Sourdough Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

These cupcakes use unfed (discard) sourdough starter to produce a delicious carrot cupcake with no sourdough taste other than a very slight tang. They are perfect for any spring get-together.

Sourdough Carrot Cupcakes

Using discard sourdough starter, these carrot cupcakes are sweet and moist, topped with a delicious and simple cream cheese frosting.  No sourdough taste!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Serving Size 26 cupcakes


Carrot Cake

  • 1 ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup sourdough starter discard/ unfed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canned crushed pineapple drained
  • 2 cups carrots grated
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
  • 12 ounces butter melted
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch salt if using unsalted butter
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream if icing is too thick


For the Cupcakes:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare cupcake pans with cupcake liners.  This recipe makes either 24 very full cupcakes or 28 smaller ones
  • Combine the oil and sugar, beating well.  Add the sourdough starter and combine more gently.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla.
  • Reduce your mixer speed and add the carrots, pineapple, and raisins
  • Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices in a separate large bowl.  Add them to the batter one cup at a time, gently stirring after each addition.
  • Pour batter into prepared cupcake pans and bake fort 25 minutes.  A cake tester should come out clean, and the cupcakes should be bouncy when pressed.
  • Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, vanilla, and melted butter.  It may seem lumpy at first.  Add the salt if using unsalted butter, otherwise it is not needed.
  • Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating slowly at first then increasing the speed.  
  • If the frosting seems thick, add milk or cream a teaspoon at a time.  If it seems too thin, put in the fridge for 30 minutes.



Store frosted cupcakes in the fridge, unfrosted ones at room temperature.  Unfrosted cupcakes also freeze well for a month.  If baking this recipe as a cake, use 2 8 inch round cake pans and bake for 45 minutes.
This makes a generous amount of cream cheese frosting for those who like a lot.  If you prefer just a thin layer, you may want to cut the frosting recipe in half.
Calories: 364kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 144mg | Potassium: 102mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 39g | Vitamin A: 1811IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 1mg
sourdough carrot cupcake with cream cheese frosting resting on on towel

❤️ Why you’ll love this recipe

Rich-tasting. Before you run away in horror from this original recipe, let me assure you that you can’t taste the sourdough at all. There is a very mild tang, almost like there is a small amount of buttermilk in the batter. But the overall impression of these cupcakes is just that they are sweet, soft, and rich-tasting like a classic carrot cake. Using the discard sourdough starter just gives you an opportunity to use an ingredient that would otherwise go to waste, and adds a tiny bit of flavor.

Cakes are meant to be a sweet treat. This great recipe is inspired by a King Arthur Flour recipe, in which the reviewers occasionally complain that it is too sweet. This is nonsense. It may seem like a lot of sugar in the recipe, but it is a cake, people, and it should be sweet.

Light, fluffy and bouncy. You’ll also notice that it uses vegetable oil, which means you won’t end up with a dense, dry cake, but a moist and tender one, like the texture of a box cake mix.

Added texture. There are golden raisins, warm spices, and shredded carrots and crushed pineapple to round out this delicious, springy treat.

This is an overview of the ingredients. You’ll find the full measurements and instructions in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.

You’ll need the following for this treat:

  • vegetable oil
  • white sugar
  • sourdough starter discard/ unfed
  • eggs
  • canned crushed pineapple drained
  • grated carrots
  • golden raisins
  • vanilla
  • all-purpose flour
  • cinnamon
  • allspice
  • salt
  • baking soda
  • cream cheese room temperature
  • butter melted
  • powdered sugar
  • salt if using unsalted butter
  • vanilla
  • milk or cream if icing is too thick
  • cupcake pans
  • cupcake liners
  • mixer
  • large mixing bowl
  • wire rack

🥫 Storage instructions

Once they are frosted, store them in the fridge because of the dairy in the frosting. If they are unfrosted, they can be at room temperature for a few days. (Also, you can call them muffins!) Like most baked goods with spices, they are better the next day.

Unfrosted cupcakes also freeze well. Allow them to cool completely, the wrap in plastic wrap and place them in a zip-top freezer bag. They will stay fresh in the freezer this way for about a month.

carrot cupcakes on wooden bread board with plates nearby

🔍 FAQs

Can I use store-bought sourdough starter?

