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A carrot cake cupcake with the wrapper unwrapped.

High Altitude Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Heather Smoke
Moist carrot cake cupcakes with spices and brown butter, frosted with cream cheese buttercream.

All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet.

5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 17 mins
Total Time 37 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings18 cupcakes


  • Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment



  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and finely grated (4 1/2 ounces)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup whole buttermilk, room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg


  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ tbsp meringue powder (optional)
  • tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste



  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two standard-sized muffin pans with 18 paper liners.
    Note: If you only have one 12-cup pan, you can bake the cupcakes in batches, and let the batter rest at room temperature until you're ready to bake the second batch. Scoop the batter into the pan without mixing it up again.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until nutty brown solids form on the bottom of the pan.  Immediately scrape the butter and the browned bits into a large mixing bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Add the carrots, applesauce, oil, buttermilk, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla to the brown butter, and whisk until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and whisk for 10-15 seconds until combined.
  • Use a scant 1/4 cup measuring cup to fill the paper liners about 2/3 - 3/4 full. Bake the cupcakes on the center oven rack for about 17 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently touched.
  • Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then gently transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.


  • In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter for 1 minute until smooth.
  • With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and the meringue powder, mixing until combined.
  • Add the salt and vanilla; on medium high, whip for several minutes until light and fluffy – add a little more powdered sugar if the buttercream is too soft, or 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream if it's too thick.
  • Fit a piping bag with tip 1M, fill with the buttercream, and pipe swirls or rosettes on the cooled cupcakes.


Leftover cupcakes should be kept refrigerated, in an airtight container or cupcake carrier, for up to 3 days.  Bring the cupcakes to room temperature before serving.
Keyword Brown Butter, Carrot Cake, Cream Cheese Frosting, Cupcakes, High Altitude
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