Carrot Cake Cupcakes ♥ | A Veggie Venture: Carrot Cake Cupcakes ♥

Carrot Cake Cupcakes ♥

Carrot cake flavor with perfect cupcake texture
Today's recipe: A cupcake adaptation of a Cook's Illustrated recipe for carrot cake. Light crumb, lightly spiced. Excellent cream cheese frosting.

People, as if we need one more reason to share our very best recipes, it's this: should we lose a recipe, we can call to ask, "By chance, did I give you my carrot cake recipe?" and then sigh with relief when hearing, "Yeah! It's our favorite."

My sad story: I've lost my carrot cake recipe. It wasn't even my recipe, it was my grandmother's, the carrot cake recipe she made for my 17th birthday the year it was just the two of us, the carrot cake recipe I made for her 80th birthday when family gathered from all over the country, the carrot cake that I made, after she died a few months later, year after year after year to commemorate her birthday, delivering fat squares to friends, neighbors and in her special memory, elderly acquaintances, often to huge surprise and delight.

I've searched high and low. I've called family and friends. It was hand-written on a smudged-up 3x5 orange index card, wrapped in a plastic sleeve. The flipside includes notes on each year's deliveries and details my own 'secret technique' for moist, flavorful carrot cake. I even remember the last likely time I made it: in 2001, when my parents were here on Gramma's birthday.

My sister doesn't have it. My cousins don't have it. For some reason, it didn't make the family cookbooks on either side and it's not in the church cookbooks I've contributed to. I fear it's lost forever - a special shame since as 100s of thousands of visitors to A Veggie Venture and can attest, I am hardly, what shall we say, stingy? with good recipes.

I'm sad, teary even. Sure, everyone has a decent carrot cake recipe. And the lost recipe may not have been so special except that it was particularly mine, my grandmother's, the one we shared. And I want it back! And I especially wanted it, now, to share with Danielle from Habeas Brulee who's collecting stories and recipes for her "Sweet Gifts" edition of Sugar High Friday.

Instead, I'm sharing Cook's Illustrated's 2003 recipe for Simple Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, adapted for cupcakes. Luckily, it's a great carrot cake recipe -- it's just not mine. But you? It can be yours. And if it does become yours, won't you please be sure to share it?

Oh, and the excellent cream cheese icing that comes from Cook's Illustrated recipe? It's now mine, too, the one I'll put on Gramma's carrot cake, should I ever ever ever be lucky enough to find my recipe. (Why? It's slightly lighter, in texture, flavor and calories, than most cream cheese icings, the result of less butter. Be aware, however, that it doesn't harden.) If I do, you'll be the first to know because no matter what, I'm sharing it with the world.

~ more Baking with Vegetables recipes ~


Cook's Illustrated's inspiring recipe fills a 9x13 pan. To make a dozen cupcakes, I cut this recipe in half. Half would also work for 9x9 pan.

Hands-on time: 65 minutes (for cupcakes, less time for 9x13)
Time to table: about 2 hours
Makes a 9x13 cake or (halving the ingredients below) 12 cupcakes

2-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring (see KITCHEN TIPS)
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/14 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed

1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil (or canola or safflower)

Preheat oven to 350F. For 9x13, spray pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment, then spray the parchment. (This seems to be able to lift the entire cake out of the pan. To just cut pieces right in the pan, I think you could safely skip this step.) For cupcakes, grease muffin tins well. (I used vegetable oil and the cupcakes were quite sticky. Next time I'll use Baker's Joy or use cupcake papers.)

Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

With a food processor (see KITCHEN TIPS), grate the carrots, transfer to another dish. Add the sugars and eggs to the food processor and process for 20 seconds. With the food processor running, pour the oil into the food processor in a slow stream, then process for another 20 seconds. Stir this mixture and the carrots into the dry ingredients until no flour streaks remain.

Pour into prepared 9x13 or muffin tins. For 9x13, bake for 35-40 minutes (rotate half-way through) or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. For cupcakes, bake for about 30 minutes. For 9x13, let cool to room temperature. For cupcakes, let cool about 10 minutes, then remove from tins. For 9x13, Cook's Illustrated suggests inverting the cake onto a wire rack, peeling off the parchment, then inverting onto a serving plate.

