Recipe courtesy of Kevin VanDeraa

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 20 min
  • Prep: 1 hr
  • Cook: 20 min
  • Yield: 16 cupcakes
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Nonstick coating

1/2 cup hot water

1/2 cup dark raisins

6 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 1/2 ounces corn oil

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

8 ounces carrots, shredded

2/3 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped

Maple Cinnamon Pastry Cream Filling, recipe follows

Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Orange and green food coloring, for garnish, optional

Marzipan or almond paste, for garnish, optional

Maple Cinnamon Pastry Cream Filling:

1 ounce butter

1/4 teaspoon maple flavoring

1 egg plus 2 egg yolks

4 ounces sugar 

1 1/4 ounces cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

16 ounces milk

1/2 vanilla bean

Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 ounces butter, at room temperature

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

6 ounces powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the cupcake pans by spraying with nonstick coating and using cupcake liners. 
  2. In a small bowl, pour the hot water over the raisins to rehydrate and set aside. 
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and cinnamon, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the corn oil, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla and eggs. Mix well to fully incorporate. Combine the wet and the dry ingredients, stirring to fully incorporate. Drain the raisins and squeeze out the moisture. Fold them in to the batter with the carrots and walnuts. 
  4. Scoop the batter into the prepared cupcake pans and bake until the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched with a finger, about 20 minutes. Cool. 
  5. To assemble: Core and fill the cupcakes with the Maple Cinnamon Pastry Cream Filling after they have cooled. Frost the cupcakes with the Cream Cheese Frosting using a pastry bag or offset spatula. 
  6. Optional garnish: Using orange and green food color and some marzipan or almond paste, form carrots by rolling a ball of marzipan in the palms of your hand. Use a knife to make marks in the carrots and make a small batch of greens to attach to each carrot.

Maple Cinnamon Pastry Cream Filling:

  1. The key to making pastry cream is in the set up. It's best to set the stage with everything before you start cooking anything. 
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a medium mixing bowl with the maple flavoring and set aside. 
  3. In a large mixing bowl, place 1/2 cup water and some ice and set aside; you will need it to help cool and stop the cooking of the pastry cream. 
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs and set aside. 
  5. In a small mixing bowl, combine 2 ounces sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon, and set aside. 
  6. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, the remaining 2 ounces sugar and vanilla bean. 
  7. Now that the stage is set, add the sugar-cornstarch mixture to the eggs, mixing really well with a whisk. 
  8. Bring the milk to a boil on the stove, and then temper it into the sugar-egg mixture (pour very slowly while whisking the eggs, so that you slowly raise the eggs' temperature). Put it all back into the pot and back on the stove. Whisking constantly, cook the pastry cream until it boils for at least 30 seconds. It will quickly pass a lumpy stage and then get creamy and shiny. Immediately dump it into the bowl with the butter and mix to incorporate fully. Place the bowl in the prepared ice bath and stir to cool. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter to soften. Add the cream cheese in bits, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Scrape down the bowl and mix on medium speed until fully combined. Add the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.