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Hi Bold Bakers!
WHAT YOU GET: Fluffy, perfectly spiced carrot cake muffins with a cream cheese center, perfect for Easter, spring, or any time you’d like, all done from start to finish in about an hour!
Carrot cake is comfort food. Full of warm spices, packed with walnuts and raisins (if you like), and speckled with orange streaks, thanks to the shredded carrot that melts into the batter.
It is moist, with a tender crumb, dense yet fluffy, and full of flavor. Topped with cream cheese frosting, and you have yourself a comforting yet impressive confection. But for breakfast seems a bit over the top. On the other hand, a muffin for breakfast, or alongside a cup of coffee is just fine, no one will ask questions.
This recipe for carrot cake muffins is something you might expect from a bakery, but couldn’t be easier to make. It comprises three elements: carrot cake, cream cheese, and streusel for the top.
Here’s how to make it.
The Carrot Cake Muffins
This is my favorite carrot cake batter, tweaked and adapted for a muffin tin. The recipe comes from my sister’s best friend, who shared the recipe for a PTA cookbook when they were in school. It was developed by her dad, Lee, who tested it till it was perfect. The recipe was handed into the PTO too late, so it didn’t make it to the book.
My gain: she gave the recipe to my sister, who gave it to me.
This carrot cake recipe can be used to make a full-size carrot cake, carrot cake cupcakes, or carrot cake muffins as we do here.
Tools And Equipment
- Bowls and measuring spoons
- Box grater/other shredded
- Whisk and spatula
- Cupcake tin
- Cupcake liners
Key Muffin Ingredients
I like to use oil in the batter. Using oil adds moisture to the batter and yields a tender crumb. I usually use a flavorless oil but have made these with olive oil- coconut oil is also an option but be aware of the added flavor.
- Spices. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. A medley of spices that adds warmth.
- Lemon juice. Works with the baking soda to help these rise, and also helps highlight the flavor of the carrots.
- Add-ins. I like raisins and walnuts, feel free to use whatever you like – chocolate chips/pecans/almonds are also good options.
- Carrots. Make sure to shred them yourself, pre-shredded carrots have slightly less flavor, and juice and are usually coated in stuff that keeps each strand separate. Not really necessary. Plus, if the star of your cake is carrot, then go for the good stuff. I use the thicker portion of my box grater.
The Cheesecake Filling
Adding frosting to these would make them cupcakes. But a cream cheese interior adds the same flavor minus the messiness and hassle of frosting. Plus less sugar.
All you need to do is combine cream cheese with a touch of sugar, vanilla, and an egg. The result sets like a cheesecake. You can actually skip the egg if you like, but I find that it adds a bit more structure to the cream cheese.
Also, it’s best if you use sturdy cream cheese (the brick kind). This makes the mixture easier to work with.
For The Topping
I love muffins with streusel. The streusel adds a nice, crunch texture, and is also full of warm flavors. Though it’s not necessary, the streusel topping takes your muffins to the ‘bakery’ level. Just try it!
Tips For The Perfect Muffin Top
- Let the batter sit for several minutes before scooping and baking. This has time for the leavening agent to begin some of its magic. I usually just prepare the batter first and then allow it to sit while I make the filling and streusel.
- Start by baking at a higher temperature, which creates a burst of steam and causes a rapid rise. It also helps the edges of the top to set. Bake for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature and continue baking.
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Make Some Of Gemma’s Carrot Cake Recipes!
- Carrot Cake Sheet Cake
- Old Fashioned Steamed Carrot Cake Pudding
- Ultra-Moist Carrot Cake Cupcakes With Best-Ever Cream Cheese Frosting
- Best-Ever Carrot Cake & Cream Cheese Frosting
- Gluten-Free Carrot Cake Cupcakes (Refined Sugar-Free)
- Carrot Cake Donuts (Baked Not Fried)
- Carrot Cake Pancakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
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For The Muffins
- 1 ⅓ cups (6 ½ oz / 185 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup (5 oz / 142 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (4 fl oz/120 mL) vegetable oil
- 2 packed cups (8 ½ oz / 240 g) shredded carrots (around 2 medium carrots)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup (1.2 oz / 35 g) raisins, packed (optional)*
- ¼ cup (0.9 oz / 25 g ) roughly chopped walnuts, packed (optional)*
For The Filling
- 1 cup (8 oz / 226 g) cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1 small egg
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
For The Streusel
- ¼ cup (2 oz / 57 g) unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup (1 ½ oz / 43 g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup (71 g / 2 ½ oz) all-purpose flour
For The Muffins
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (200°C) - Note that you will have to turn down the temperature later on in the recipe so make sure you read the whole set of instructions), and line muffin trays with 14 paper liners.
- Begin by whisking together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt until combined, then set aside.
- In another small bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and oil. Then set aside.
- Toss together the carrots with the lemon juice, then set aside.
- Next, add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. The batter will be quite thick.
- Then fold in the carrots, followed by the raisins and walnuts, just until combined.Set the batter aside while you prepare the streusel and filling.
For The Filling
- Combine the cream cheese with the egg, sugar and vanilla, and set aside.
For The Streusel
- Combine the melted butter with the sugar, followed by cinnamon, salt and flour, blending till you have a dry dough. Now you are ready to assemble.
- Line your cupcake trays with paper liner. This recipe makes 14 muffins, so you’ll need 14 cups.
Assembling The Muffins
- Add a dollop of the carrot cake batter to the muffin liner, followed by a tablespoon of the cheesecake mixture. Note that you will not use up all the cheesecake mixture. What you can do with the leftover mixture is make baby cheesecakes (add some crushed cookie crumbs to the bottom of a cupcake liner or ramekin, add the cheesecake batter, cover with a tiny piece of foil and bake alongside the carrot cupcakes).
- Add another dollop of the carrot mixture, trying to cover as much of the surface as possible. Then finish with the crumb mixture.
- Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature from 425°F (220°C) to 350° F (180°C) and continue baking for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. In total it should take 20-23 minutes to bake.
- Let the muffins cool for around 10 minutes in the tin, before transferring them to a wire rack. Let them cool to room temperature before serving.
- You can store these for several days in the fridge if sealed properly. Bring to room temp before serving.