Delicious carrot cake cupcakes without nuts! Healthy, full of carrots and spices, and easy to mix up in one bowl. Dairy free + nut free recipe.
With a deeply rich spiced flavor, finely shredded carrots, bright pineapple, and filled with crunchy pumpkin seeds, this is truly the best carrot cake recipe. It is so easy to make, is filled with extra spices, and topped with cool and creamy frosting. All without nuts!
This recipe is everything you love about carrot cake but in a fun cupcake! That makes this recipe quicker and easier to mix up whenever you are craving a bite of this cake. My family loves this cake - it's a favorite recipe that is requested all the time.
Free from: dairy, casein, yeast, shellfish, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, soy, sesame, corn, celery, mustard, and more
These nut-free carrot cake cupcakes are perfectly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. It gets its sweetness from brown sugar and pineapple, not to mention the sweet carrots themselves!
While the recipe uses a cream cheese frosting, you can make it dairy free by making my vegan marshmallow frosting to top these cupcakes.
- All-purpose flour - No fancy flours needed here!
- Salt and Leaveners - This uses both baking powder and baking soda to get the best rise out of the cupcakes.
- Spices - Cinnamon, cloves, and ginger all come together to make a deliciously spiced cake.
- Neutral oil - Used to help provide moisture and provide a richness to the cake, I like to stick with a neutral flavored oil like vegetable oil or canola oil. That is because all of the flavor is coming from the spices and carrots in this recipe. So the full fat of the oil just makes this cake rich without distracting from the spice flavors.
- Brown sugar + White Sugar - So many carrot cake recipes only use white sugar to sweeten the cakes but I love using brown sugar as the main sugar. Not only does it make the cake sweet, but the molasses in the brown sugar gives an incredible depth of flavor and provides so much moisture to the cake!
- Eggs - Make sure they are room temperature so they whip up the best in the cake batter. If you forgot to pull them out of the fridge, place them in warm water for 10 minutes to gently warm the eggs.
- Vanilla extract - This isn’t found in a ton of carrot cake recipes but I love the flavor it brings to the cake.
- Fresh Carrots - When making this, I finely shred my carrots and I really think that is the secret to this cake! See my tip below for the details!
- Pineapple - Provides such a sweetness and lots of moisture to the cake! I recommend that you use shredded pineapple as opposed to pineapple chunks. Make sure to drain and gently pat the pineapple so they aren’t dripping in juice.
- Raisins - Totally optional but they provide sweetness and are a traditional addition.
- Pumpkin Seeds - In place of walnuts or pecans in this recipe, we use chopped raw unsalted pumpkin seeds! They provide a delicate crunch and texture to the cakes without imparting a heavy flavor.
Best Results Tip
The bags of pre-shredded carrots at the store are tempting because you think they will save you a few minutes while baking this cake. And while that may be, I find that the bags at the store are not worth it. Those carrots are dry, tough, and lacking in flavor compared to a freshly peeled and shredded carrot. That can lead to a dry cake.
I love to finely shred the carrots at home. That way they are fresh, moist, and because they are smaller, will better incorporate into the batter. That means more carrots in every bite! Fresh carrots are really the secret to making this a moist carrot cake.
I use a standing box grater on the finer side to shred my carrots for this recipe.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Ingredients: Cream cheese, unsalted butter stick, vanilla extract, salt, powdered sugar
Cream cheese frosting and carrot cake just go hand in hand. This recipe is a little thicker of a frosting than normal for cream cheese frosting. That is because this is for piping on top of a cupcake!
I use a 1M Wilton tip for the frosting in these photos. However, if you don’t want to pipe the frosting you can use the back of a spoon and make beautiful swirls on top. No matter how you use the frosting, it will be delicious.
If avoiding dairy, use dairy free cream cheese and butter options in the frosting, or use a different frosting (see below for ideas). This cake is naturally dairy free!
If avoiding corn, make sure that the baking powder you use is corn free. Also, use a cornstarch free powdered sugar in the frosting. My favorite brand is Wholesome Sweetners Powder Sugar.
For the full instructions with recipe measurements, see the recipe card below!
Start by prepping your carrots, pineapple, and pumpkin seeds.
Finely shred the carrots until you have a full cup of carrots. I find that is is about 3 or 4 medium to large sized carrots.
To prep the pineapple, drain the crushed pineapple in a fine sieve. Let it drain into a bowl for 5 minutes and then gently pat them with a towel to absorb any excess juice. You don’t want these to be dripping when they are added to the batter.
Finally, roughly chop raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds.
Set all these aside while we begin on the cake itself.
