The mention of carrot cake usually brings up memories of a moist, spicy cake laden with rich and tangy cream cheese frosting – not of chocolate. But just as zucchini can pair well with chocolate in a cake or quick bread, so can shredded carrots. These Chocolate Carrot Cake Cupcakes are a chocolaty variation on my regular carrot cake cupcake recipe. The cupcakes get a good dose of chocolate flavor from cocoa powder that is incorporated into the batter, and the result is a moist cupcake with a hint of spice and a good amount of chocolate in every bite.
This cupcake recipe uses cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom as its main spices, though they are not strong enough to dominate the chocolate flavor. Cinnamon and nutmeg are found in many carrot cake recipes, while cardamom is a bit less common. Cardamom, however, goes very well with chocolate and draws out some of the natural sweetness of the shredded carrots, so it works out perfectly in this recipe. The cocoa powder (both natural and dutch process will work; I typically use a dutch process cocoa) really does add a lot of chocolate flavor and gives a bittersweet, dark chocolate note. If you want even more chocolate, you can stir in some mini chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate along with the shredded carrots.
You’ll get plenty of additional chocolate if you top these off with this Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, however. It wouldn’t be quite right to have carrot cake without the cream cheese frosting. This chocolaty frosting also has a deep cocoa flavor to it, but it still retains that rich and tangy flavor that a plain cream cheese frosting has. You can opt for a vanilla frosting by omitting the cocoa powder and adding a little bit of extra confectioners’ sugar, too.
Chocolate Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
In a large bowl, beat together sugar and eggs until smooth. Whisk in melted butter, milk and vanilla extract. Gradually stir in flour mixture until only a few streaks of dry ingredients remain. Stir in shredded carrots and mini chocolate chips, if using, then divide batter evenly into prepared muffin pan.
Bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
4 tbsp butter, softened
4-oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 – 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Beat together butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Beat in cocoa powder, milk and vanilla extract, then gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar until frosting is thick, creamy and smooth.
If desired, set aside about 1/3 cup of icing before cocoa is added to make mini carrot decorations, as described here.