Carrot Cake Cupcakes With Orange Marmalade

This is the ultimate fluffy carrot cake cupcake recipe using fresh spring carrots and warm spices, and topped with luscious orange marmalade, tangy cream cheese frosting, a rich caramel drizzle, and homemade candied pecans. It's an ambitious, laborious bake, but the results are deliciously gratifying.


Yield: about 24 cupcakes


For the orange marmalade

  • 1 large seedless orange (about 2 cups of slices)
  • 1/2 lemon (about 1/4 cup of slices)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar

For the candied pecans

  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 10-12 oz of pecans, halved or chopped, or a combination

For the cake

  • 1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, canola oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup smooth unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (312g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 and 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 5 large)

    For the caramel

    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup cream
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

    For the frosting

    • 16 ounces full-fat brick of softened cream cheese
    • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) softened unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) vegetable shortening
    • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt


      For the orange marmalade

      Cut oranges and lemon in half crosswise, then into very thin half-moon slices. Discard any seeds. In a large pot, add the slices and any accumulated juices.

      Add water and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Cover and let stand overnight or for at least 8 hours at room temperature.

      Afterwards, bring the mixture back to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Turn heat up to medium and boil gently, stirring often, for another 30 minutes.

      Skim off any foam that forms on the top. Cook the marmalade until it reaches 220 degrees F. It should be a golden orange color.

      To test if the marmalade is ready, place a small amount on a plate and refrigerate it until it's cool. If it's firm (neither runny nor hard), it's ready. If the marmalade is runny, continue cooking it; if it's hard, add a bit more water.

      Pour into jars or bowls, cover, and chill in the refrigerator. You'll have marmalade leftover after topping the cupcakes- enjoy on toast or biscuits!

      For the candied pecans

      Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

      Mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a small bowl.

      In larger bowl, whisk egg white and water together until frothy. Add pecans to the larger bowl and stir to coat them. Slowly add in the sugar mixture and stir until pecans are evenly coated with the cinnamon sugar. Spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer.

      Bake for 30-45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, while making sure the pecans are arranged in a single layer each time they're returned to the oven.

      Cool completely before topping the cupcakes. You'll have some leftover, so save them for snacking or for topping salads or other desserts!

      For the cake

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners. 

      Whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce, crushed pineapple, and vanilla together in a bowl until combined. In another larger bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold the ingredients together until just combined. Fold in the carrots last.

      Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-22 mins.

      Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting and assembling.

      For the caramel

      In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the sugar on medium low heat until its completely melted, swirling the pan gently every 20 seconds or so. The sugar will start to form clumps before melting slowly into a thick amber-colored liquid. Watch constantly so the mixture doesn't burn.

      Once melted, remove from heat immediately and stir in the butter until combined. The mixture will bubble rapidly. If it begins to separate, vigorously whisk to combine it again.

      Next, stir constantly while slowly pouring in the heavy cream. Return to stovetop and allow to boil for 1 minute. When the temperature increases to 220 degrees F, remove from heat and stir in salt.

      Allow to cool down slightly, and then transfer to a small bowl, cup, or pouring vessel. I like to use a creamer since it makes easy work of pouring the caramel over the cupcakes.

      For the frosting

      In a bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, and shortening together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 2 minutes until completely combined and creamy. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, a little milk if frosting is too thick, or an extra pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.

      Final assembly

      Top each cupcake with about 2 teaspoons of marmalade. Feel free to "eyeball" this part. I like to make sure each cupcake is topped evenly with a thin layer of marmalade and includes 2 or 3 thin citrus slices. (You can always taste test a cupcake before you top them all so that you get the ratio the way you want!)

      After topping with marmalade, pipe or spread a generous amount of cream cheese frosting on each cupcake.

      Drizzle caramel over the top of the frosting, using either a small pouring vessel or a spoon.

      Lastly, top with a sprinkle of candied pecans and enjoy!


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