Crumbly spiced perfection paired with velvety smooth cream cheese make this classic carrot cake a mouth watering bite. Perfect for spring and all of those freshly pulled carrots from your garden!
There is nothing more satisfying than using home-grown goodness and making something delicious. It doesn’t feel quite as guilty indulging in a dessert filled with veggies either, right? Mini Carrot Cheesecakes, Carrot Patch Cupcakes, and Carrot Cake Cheesecake are other delectable carrot-filled treats that are sure to satisfy your garden fresh taste buds as well.
BEST Carrot Cake Recipe
Where are all of my fellow carrot cake lovers?? It seems like people either LOVE or HATE carrot cake. I am on team love! There is something so comforting about rich spices mixed with a creamy tangy kick.
I personally think those who don’t like it have never had good carrot cake, or maybe they just don’t like all of the add-ins. Not everyone is a fan of nuts after all. However, you can’t go wrong with a good dose of veggies hidden in sweet crumbly cake though!
This is a recipe I’ve been working on for a while now. It’s a layered version of my sheet cake, and let me tell you, it’s divine! It has a special step that makes it lighter and fluffier than most carrot cakes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still moist, just not dense. Really good carrot cake is hard to beat, especially when it’s covered in a luscious cream cheese frosting… yum!
But before we get to that, let’s talk carrots!
Carrots as you may have guessed, are a really important part of this cake. There are three cups of grated carrots in this recipe so the correct thickness is important.
How to prepare carrots:
- Do NOT use pre-shredded carrots. They are too thick and won’t cook through during the baking process.
- Do NOT use your food processor. Still too thick.
- DO use your standard box grater and grate the carrots on the largest setting. Perfect!
- You do not need to peel the carrots, the skin holds many extra nutrients and vitamins. Just clean thoroughly.
How to Make Carrot Cake
Carrot Cake Batter
- Whisk dry ingredients: (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) in a medium mixing bowl and set aside
- Mix wet ingredients in large bowl or in a stand mixer: (sugars, oil, applesauce, vanilla and carrots) just until combined.
- Add egg yolks one a time to wet mixture (mix well after each addition)
- With mixing speed on low, add dry ingredients to wet mixture (along with coconut, pecans, and raisins if desired) . Mix just until a few dry streaks remain
- In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into batter until no streaks remain
- I know, it seems bizarre for carrot cake, but it gives it a little extra lift. It also helps it from being too dense and gooey. Don’t skip this step!
- Divide batter evenly between two 9-inch round pans (FIRST line with parchment paper then spray or butter/flour the bottom and sides)
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs on it DO NOT over bake!
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Use paddle attachment to cream butter, vanilla and salt for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.
- With mixing speed on low gradually add powdered sugar until it forms a thick paste
- Add cream cheese and mix on low for 1-2 minutes.
- Chill 30 minutes.
Assembling & Decorating
- Let cakes cool completely & use cake leveler to remove domed tops
- Place bottom cake layer on cake stand
- Spread the top with an even layer of cream cheese frosting
- Place top cake layer
- Generously spread cream cheese frosting on sides and top
- Garnish with addition toasted pecans, if desired
Variations + Additions
Line a cupcake tin with your favorite liners and keep an eye on the cupcakes to make sure that they don’t burn or get dried out. Typically cupcakes finish earlier than normal cakes.
Bundt Cake Variation
You can make this in the bundt cake easily. It just may take twice the amount of time it would for our recipe. Instead of splitting the cake batter into two separate pans you are trying to bake all of it at once. Keep an eye on the time, although it will probably end up being around an hour.
Additions: Like we said you can add:
- raisins, either normal or golden
- Sweetened coconut flakes
BONUS TIP: Keep nuts from sinking to the bottom of the cake tin: coat them in some of the flour mixture then they won’t sink but stay suspended in the cake whilst baking.
How to store and freeze carrot cake? Store in the fridge because it has cream cheese frosting. You can leave the cake out to cool, but it is recommended that you refrigerate it once its been frosted. Tightly wrap the cake for storage.
How long does it last? This can last about 5 days in the fridge. Some people actually recommend making it a day ahead so that the flavors actually have time to sit and meld together better.
Just one slice of this classic carrot cake isn’t enough! It’s insanely delicious and perfect for any spring occasion!
For more Easter desserts, check out:
- Carrot Cake Sheet Cake
- Mini Carrot Cake Cheesecakes
- Mini Carrot Cake Loaves
- Healthier Carrot Cake Muffins
Classic Carrot Cake Recipe
For the Cake
- 2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp kosher sea salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- 1 1/2 cup brown sugar - packed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup canola oil - or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce - OR crushed pineapple
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cup grated carrots*
- 4 eggs - separated
- 2/3 cup sweetened coconut - optional
- 2/3 cup toasted chopped pecans - optional
- 1/2 cup baking raisins - optional
For the Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter - (2 sticks) room temperature
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp kosher sea salt
- 6 cup powdered sugar
- 2 (8 oz) blocks original cream cheese - room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round baking pans with parchment paper, then spray or butter/flour the bottom and sides. Set aside.
- In a medium size mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugars, oil, applesauce, vanilla and carrots, mix to combine. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- With mixing speed on low, carefully add dry ingredients along with the coconut, pecans and raisins (if desired). Mix until a few dry streaks remain.
- In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Using a spatula, fold into batter until no streaks remain. Pour into the prepared pans, dividing evenly between the two.
- Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into center of cake comes out with just a few little moist crumbs on it. Make sure not to over-bake the cake or you'll end up with a dry crumb. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Meanwhile to prepare the cream cheese frosting, using the paddle attachment cream the butter, vanilla and salt for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. With mixing speed on low gradually add the powdered sugar, beat until it forms a thick paste. Add cream cheese and mix on the lowest speed possible for 1-2 minutes, then STOP! Chill for 30 minutes.
- Frost cooled cake layers and garnish with additional toasted pecans, if desired. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.