Carrot cake is the favorite of a surprising number of my friends.  Perhaps because it’s one of the few cakes where the cake is as good as the frosting.  Anyway, when my friend Pusha turned 50, this was his special request.

Here’s what you need to make 42-48 of these cupcakes.  If you make the whole thing plus garnish, you will need four oranges.


  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 cups vegetable oil
  • 8 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 6 cups finely grated peeled carrots (just under 2 pounds)
  • 1 cup toasted pecans
  • 1 cup raisins
  • zest of an orange



Preheat oven to 325°F and set your oven racks so that you can cook two moderately tall things.  In my oven, that’s the bottom position and the second from the top.

Place the pecans on a rimmed cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes until they are slightly darker and smell like pecans.  Watch them carefully to make sure they don’t burn.

Chop the pecans finely.

Chop the raisins finely.  To keep the raisins from sticking to the knife, spray the blade with oil before chopping.

Ugh, time to grate the carrots.  This is the tedious part, but I like my carrots grated finely, so I find it’s worth the time to grate my own.  For me that means pulling out my old fashioned box grater and getting a 10-minute arm workout.

Now is a good time to get your pans ready.  Line with cupcake liners or you can try these fun Tulip Papers.  They keep the cake in very effectively, when you frost the cupcakes they won’t stick together and they look pretty.

Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and vegetable oil until combined.

Add eggs one or two at a time, beating well after each addition.  A good trick is to break all the eggs into a bowl (so you can check for shells and other imperfections) and then pour them one or two at a time into the mixer.

Let it mix on high for about a minute.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg onto a piece of wax paper.  Then add the kosher salt to it (kosher salt doesn’t sift).

WARNING:  This is an opportunity for a messy swear-inducing mistake.  Very carefully lift the wax paper and use it to pour the sifted ingredients and the kosher salt into the sugar and oil mixture and then slowly, carefully mix them together in the mixer.

As the flour is incorporated, you can turn up the speed and beat until everything is thoroughly incorporated.

At this point, I found it necessary to transfer everything to a bigger bowl.  That’s a whole lotta cake batter!  Add the carrots, chopped pecans, raisins and orange zest.

Mix until completely incorporated.

Scoop the batter into your liners.  I used a #12 ice cream scoop.  If you try the tulip papers, take care not to let the batter get on the pointy edges.  When they bake, this turns brown and looks messy.

Bake until a toothpick or a strand of uncooked spaghetti (Thank you Lita for that cool suggestion!) inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.  Cool the cupcakes in the pans to room temperature.

I usually use this time to clean up the HUGE mess I made in my kitchen.

To frost the cooled cupcakes, I scoop the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting onto the top (I used a #24 ice cream scoop).

and then kind of push it into the corners.

Top with the Candied Orange Peel and ta da!

Now isn’t that pretty?!  Yummy too.

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