I'm super excited to share these adorable Easter themed carrot cake cupcakes with brown butter cream cheese frosting with you! Carrot cake is a must-have for us around this time of year. It's like THE intro to Spring sweet treat for us. Carrot cake is my husband's favorite cake. In fact, he has requested my carrot cake so often that my littlest once requested carrot cake for her birthday, without even having tried it. Now, she LOVES carrot cake. With Easter right around the corner, these cupcakes make the perfect dessert to serve at your Easter gatherings.
These carrot cake cupcakes with brown butter cream cheese frosting are the absolute best. They're moist, loaded with freshly grated carrots and full of balanced warm spices. They're super easy to make and will keep for a couple days so they can be made in advance. They remain moist and flavorful even after a couple days, which is a rarity with scratch made cupcakes. And the brown butter cream cheese frosting? Out. of. this. world. Nutty, tangy, creamy deliciousness. I actually had a little bit of frosting left over so I dipped some fresh strawberries in the frosting for an afternoon snack. So good!
The recipe instructions state to make these using a stand mixer, but you can also use a hand mixer or a whisk if you wish. This is a two bowl method cake, much like a standard muffin batter. In one bowl you will combine your dry ingredients and in a larger bowl, you'll combine the wet. You want to make sure your wet ingredients - brown sugar, carrots, eggs, vanilla, and oil are thoroughly combined. Add the dry ingredients - flour, spices, salt and baking soda to the wet and mix just until combined. Easy peasy and fast.
About the ingredients
I used a flavorless oil here instead of butter which I would usually use in a vanilla or delicately flavored cake or cupcake. Butter flavor is a key component in lighter flavored cakes but isn't necessary here. I have made these with all butter, and half butter, but I found them to be too spongy and they were a bit drier and dried out much faster. Oil keeps these cupcakes moist and texturally awesome. I also used all brown sugar for one reason alone - flavor. The caramel-ly, molasses flavor of brown sugar is perfect in these carrot cake cupcakes and adds that flavor that granulated sugar can't deliver.
It's important to use freshly grated carrots for these cupcakes. The pre-grated variety is too hard, too dry and too large for this cake. Using freshly grated carrots will provide more flavor but also more moisture for the cupcakes. For the spices, I used cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a small pinch of cloves. I think that these cupcakes are perfectly spiced and perfectly balanced, but as you make these cupcakes over time, feel free to tweak the spices to suit your flavor preference.
I'm usually a no fuss, no frills, no add-in's sort of lady when it comes to carrot cake. However feel free to add your favorite carrot cake mix-in's as you wish. When I bake this recipe up as cakes for my clients, I've added coconut, toasted nuts, raisins, golden raisins and dried cranberries without any issue. Dried cranberries and toasted pecans is a winner in this recipe. Super yummy.
About the brown butter cream cheese frosting
The brown butter cream cheese frosting is equally easy to make, though it does need a little bit more time. Browning the butter will need to be done in advance and refrigerated until cooled and solid again. I make my brown butter a day to a couple days in advance and store in the refrigerator until I need to use it. Bring out both your cream cheese and butter to sit out on the counter for 30 minutes or so, just to take the chill off. If your brown butter is super hard, microwave in 5 second increments, for about 15 seconds or so, just to soften it slightly for easier mixing.
Beat both the brown butter and the cream cheese together until creamy. This could take a few minutes since both the butter and the cream cheese are still cool. Add the confectioners sugar a bit at a time, add the vanilla and mix until combined. Then, increase the speed to medium and beat the frosting. This will lighten the frosting and thicken it up a bit. Beating the frosting introduces air, contributing to the lightness of it, but it also smooths the frosting, getting rid of that grainy texture that can sometimes accompany cream cheese frostings. This is a looser style cream cheese frosting that's perfect for icing cupcakes or used as a cake filling.
To decorate the cupcakes, I toasted some sweetened coconut in a skillet over low heat and once cooled, I sprinkled a little bit on the cupcakes to give the appearance of a bird's nest. I placed Cadbury chocolate mini eggs in the center to complete the nest. I think they're super cute and both kids and adults will love them!
These carrot cake cupcakes can be made as a layer cake. Bake one and a half recipes or a double batch (thicker layers) of the recipe for 2 or 3 - 8" pans. One thing to note about this recipe, particularly when converting it to cakes, is that this recipe is formulated to get domed cupcakes, so cake layers will also dome. Use bake even strips and bake at a slightly lower temperature for baking this recipe into cakes.
If you try these carrot cake cupcakes with brown butter cream cheese frosting, let me know! Leave a comment in the comment area below and be sure to snap a photo and tag it #littlevintagebaking on Instagram. I love seeing your Little Vintage Baking creations!
For another delicious cake, check out my chocolate stout layer cake with Irish cream butter cream and Irish whiskey ganache.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
Carrot Cake Cupcakes:
- 1 cup canola oil
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, I use Rodelle
- 3 cups peeled, finely grated fresh carrots
- 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch of cloves
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 ¾ teaspoon baking soda
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 blocks Philadelphia cream cheese
- 8 cups confectioner's sugar
- 3 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, I use Rodelle
Make the carrot cupcakes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F with the rack placed in the center of the oven. Line two cupcake tins with cupcake liners.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and baking soda. Whisk the flour mixture to thoroughly combine and break up lumps. Set aside.
- Combine the oil, freshly grated carrots, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla into the bowl of stand mixer and mix on low speed until fully combined.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to the carrot mixture. Mix until just combined.
- Use an ice cream scoop to distribute batter evenly into the cupcake tins. They should be about ¾ full.
- Place the cupcakes in the oven and bake for 14-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out with minimal crumbs and no wet batter.
- Leave the cupcakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Remove the cupcakes from the pans and place on cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.
Make the brown butter cream cheese frosting.
- Place the butter into a skillet set over medium-low heat. Cook the butter until it gives a nutty aroma, is no longer making popping noises and has turned an amber color.
- Remove the butter from the heat and let it cool in the pan until lukewarm. Poor the butter into a container and pop in the fridge to cool completely and re-solidify.
- Once the butter is set, remove the butter and the cream cheese from the fridge to sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or so.
- Place the butter and the cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer. If the butter is still very firm, microwave it in 5 second increments, up to 15 or 20 seconds until softened slightly.
- Beat the butter and the cream cheese until completely combined and lightened in texture and color, about 3 minutes.
- Add the confectioner's sugar in gradually, mixing on low to combine the sugar into the mixture before adding more. Add the vanilla extract.
- Turn the mixture speed up to medium and beat until lightened in color and texture, about 5 minutes. Place the frosting into a piping bag fitted with your preferred piping tip and top the cupcakes.