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Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes (doctored cake mix)

Holiday spice and everything nice! That’s what these carrot cake cupcakes are made of!  Best of all, they start with a boxed mix!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

These tasty treats carry the warmth of the holiday season. And, because they start with a boxed mix, they’re easy to whip up. But the add-ins? Well, they make all the difference! There are many variations on traditional carrot cake, but that’s the beauty of starting with a boxed mix. You can (literally) make it whatever you want. You–yes, you!–get to control what goes in the batter, because you’re the boss of these carrot cake cupcakes!

WHY CARROTS? 

Let’s start with the obvious question: “Why put carrots in a cake?” It almost seems counter-productive, to throw the healthy stuff in with all of that sugary sweetness. But the subtle flavor of carrot lends itself to the other warm spices in the cake—cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and brown sugar. (Are you getting hungry yet?) 

Let’s talk about some of the most controversial additions to carrot cake. 

To Nut or Not to Nut?

Chopped Pecans…yum!

That, my friends, is totally up to you. If you love nuts in cake (like my yummy Italian cream cake, for instance), toss in ½ cup once the batter is whipped up. If not, skip it! The same thing applies to raisins, (which I’ve deliberately omitted from the recipe, since I’m of the firm opinion that they have no place in a carrot cake). But, hey. . .you might be a fan. So, toss in ½ a cup, if you like. Some folks even like to throw in a bit of coconut or pineapple, but when you go that far you’re coming dangerously close to something we in the south call a “hummingbird” cake. That’s a recipe for another day.

Let’s all Agree on One Thing: 

Boxed carrot cake mixes are usually pretty yummy, all by themselves. But when you stir in shredded carrots and nuts, as well as a few extra warm spices? Well, yum! You’ve amped up the original flavors ten-fold. Now there’s a carrot cake recipe you can take home to Mama! (Shh! The boxed mix is our little secret!)

So, what are you waiting for?

Let’s make some carrot cake cupcakes, y’all! 

Some of the ingredients you’ll need

Ingredients for the Carrot Cake Cupcakes:

Here’s what you’ll need to make the cupcake part:

  • 1 box carrot cake (any brand)
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup oil (or substitute 1 stick butter)
  • 1 cup orange juice (or water)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup carrots (finely shredded)
  • ½ cup finely chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar

Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Frosting:

Here’s what you’ll need to make the cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 cup salted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 block cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 cup Crisco 
  • 1 bag (7-8 cups) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • Milk or cream to thin, if needed (I often use Italian Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer)
  • Orange coloring gel
  • Green coloring gel

How to Make Carrot Cake Cupcakes:

Add the carrot cake mix, three eggs, oil (or butter), and orange juice (or water) to your mixing bowl. Mix until smooth. Add your spices and brown sugar and then gently stir in the shredded carrots and nuts. Mix until fully incorporated and then fill your cupcake liners. Place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven and bake for 16 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. 

How to Make the Cream Cheese Frosting:

While cupcakes are baking, make your cream cheese frosting. Start by beating your softened cream cheese until smooth. Add the salted (yes, salted!) butter. (Have you figured out that the pinch of salt in the butter brings out the tartness of the cream cheese?) 

Now What?

After these two are fully blended I always add a stick of Crisco. I love to have the added stability of Crisco whenever I plan to pipe my frosting, which is the case here. (And wait till you see how cute the piping technique is!) You can omit the shortening if you like, but the icing will definitely be softer.

Now it’s time for the cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. They’re the perfect addition to a cream cheese frosting.

Sugar, Sugar!

Once everything is incorporated, it’s time to work in the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until you’ve got the perfect consistency. I usually let my mixer run a while to make the frosting light and fluffy. (Note: If you’ve skipped the shortening, you’ll have to cut back on the powdered sugar.)

Color ’em Up!

Leave ¾ of the frosting white. Color most of what’s left in bright orange, reserving a few tablespoons of frosting to color green. 

How to Decorate Carrot Cake Cupcakes:

Prepare three piping bags: 

  • 1). Use a Wilton 8b tip in the bag of white frosting
  • 2). Use a Wilton 1a tip in the bag of orange frosting. 
  • 3). Use a Wilton grass tip in the bag of green frosting. 

Let’s Start Piping!

Start with the white frosting. Swirl on the frosting, starting in the center and working out. 

Once cupcakes are all covered in white, use the orange frosting to add a carrot. Basically, just hold the bag straight up and down and apply pressure to “build” the orange carrot. Now come on top of the orange carrots with a dab of green grass. Voila! You’ve just made carrot cake cupcakes!

