Are they cupcakes or are they muffins? Guess what: Depending on your mood, they can be either! Serve them up warmed or split and toasted with a butter smear, they make a delicious breakfast or snack. Or, if you’re in dessert mode, spread the tops with some Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below) and you have a heavenly treat that’s party-ready. Not to mention a sweet treat for your Valentine.

You won't need any power tools for this recipe! A few bowls, a whisk and a spatula are all you need for mixing up the batter. In addition, you’ll need a box grater or food processor to finely shred the carrots.

Susie Middleton

A note about cupcake liners: I prefer to use foil liners for this recipe because the deep brown color of the batter stains the paper variety. If you don’t have foil liners, you can lightly grease the muffin cups (run a paring knife between the baked cupcakes and the cups to help release them) or you can use paper liners peeling them away from the baked and cooled cupcakes before frosting and serving.

A note about making ahead and storing: The frosted cupcakes can be stowed, covered and at room temperature for up to 2 days. Once baked and cooled completely, the unfrosted cupcakes freeze well for up to 1 month. Thaw at room temperature before frosting and serving. 


Makes 12 servings

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups (4 3/8 ounces) lightly packed finely grated carrots
  • 1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces) neutral-flavored oil
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


To assemble and serve

  • Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting (below)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)


Make the cupcakes

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line 12 regular-sized muffin cups with foil baking cup liners.

2. Whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl until well blended. In a large bowl, whisk the carrots, brown sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until well blended. Pour the flour mixture over the wet ingredients and, using a rubber spatula, gently stir and fold until just blended.

3. Portion the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. The cups will be very full. Bake until a pick inserted in the center of one or two comes out clean, 23-25 minutes. Move to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan; set them on a rack to cool completely before frosting.


Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 teaspoons heavy cream


Make the frosting

1. Put the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric handheld mixer fitted with wire beaters). Beat on medium speed until very smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Add the brown sugar, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on medium high until well blended and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the heavy cream and mix until blended.

3. Cover the frosting and set aside at room temperature until the cake is completely cool and ready to be frosted.


Susie Middleton


If you have tiny heart-shaped cookie cutters (they come in a set of aspic or jelly cutters), you can cut carrot-shaped hearts out of a thinly sliced piece of (raw) carrot to use as garnishes.