.
  7. Fill each liner 3/4 full.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 min.
  9. Let cupcakes cool completely. While cooling, prepare frosting.

    Ready for Frosting
    Ready for Frosting
  10. In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  11. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

    Cream Cheese Frosting
    Cream Cheese Frosting
  12. Pile the frosting high on the cooled cupcakes and garnish with the toasted coconut if desired.

    Topped with Toasted Coconut
    Topped with Toasted Coconut

Thanks, Paula Deen!

4 thoughts on “Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting”

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