Now What?

Well, duh. Eat one. Or two. But when you’re done, put the rest in the fridge because all of that cream cheese frosting is going to require refrigeration.

If You Want to Jazz ’em Up:

Give some thought to filling the cupcakes with my luscious Cinnamon Mousse or other filling of your choice. 

Questions People are Asking About Carrot Cake Cupcakes:

  • Question: Can I use purple carrots in carrot cake?
  • Answer: Absolutely! Be prepared for a colorful bite. You’ll find that the purple carrots still look purplish in hue after baking, but will taste as yummy as orange carrots.
  • Question: How full should I fill my cupcake liners with the carrot cake batter?
  • Answer: 2/3 is the perfect filling amount. You want a lightly rounded top once baked, but you don’t want the cupcakes to balloon over the edges of the pan or they will be difficult to remove from the pan.
  • Question: Why is carrot cake better the next day?
  • Answer: Because those yummy, warm flavors take time to settle.
  • Question: Can I use packaged shredded carrots?
  • Answer: It’s not recommended, as the pieces are usually large and hard (i.e. they don’t break down as well). If that’s all you have, then soften them for 30 seconds or more in the microwave before adding to the mix.
  • Question: Should I store my carrot cake cupcakes in the refrigerator?
  • Answer: The cream cheese frosting will require refrigeration, so yes. Store in a covered container so the cupcakes and frosting don’t absorb any odors from surrounding food items in your refrigerator. Store far away from pungent items such as onions, garlic, and so on.
  • Question: Can this recipe be used in cake pans instead of cupcake liners?
  • Answer: Yes, this recipe will make two 8″ rounds. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. Check the center of the cake to make sure it is fully baked before removing from the oven.
  • Question: Is carrot cake healthier than other cakes, due to the addition of carrots, (a vegetable)?
  • Answer: Um, no. But thanks for playing. This cake is rich in sweetness, and that cream cheese frosting is decadent. So, it’s not exactly a salad, friends. But it’s worth every calorie!

That’s it, y’all! If you’re still hungry for carrots after making these delicious carrot cake cupcakes, then head over to Southern Home Express and check out their air fryer carrots recipe. Yum!

I’ll leave you with another way to decorate your carrot cake cupcakes. (See photo below) I served these to my family a couple of years back at Easter time. The green grass really makes those orange buttercream carrots pop!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Yield: 18 cupcakes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

This rich carrot cake recipe is filled with warm spices, carrots, and other add-ins.

Ingredients

  • INGREDIENTS FOR THE CAKE
  • 1 box carrot cake (any brand)
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup oil (or substitute 1 stick butter)
  • 1 cup orange juice (or water)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup carrots (finely shredded)
  • ½ cup finely chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • INGREDIENTS FOR THE FROSTING:
  • 1 cup salted butter (softened)
  • 1 block cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 1 bag (7-8 cups) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • Milk or cream to thin, if needed (I often use Italian Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer)
  • Orange coloring gel
  • Green coloring gel

Instructions

    HOW TO MAKE CARROT CAKE CUPCAKES:
    Add the carrot cake mix, three eggs, oil (or butter), and orange juice (or water) to your mixing bowl. Mix until smooth. Add your spices and brown sugar and then gently stir in the shredded carrots and nuts. Mix until fully incorporated and then fill your cupcake liners. Place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven and bake for 16 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

    HOW TO MAKE THE FROSTING:
    Beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Add butter and cream together. Add Crisco and beat until smooth. Once everything is incorporated, work in the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until you’ve got the perfect consistency. I usually let my mixer run a while to make the frosting light and fluffy.

    ADD COLORS:
    Leave ¾ of the frosting white. Color most of what’s left in bright orange, reserving a few tablespoons of frosting to color green.

    DECORATE CARROT CAKE CUPCAKES:
    Prepare three piping bags:
    1). Use a Wilton 8b tip in the bag of white frosting
    2). Use a Wilton 1a tip in the bag of orange frosting.
    3). Use a Wilton grass tip in the bag of green frosting.

    LET’S START PIPING!
    Start with the white frosting. Swirl on the frosting, starting in the center and working out. Once cupcakes are all covered in white, use the orange frosting to add a carrot. Basically, just hold the bag straight up and down and apply pressure to “build” the orange carrot. Now come on top of the orange carrots with a dab of green grass. Voila! You’ve just made carrot cake cupcakes!

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