Yes, you can use store-bought sourdough starter if you prefer. Just follow the instructions on the package to prepare it.

Can I use any kind of flour to make these cupcakes?

You can use either all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour.

👩🏻‍🍳 Expert tips

  • This batter would also work for a fancy, layered carrot cake. The cupcakes could be decorated with crushed nuts or coconut on top as well.
  • Crushed walnuts or shredded coconut can be added to the recipe if you like those things. The raisins can be omitted too. If adding coconut or walnuts, reduce the vegetable oil to 1 1/4 cups as they will add moisture.

📘 Related Recipes

(Looking for an easier sourdough muffin? Try this chocolate chip version.)

sourdough carrot cupcake with bite taken out

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I made this as a cake and used a buttermilk glaze instead of cream cheese frosting. The cake is moist, delicious and a great use of my unfed starter!

  2. 5 stars
    So so so yummy. I substituted a mix of half vegetable shortening and half butter, and used1 cup sourdough starter instead of half. Put the nuts raisins coconut and walnuts as well. For the icing I used vanilla bean paste and only three cups sugar. I just cannot seem to follow a recipe, but it ended up making 24 cupcakes and a 9X9 pan of cake.

  3. 5 stars
    5 Stars! I didn’t have canned pineapple on hand, so subbed with unsweetened apple sauce. Only made half the amount of frosting (based on the icing sugar I had in my cupboard) and that was the perfect amount (although I could easily eat the frosting by the spoonful). Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe!!

  4. 5 stars
    I only used 1 cup of sugar and left them unfrosted – I was looking for carrot muffin recipe when I stumbled upon this one. SO good – a definite keeper!

  5. 5 stars
    Because of health issues, I had to go dairy and gluten free. This has been a hard transition for me AND my family. Finding a recipe that tastes just as good as we were accustomed to is difficult, to say the least. I made these cupcakes for Easter with a GF flour mix. They turned out so good! The cakes were moist, decadent and delicious. Even my dad requested to take some home with him. (That was such a compliment to me!) The recipe makes quite a few cupcakes so you can freeze some for later. A few weeks after Easter, my parents came over for dinner. Dad was so happy when I pulled out a few cupcakes and heated them up. Definitely a keeper!

  6. I made these with my cup for cup gluten free flour and they turned out too oily and crumbly , sorry don’t know if I could only use normal flour and also normal sour dough starter . Please help as was not very nice turn out

  7. My kiddos are sensitive to pineapples. Would you have any suggestions to replace this item? Is it necessary? This recipe sounds and looks delicious

    1. I would just leave it out. you could try applesauce but I think it might make the batter too wet. they’ll be fine without the pineapple 🙂

    2. 4 stars
      We used canned peach instead and it turned out great. Also subbed all butter/oils with coconut oil, icing was way too much for us so definitely would make half in the future.

  8. THESE WERE AWESOME!! My family loves them too! I made these yesterday, and now there are only 6 left! This recipe made 24 cupcakes and 4 small ramikin cakes. Love the addition of raisins and pineapple. It made these almost healthy!! And the frosting recipe makes A LOT of frosting. I had to freeze half of it to use later!

  9. This recipe looks fantastic, but 12 oz of butter seems to be a LOT of butter for the frosting.

  10. 5 stars
    I’m not a huge carrot cake fan, but I tried this recipe because I had lots of carrots and lots of sourdough. I used gluten free sourdough and flour, and applesauce instead of pineapple. They turned out moist and light, not too sweet, and the spice was perfect. These are not just the best carrot cake cupcakes I’ve ever had, these are the best CUPCAKES I’ve ever had. ???? I’ve shared the recipe with quite a few friends already, but my family wasn’t interested in sharing the cupcakes with friends.

  11. Oh my goodness!! This sounds absolutely delicious!!! I love sourdough, carrot cake, and cream cheese frosting! Great baking tips as well!

    1. This is such perfect timing! I started a new sourdough starter today and was thinking that I should start looking up some good recipes to utilize the “discarded” portions!