It’s perfectly moist, the spices are a burst of flavor and it’s a classic cake recipe with no crazy add-ins. This is My Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting.
I only had carrot cake for the first time a few years ago. My good friend, Melissa Brandley was in town for the Sundance Film Festival and we went out to dinner for a good ol’ catch up on all things in life. We laughed until our sides hurt, cried together right there in the restaurant and had the most delicious carrot cake. That carrot cake inspired me to create this recipe, my Favorite Carrot Cake.
I’m not a fan of carrot cakes that are full of all sorts of ingredients like orange peel, candied ginger, walnuts, pecans, and raisins. At that point it gets too busy and almost doesn’t even seem like a cake anymore. I want fresh, moist and flavorful and I want it to taste like a carrot cake.
Pumpkin pie spice is the flavor I need in a carrot cake. It contains cinnamon, nutmeg AND ginger which totally makes a huge difference! The best carrot cake I ever had was one that had a fantastic aroma and spice to it. The carrots melted into the cake and it was a seamless bite. This recipe has all those same things which is why it’s my very favorite!
Besides the pumpkin pie spice, the other thing that must be in a carrot cake is carrots of course! The carrots should be finely shredded so that they are small enough to cook through and become tender. If you put carrots in a cake with a bigger grate, they are going to be totally noticeable and slightly crunchy. That’s just not what I’m after in a cake!
You will want to buy whole carrots for this. Baby carrots just don’t have quite the same flavor and sweetness that you get from a whole carrots. I also can’t think of many things worse that grating a million baby carrots! Doesn’t that sound miserable? A food processor would be a must! If baby carrots is all you have, they will work, but use whole carrots if possible!
Have you noticed that almost all baking recipes have you mix together wet and dry ingredients separately? Why is that? Don’t they all end up mixed together anyway? There are important reasons that we do this while baking. The short answer is that baking is science, so there are rules that need to be followed.
Mixing all the dry ingredients together ensures that all the raising agents and spices get evenly dispersed throughout the batter.
If the wet ingredients are already mixed together, then once the wet and dry ingredients are combined, very little mixing will have to happen. Over-mixing batter or dough results in tough baked goods, which is what we don’t want! When the wet and dry ingredients are combined in this recipe, they should be folded together gently until a few streaks of flour remains.
I’ve read that a common problem with carrot cake is having the cake fall in the middle. There are several things that could cause this, but the most common reason is under baking. Other reasons that can lead to a cake with a sunken center include:
- Not enough liquid in the batter
- Over-mixed batter
- Oven temperature too low
- Cake contains too much fat and/or sugar and/or leavening
- Opening oven door can cause a sudden reduction of heat
Frosting a Layered Cake
Frosting a layered cake is one of those things that is easier said than done. But it really isn’t hard if you have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are my tips for making it easy on yourself and ending up with a gorgeous cake:
- chill the cake first so it’s easier to frost (about 1-2 hours)
- start with a think first coat to catch all the crumbs
- pile a large amount of frosting on the top and then push it down the side, don’t start frosting the sides first
As long as we are talking about frosting, let me tell you how I made the carrot decorations for this cake. I melted orange and green melting chocolate wafers (white chocolate could be used as well and dyed using food gel) and put them in a piping back. Then I piped the carrots on parchment paper and refrigerated them until firm. Easy peezy!
Making Ahead, Freezing, Storing
Carrot cake actually gets better over time, so it is a great cake to make ahead. Making it a day or two before you plan to eat it is definitely recommended. It can be stored an unfrosted cake at room temperature for 2-3 days or frosted in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving. Cake should always be stored in an airtight container.
Carrot cake also freezes great. You can freeze it frosted or unfrosted in an airtight contain for up to 2 months. When you are ready to eat it, thaw it overnight in refrigerator and bring it to room temperature before serving.
More CAKE RECIPES You Have to Try:
- Apple Cake with Caramel Frosting
- Better Than Anything Cake
- Chocolate Sheet Cake
- Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll Sheet Cake
- Banana Cake
- Strawberries and Cream Jello Cake
- Banana Bundt Cake Recipe (From Cake Mix!)
- Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
- Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Sheet Cake
- Gingerbread Cake
- Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake
- Lemon Jello Cake
- All our Cake Recipes here!
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My Favorite Carrot Cake
- 2 1/2 Cups flour all-purpose
- 1 1/2 Cups sugar
- 1/2 Cup brown sugar light, tightly packed
- 1 1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
- 1 Teaspoon baking powder
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 2 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 1/4 Cup oil canola or vegetable
- 1/4 Cup apple sauce
- 4 eggs Large, room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 Cups carrots peeled about 4 large carrots, finely grated
- 1/2 Cup butter unsalted, softened
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 Cups powdered sugar
- 1 Cup pecans crushed, optional
- Preheat oven to 350F and prepare two 8-inch pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper rounds and lightly greasing and flouring the sides. See note*
- In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice
- In another bowl, add the sugars, oil, apple sauce and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
- Add eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition.
- Fold in carrots until well combined.
- Mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients together until just mixed. Be careful to not over-mix.
- Evenly divide carrot cake batter into prepared baking pans and bake for 40 minutes Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake and if it comes out clean you're ready to go.
- Allow carrot cake to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and use a hand held electric mixer to beat until creamy.
- Add vanilla extract and salt and beat until smooth.
- With mixer on low, gradually add powdered sugar until ingredients are completely combined
- Once your cake has cooled completely, frost and sprinkle with nuts if desired.
Looking for a few different cake recipes other than our Favorite Carrot Cake? Here are just a few to get you started: Apple Cake with Caramel Frosting, Strawberries and Cream Jello Cake, Lemon Cake with Coconut Frosting, Chocolate Cherry Cake, Chocolate Sheet Cake, Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll Sheet Cake, Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake, or our Lemon Jello Cake.
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