In a medium sized bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients: Flour, baking powder, baking soda, and the spices and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: Brown and white sugar, canola oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and the carrots, pineapple, and pumpkin seeds.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients, switching to a spatula if you want. This way you can really scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and incorporate all your ingredients. You don’t need a mixer for this carrot cake recipe, which is one of the reasons I love it so much!
Transfer the batter into a lined cupcake pan. If you don’t want to use paper liners, you can also generously spray with cooking spray. Fill each up almost all the way with batter. This makes 12 cupcakes exactly.
Bake for 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake pulls out clean.
Let them cool for 5 minutes in the trays before transferring to a cooling rack. Make sure they cool completely before frosting.
Start with softened cream cheese and butter. If you forgot to pop them out of the fridge, just place them in the microwave, unwrapped, for 10 seconds. That should help!
In a large bowl with a hand mixer and the whisk attachment, or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. This should take about 5 minutes. The mixture will be lighter in color and be very light in texture.
Now add the vanilla extract and the powdered sugar. Starting slowly, begin to whisk all these ingredients together again, letting them be fully incorporated before whisking on high again for 3 minutes.
Tip! For the most smooth frosting, you can switch to a paddle attachment for the second mixing of this frosting. The air has been incorporated in the first step with the whisk attachment. Using a paddle attachment helps to smooth out the frosting, making it the perfect consistency.
Transfer the finished frosting to a piping bag and decorate or use the back of a spoon and dollop frosting on cupcakes.
What other frostings could you use? While cream cheese is traditional, some people don’t enjoy it, or are dairy free. Some other options that I think would be delicious are my vegan vanilla frosting, vegan marshmallow frosting, or simply leave them unfrosted and enjoy them for breakfast!
Can I make the frosting dairy free?
You could, but I haven’t found a dairy free cream cheese that I love. Instead, I think you should make these cupcakes with my vegan marshmallow frosting!
How many cupcakes does this make?
This recipe makes 12 cupcakes. You can double the recipe to make more, or, use it in a cake pan or bundt pan!
How to bake this recipe in a cake pan?
This recipe is so versatile that you can make it in just about any cake pan you like! It works well as a sheet cake, bundt cake, layer cake, and of course, as cupcakes!
Begin by greasing and flouring your pan of choice. I don't recommend parchment paper because we want the batter to climb up the sides of the pan. For all of these options, I recommend doubling the recipe. Finally, the baking time is different for each of them.
- Three 8-inch cake pans - 23-25 minutes bake time
- 9x13 cake pan - 40-45 minutes bake time
- Bundt pan - 60-70 minutes bake time
How to Store
Countertop: Plain cupcakes can be stored on the countertop for 3 days. If you have added cream cheese frosting, they need to be kept in the fridge.
Fridge: Store plain or frosted cupcakes in the fridge for up to 5 days. By day 3 they may begin to dry out if not stored in an airtight container.
Freezer: Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in a freezer safe container for 2-3 months. Let the cupcakes thaw in the fridge overnight before frosting and serving.
More cupcakes to love
If you try these out, please leave a comment below! This provides helpful feedback to both me and other readers. And if you want more delicious, dietary friendly recipes you can subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!
- mixing bowls
- mixing spoons
- hand mixer or stand mixer
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- Piping tips (optional)
- cupcake tray
- cupcake liners
- 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon each cloves and ginger
- ½ cup oil
- ⅔ cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup carrot shredded
- ½ cup crushed pineapple drained and patted dry
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds roughly chopped
Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup cream cheese room temperature
- ¼ cup butter room temperature
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Dash salt
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line with cupcake liners or spray with cooking spray a cupcake tray for 12 cupcakes. Set aside.
- Prep your carrots by peeling and finely shredding fresh carrots with a box grater. Drain the pineapple and roughly chop the pumpkin seeds. Set all these aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: Flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Add the carrots, pineapple, raisins, and pumpkin seeds, whisking together well.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and using a spatula, gently fold the batter together until just combined. Make sure you scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate all the ingredients.
- Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake tray. Fill each cupcake almost full. When you have filled each cupcake, there should be no batter left over.
- Bake for 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out clean. Let them cool in the cupcake trays for 5 minutes before placing them on a wire cooling rack to finish cooling. Make sure they are fully cooled before frosting.
- In a large bowl with your hand mixer, or in the bowl of your stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract, salt, and powdered sugar. Whisk again for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if it is too thin; add a splash of milk if it’s too thick.
- Transfer to a piping bag with a 1M tip, or use a spoon or knife to frost the cupcakes.