My Favorite Carrot Cake

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.

 

A photo of a two layer carrot cake on a white cake stand looking at the cake from the side with a slice taken out of it. It has white cream cheese frosting in between the layers and all over the outside. The cake is topped with white chocolate decorative carrots.

 

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. 

 

A photo of a two layer carrot cake on a white cake stand covered in white cream cheese frosting with white chocolate decorative carrots on top and surrounded at the base wit chopped pecans.

 

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!

 

A photo of a slice of two layer carrot cake laying on its side on a blue and white plate.

 

Carrots

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!

 

A photo of a carrot cake taken from directly above the cake on a white cake st. The cake is covered in white cream cheese frosting with white chocolate decorative carrots on top and surrounded at the base with chopped pecans.

 

Wet/Dry Ingredients

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.

 

A photo of a two layer carrot cake on a white cake stand covered in white cream cheese frosting with white chocolate decorative carrots on top and surrounded at the base with chopped pecans.

 

Sinking Cake

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

 

A photo of a slice of two layer carrot cake laying on its side on a blue and white plate.

 

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!

 

 

A photo of a carrot cake taken from directly above the cake on a white cake st. The cake is covered in white cream cheese frosting with white chocolate decorative carrots on top and surrounded at the base with chopped pecans.

 

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.

Yield: 1 two layer cake

My Favorite Carrot Cake

My Favorite Carrot Cake
A perfectly moist and flavorful carrot cake with a dreamy cream cheese frosting
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups sugar
  • 1/2 Cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spie
  • 1 1/4 Cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 Cup apple sauce
  • 4 Large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Cups finely grated carrots, peeled about 4 large carrots

Frosting

  • 1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 Cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Cup Crushed Pecans, optional

Instructions

Cake

  1. 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*
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice
  3. In another bowl, add the sugars, oil, apple sauce and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition.
  5. Fold in carrots until well combined.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and use a hand held electric mixer to beat until creamy.
  2. Add vanilla extract and salt and beat until smooth.
  3. With mixer on low, gradually add powdered sugar until ingredients are completely combined
  4. Once your cake has cooled completely, frost and sprinkle with nuts if desired.

Notes

To flour cake pans, spray with nonstick spray and then sprinkle in a few tablespoons of flour. Turn and tap the cake pan until the bottom and sides are covered, dump out any remaining flour.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

15

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 646 Total Fat: 36g Saturated Fat: 9g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 25g Cholesterol: 81mg Sodium: 394mg Carbohydrates: 77g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 58g Protein: 6g
A photo of a two layer carrot cake on a white cake stand looking at the cake from the side with a slice taken out of it. It has white cream cheese frosting in between the layers and all over the outside. The cake is topped with white chocolate decorative carrots.

 

Cake RECIPES

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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Carrian Cheney

Lover of all things beautiful, good and delicious. Wife, mother, friend, foodie.

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7 comments on “My Favorite Carrot Cake”

  1. Just a heads up, the step by step directions do not mention adding in the sugar. I had both pans in the oven before I realized this. It also does not include adding the wet ingredients to dry. Crossing my fingers the cake still turns out after adding the sugar in at the very end! 

  2. Do you know what the cooking time would be if I don’t have round cake pans and just need to use a 9×13? 

  3. Hi – I’m assuming that the sugars are added with the dry ingredients, right? Or is it supposed to be blended together with the wet ingredients?
    I didn’t see it in the instructions and just thought I’d check.

    This looks delicious and so excited to try it out for Easter dinner. Thanks for sharing!

    • Doh! I can’t believe I forgot to put the sugars in the instructions! Thank you for letting me know! They get mixed with the wet ingredients. I have fixed the recipe card. Thank you again! Enjoy and happy Easter!!

  4. When do you combine wet and dry? Do you add the eggs to the wet first? Or carrots? Looks so good … I wanna get it right.