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Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes (Gluten Free and Low Sugar options)

Perfectly spiced and moist, these vegan carrot cake cupcakes are topped with a luxurious cream cheese frosting, AND sprinkled with candied walnuts for an extra sweet crunch! 

Many cupcakes on a white backgroud

Carrot cake is a perfect treat.  It’s filled with fresh vegetables so it’s basically healthy!  It’s bursting with spices that make you feel warm and cozy!  It can be filled with nuts, or topped with frosting, or any other version your heart desires!  The one downside?  Cake is dangerous for my lack of self-control when it comes to delicious baked goods.  Is the portion size of cake not “one cake”?

The answer?  Make vegan carrot cake cupcakes instead!  (though if you do want the cake version, here you go, try not to eat it all in one sitting like I do!)

These cupcakes are so fluffy and moist.  I make them packed with walnuts, topped with a luxurious cream cheese frosting, and then sprinkled with candied walnuts.  The beauty of them is they’re so versatile, you can make them fit exactly what you want!  Nuts or no nuts, vanilla frosting instead of cream cheese, they’re so good on their own you can even skip the frosting entirely!  Do anything your heart desires. 

But don’t just take my word for it, let’s get to baking!

Close up of one completed cupcake

How To Make Them:

These vegan carrot cake cupcakes come together beautifully and quickly.  While they’re baking and cooling, you can use the down time to prepare your candied walnuts and cream cheese frosting, that way not a moment is wasted while you’re getting ready to eat a delicious treat!

The most time consuming part of this recipe is peeling and grating the carrots.  I start here to get it all prepped in advance, since it’s smooth sailing once this is done.  I find it takes about 7-8 medium sized carrots to get 2 cups shredded, and certainly less if you get bigger carrots.

For the cupcake itself, you just need one bowl! Mix together the flour, both sugars (see the Ingredients Needed section to learn how to make these lower in sugar!), baking soda and powder, salt, and spices (I use a ton of cinnamon, some nutmeg, and just a bit of ginger, but you can play with the amounts of course). Then add in non-dairy milk, neutral oil, and vanilla extract. Finally, add in the carrots and the walnuts, and then it’s time to fill your cupcake liners!  Evenly dispersed you should get each one to around ¾ full.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes - batter
Carrot Cake Cupcakes - batter
Carrot Cake Cupcakes - batter

Candied Walnuts:

While the cupcakes are baking, make the candied walnuts, that way they can cool at the same time as the cupcakes do.  This is simple, just add the vegan butter and sugar to a pan over medium heat.  Mix together with a rubber spatula for about a minute until they are combined, then add in the walnuts.  Mix all together for 3-5 minutes, keep a close watch because usually right around 5 minutes the mixture will start to burn.  I pull mine just under 5 minutes, and then immediately transfer the mixture onto parchment paper to let it cool there.  Once cooled, you can chop up as finely as you want for the topping.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

For the cream cheese frosting, use the cream cheese and vegan butter straight out of the fridge so they are both cold.  I use a simple hand mixer, and I start by just mixing the cream cheese and butter first before adding in any powdered sugar to help it combine better.  Then add the powdered sugar one cup at a time and keep mixing until it’s fully combined and fluffy.

Then that’s it! Pipe or spoon on top and enjoy your vegan carrot cake cupcakes! Nutritional info can be found in the Notes section below the recipe instructions.

Storage:

After they have cooled, seal in an air-tight container.  Ideally if you know you won’t be eating them for a day or two, I’d recommend making the frosting closer to serving time.  Otherwise, store in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Artistic photo of one completed cupcake on a stack of plates

Pro Tips & Tools:

  • Make sure you are measuring your flour either by weight or using the spoon and level method.  Do not scoop directly from the container, as you will wind up with too much! This is so important! If you want to buy a pre-made gluten free flour blend, make sure it’s King Arthur’s Measure for Measure Gluten Free Flour, it is BY FAR the best one for my recipes, NOT Bob’s Red Mills or any others. If you want to make a homemade blend, here is a link to the one I use.
  • Make sure you measure your liquid ingredients using liquid measuring cups.  This will ensure accuracy!  I love this set.
  • As I mentioned, using a hand mixer with the frosting is the way to get the best results there.  I use this very simple and effective one.
  • If you haven’t used piping tools for frosting, or if you just need new ones, this set is my favorite. I love the medium and large sized tips.
  • Missing any of the basics? Here is my go-to muffin tin, and my go-to cupcake liners.

Ingredients Needed:

  • Flour – Make sure you are measuring your flour either by weight or using the spoon and level method.  Do not scoop directly from the container, as you will wind up with too much! This is so important! If you want to buy a pre-made gluten free flour blend, make sure it’s King Arthur’s Measure for Measure Gluten Free Flour, it is BY FAR the best one for my recipes, NOT Bob’s Red Mills or any others. If you want to make a homemade blend, here is a link to the one I use.
  • Brown sugar & granulated sugar – I love the mix of both here.  It’s sweet without being overpowering, and the brown sugar is the perfect flavor combination with the other ingredients.  You will also use brown sugar to candy the walnuts. If you are trying to cut back on your sugar intake, I love using this Monkfruit Sweetener in place of the granulated sugar.
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, & ginger – this can of course be altered if you feel strongly for or against one of the spices.  I go heavy on the cinnamon, use a good amount of nutmeg, and a pinch of ginger for some punch.
  • Baking soda, baking powder, and salt – I recommend using baking powder that has no added aluminum. This one is my go-to.
  • Non-dairy milk – any non-dairy milk should work here!  I usually use soy or almond.
  • Neutral oil – any neutral oil should work here, I always use grapeseed
  • Vanilla extract
  • Shredded carrots – as mentioned, I find it takes about 7-8 medium sized carrots to get 2 cups of shredded pieces.
  • Walnuts – you can get about a cup of walnuts into the cupcakes, then use another half cup if you plan to have candied walnuts on top.
Frosting:
  • Vegan butter – this is used for both the frosting, and to candy the walnuts
  • Vegan cream cheese – I am fond of the Kite Hill brand, and they come in 8oz packages which is exactly the amount you want for the frosting here
  • Powdered sugar – for the frosting. If you want to do this part sugar free, you can use this Monkfruit Powdered Sweetener in place of powdered sugar.
  • Cornstarch – optional! Cream cheese frosting is a bit thinner than buttercream, so sometimes you want to thicken it up more but can’t handle adding even more sugar or sweetness to it, so you can use a little cornstarch if needed.

What To Bake Next:

Many cupcakes on a white backgroud

Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes (Gluten Free option)

Perfectly spiced and moist, these carrot cake cupcakes are topped with a luxurious cream cheese frosting, AND sprinkled with candied walnuts for an extra sweet crunch! 
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 28 mins
Total Time 53 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Servings 12 cupcakes

Ingredients
  

Cupcake Ingredients

  • cups gluten free flour can sub all-purpose if desired. This links to my favorite store bought gluten free flour blend that works best with all of my recipes, or see “Ingredients Needed” section for further info.
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar *if you want a sugar free option, this links to my favorite sweetener, you can substitute it 1:1 in place of regular granulated sugar
  • tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 cup walnuts

Candied Walnut Ingredients

  • tsp vegan butter or neutral oil
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • ½ cup walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients

  • ½ cup vegan butter
  • 8 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 4 cups powdered sugar *if you want a sugar free option, this links to my favorite powdered sweetener, you can substitute it 1:1 in place of regular powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • small pinch of salt
  • ½-1 cup cornstarch this is optional IF you want a thicker frosting but don’t want to keep adding sugar endlessly

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  • First up are the cupcakes.  In a large bowl, mix together the flour, both sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Then add in the non-dairy milk, neutral oil, and vanilla extract.  Lastly, add in the carrots and walnuts and mix all until just combined.
  • Pour or spoon the batter into the cupcake liners trying to get it even across all 12.  They should fill about ¾ of the way up.  Bake for 25-28 minutes (26 is my sweet spot).  Let cool 10-15 minutes in the pan before transferring to a cooling rack to cool fully before frosting.
  • While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, make the candied walnuts.  Put the butter and sugar into a small pan over medium heat.  Let it heat up for about a minute until combined, then add in the walnuts.  Cook for 3-5 minutes until they are coated – don’t let it burn! – then transfer the mixture to parchment paper to cool fully before chopping.
  • Finally to make the frosting, use the vegan butter and vegan cream cheese straight from the fridge so they are cold.  Use a hand mixer to beat until they are soft, then add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing fully as you go. 
  • Once the cupcakes and walnuts are cooled, you can assemble your cupcakes.
  • Eat and enjoy!

Notes

NUTRITION INFO

Total amount: 12 cupcakes
Serving size: 1 cupcake ** nutritional info does not include frosting or candied walnuts.
Per serving amounts:
  • Calories – 257
  • Grams of fat – 12.8
  • Grams of carbs – 30.5
  • Grams of protein – 5.4
Keyword carrot cake, carrot cake cupcakes, carrots, cream cheese, cream cheese frosting, cupcakes, gluten free, vegan, walnuts
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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