Inside-out carrot cake: Carrot Cake Muffins

Spring = bunnies

Bunnies = carrots.

And carrots =

Carrot cake!

Oh, the deep-gold, moist, flavorful cake! The rich, sumptuous cream cheese icing!

The time it takes to bake a layer cake, turn it out, cool, frost, slice, and serve…

The solution? Carrot cake muffins, a less-sweet carrot cake clone oozing baked-in, barely sweetened cream cheese filling.

You get the carrot cake experience, with slightly less sugar and fat. Or a lot less, depending on your favorite carrot cake recipe.

These muffins are handy to transport; simple to serve.

And easy to love.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a standard 12-well muffin pan.

Or line the pan with paper muffin cups, and grease the cups. More on this later.

Let’s start with the filling. Place one unwrapped, 8-ounce package cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat on low power for 40 seconds.

Stir in 1/4 cup granulated sugar and a few drops of Fiori di Sicilia flavor. The Fiori is optional, but adds wonderful, subtle flavor to the filling.

Stir until smooth. Set the filling aside while you make the muffin batter.

Whisk together the following:

2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt

Place the following in a measuring cup or small bowl:

2 large eggs
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Whisk until well combined.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Add 1 cup grated carrots, lightly packed; about 2 medium-large carrots.

Stir to combine.

Note the word “stir;” beating isn’t necessary, and will toughen your muffins.

OK, time to experiment. To paper, or not to paper… that is the question. Will papers affect how the muffins bake? Will it make them easier to get out of the pan? And, is it necessary to grease the papers? We shall see.

Drop about 2 tablespoons of the batter (a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here) into each muffin cup, spreading it to cover the bottom.

Dollop on a heaping tablespoon of filling; a level tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.

Whoops! A little off center. That’s what I get for trying to do this left-handed while using my right hand to take the photo. Where’s that third arm when you need it??

There, those are better.

Cover with enough batter to fill the muffin cups quite full. The batter will come to within about 1/4″ to 3/8″ of the top of each muffin cup.

There, all nice and tidy.

Except for one thing: I had about 1/3 cup of batter left over.

DARN! What to do? Reformulate the recipe to yield 1/3 cup less? Overfill the cups and see what happens?

Neither of the above. Life is imperfect; so is this recipe. I ended up baking the extra batter in a silicone cup set next to the muffin tin.

A scattering of coarse white sparkling sugar across the top is never amiss when you’re making muffins. The sugar adds crunch, glitter, and flavor.

Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes. Notice the extra batter in its silicone cup.

When they’re done, a toothpick inserted into the cake part of one (not into the cream cheese filling) will come out clean. The tops of the muffins will feel firm to the touch.

Remember our paper/no paper experiment? The muffins on the left are in papers; on the right, no papers. Clearly the no-paper muffins rise more quickly. Which makes sense; there’s no paper insulating them from the oven’s heat.

By the end of the bake, though, the papered muffins had caught up, height-wise. So far, then – it’s a tie.

Remove the muffins from the oven, and immediately tilt them in their cups; a fork works well here.

I found it easier to tilt the papered muffins; they didn’t stick at all. The muffins without papers needed to cool a bit longer before they’d release from the pan. And, as they cooled, they were steaming a bit; which made their bottoms a bit tough.

Score one for papers.

Shall we break one open now, or wait for them to cool?


The center is molten. It’s actually a decadent experience, licking the melting, sweet cream cheese off your fingers.

But, if you’re not the finger-lickin’ type, wait 30 minutes or so for the muffins to cool a bit; the filling will stiffen up.

Oh, let’s finish our muffin papers experiment. Should the papers be greased, or not?

Definitely greased; the greased papers released the muffins without any sticking at all, while the ungreased papers tended to cling a bit, taking off a layer of crumbs as you removed them.

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Cream Cheese Carrot Cake Muffins.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Ancient Aunt

    PJ, thank you for the most entertaining recipe I’ve ever read. Comments such as “Score one for papers.” and “Shall we break one open now, or wait for them to cool? Now!” had me in stitches. Also many thanks to you and other KAF folks for answering so many questions and dispensing further good advice in the comments section following the recipe. I’ve written down much of the advice and shall be making these for a special Easter treat.

  2. Rachel

    My 10-year-old daughter LOVES carrot cake; it’s her favorite. Annnnnd, because we had some extra carrots in the house, and for no other reason than I love my daughter, I made these yesterday. I used brown sugar for the cake and the frosting, and these came out sooooooo good. Next time I think I’ll put in more carrots though. Also, the cake part is a bit heavy– maybe from the brown sugar instead of white? I dunno. It made 9 cupcakes with extra frosting– I just put an extra dollop of frosting on the top of each cupcake, and some sprinkles. My daughter wasn’t complaining. 🙂 Thanks for a great recipe.

  3. Bonnie

    I would like to prepare these the night before, put them in the refrigerator and bake them for breakfast the next morning. Is that possible or will the filling drop to the bottom. If possible how long would I have to let them out before baking?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Bonnie, I wouldn’t recommend refrigerating the unbaked cupcakes the night before because the filling will very likely sink, but you could mix up the cake and filling mixtures and keep those in the refrigerator overnight and then assemble the cup cakes in the morning and bake. The cupcakes may take a bit longer to bake when the ingredients are cold. Barb@KAF

  4. Ande H.

    Hi PJ,

    I was thinking of making these a couple days before a family get together. (make on a Thursday, consume on a Saturday) BUT, if you advise that the are best eaten the day they are made I’ll just hold off on making them.




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