Spread icing over top.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool (I used Neufchatel, the reduced-fat cream cheese)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool (see KITCHEN TIPS)
1 tablespoon sour cream (loved this addition!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 cups powdered sugar (also called icing sugar, confectioner's sugar, it's the white powdery stuff)

In the food processor (washed), mix the cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla til smooth, wiping down the sides as needed. Add the powdered sugar and process til smooth, just a few seconds. NOTE: Half the icing was more than enough for a dozen cupcakes.

Nearly all my recipes for baked goods read, xx cups flour, "fluffed to aerate before measuring". This is because flour packs down from its own weight, fluffing the flour makes a huge difference in the ultimate lightness of baked goods, pancakes, biscuits, etc. Today I fluffed the flour before measuring it, then weighed it to compare with Cook's Illustrated weight information. The two were 100% in synch. It's one more reason to invest in a kitchen scale.
I used the 'standard' size muffin tins and the batter came up a little higher than preferred, creating a 'cap' that made it harder to remove the muffins. Next time I'll use the next size up or only fill the muffin cups half-full versus 2/3 full.
What if you don't have a food processor? A hand grater works just great for carrots. But this recipe uses a food processor to mix the sugars, eggs and oil -- and Cook's Illustrated's notes say that this is a critical step, that emulsifying the sugar, eggs and oil disperses the fat throughout the mixture, so it doesn't sink to the bottom, creating a heavy, soggy, bottom.
I let the cream cheese and butter warm up a bit in the food processor while the cupcakes baked.
Leftovers should be refrigerated.

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Alanna, SO sad to have lost that recipe, however delicious this one is. And, as you say, you're generous with your recipes, so it shouldn't have happened to you ... in the chaos of my house, there'd always be a glimmer of hope that it would turn up one day - but I expect you're tidier than we are ;)

Happy Easter

Oh my, that's the saddest thing. I've made such a project of trying to get my grandmother's recipes these last few years as she spends more and more time in the hospital, and I can just imagine how heartbroken I would be if they were lost. I love your explanation of why giving them away helps you keep them. It's why I posted Ima's stuffed cabbage recipe - now I'll always know where to look. I really, really hope you find your carrot cake recipe!

Oh, this breaks my heart -- but I feel that now that it's out in the universe, somehow that recipe will find its way back to you. In the meantime, it's nice that you are making this new recipe your own -- at least for a while.

That's so sad about your recipe, somehow hand written recipes just seem better too.
I haven't had carrot cake in quite a while, this one might not be 'your' recipe, but it looks pretty good!

I'm so sorry you lost your recipe. Some tings we just hold so near and dear to hearts. I grew up Catholic, and said a prayer to St. Anthony for you--he's the patron saint of lost things. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Now that I think about it, my grandmother searched for years for a special carrot cake recipe given to her by a friend. A Bob Crosby recipe, I think? She had lost her copy, and I was never able to track it down for her.

Good luck!

Um, "things," not "tings." oops! :)

Alanna, so sorry about the loss of the recipe. I have to think it will turn up one day, though. A very compelling argument for sharing.

Sorry that you lost the recipe. I do hope you come across it someday.

But..yay!! You made cupcakes!

Gosh Alanna that is a sorry tale told so well. That one of those reasons I feel so good having a friend I've cooked with for many years because we do share so many recipes. I hope it comes back to you!

Alanna, I am so sorry about the lost recipe! My Mom tells a similar story of recipes my Grandma made which are now lost forever. This is why I'm working on compiling a cookbook of my favorites so that once I'm gone my kids won't have that problem.

This recipe sounds wonderful, however, a perfect addition to my Easter brunch menu!

Oh, I so hope you find your recipe!!! I know what it's like to have those that you cherish so deeply ... but it'll come back to you. I know it will! (Love the cupcakes ...)

Alanna, with all the times you made that cake, the recipe has GOT to be there, somewhere, hidden in your brain. A little hypnotherapy is in order, perhaps?

This is also why it is so nice to have the blog for eternal reference (just don't forget to back up!).

The shaved carrots on top, made everyone at work think I was a professional baker (which I'm not!). Happy Easter to you!

well while I was trying to figure out the best recipe you were here posting one! Geesh~ you could have given me a heads up or something and saved me some time ;-)
I'm sorry to hear about the missing recipe but I have a feeling it might turn up when you least expect it. Maybe Grandma is just having a little fun with you?

I have some carrots that I somehow forgot to cook for Easter. I think the carrot cake will make a much better use for them anyway!

Stop by for a visit. I'll even save one of my baked apples for you! :D

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna