The BEST Carrot Cake Recipe
This is my favorite recipe for homemade carrot cake! This cake is so easy to make, perfectly moist, and topped with an easy homemade cream cheese frosting.
I feel like carrot cake is a dessert most people tend to only make around Easter. But honestly, carrot cake is such an incredible dessert and I think it should be enjoyed all year long. Especially when it comes to this recipe.
I know it can be a bold statement to call a recipe the best, but I truly mean it with this one. Not only is this cake easy to make, but it’s so incredibly moist and full of flavor that it’s almost impossible to stop at one piece.
Once you realize how easy it is to make a carrot cake from scratch, you’ll want to make it over and over again.
To make this carrot cake, you’ll start by mixing up your dry ingredients. One important thing when measuring out your dry ingredients is to make sure to spoon and level your flour.
You want to avoid packing the flour into the measuring cup, otherwise, you’ll end up with too much in your recipe. Or if you have a food scale, you can also weigh your ingredients to get an accurate measurement.
I also really love some spice in my carrot cake so I use some ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. All three spices add such a wonderful flavor to this cake, but aren’t too overpowering. They really take this cake from good to absolutely amazing, trust me.
For the wet ingredients, you’ll be using some oil, eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and applesauce. The amount of oil and applesauce in this recipe adds the perfect amount of moisture, so you end up with a moist cake that isn’t oily.
As always, I use a bit more brown sugar than granulated sugar because it adds more moisture and flavor to this carrot cake. And of course, you’ll also be mixing in some grated carrots. I don’t like to skimp on the carrots when it comes to this recipe, so I use 3 cups of grated carrots.
I know some carrot cake recipes call for raisins or nuts, but I prefer to leave them out because I know that not everyone is a fan of them. However, if you love either one (or both!) feel free to mix some into the batter.
Then it’s all topped off with my favorite cream cheese frosting. Have you tried it yet?! It’s so good and a few of you have already made it and loved it. The store-bought frosting doesn’t even compare to this homemade frosting recipe.
And speaking of the frosting, it makes enough to frost the carrot cake like you see in the pictures. If you really love frosting, then I suggest making a bit more. Enjoy!
Baking Tips for Carrot Cake
- When measuring your flour, don’t scoop it out of the container with the measuring cup. Instead, stir the flour around, spoon it into your measuring cup, and level it off with the back of a knife.
- Feel free to use chopped walnuts or pecans in this carrot cake, I suggest using about 3/4-1 cup. If you love raisins in your carrot cake, you may also use 1/2 cup.
The BEST Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the carrot cake:
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (180ml) canola or vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups (300 grams) light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (125 grams) unsweetened applesauce
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups (300 grams) grated carrots, lightly packed
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 1 (8-ounce) package brick style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
To make the carrot cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray two 9-inch round cake pans well with non stick cooking spray (you can also line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper for easier removal) and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, applesauce, and vanilla extract until fully combined. Add the grated carrots into the wet ingredients and mix until well combined.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a whisk or rubber spatula until just combined, making sure not to over mix the batter.
- Pour the cake batter evenly between both prepared cake pans. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes or until the tops of the cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each one comes out clean. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and allow to cool in the pans for about 20-25 minutes. Once the cakes have cooled, remove from the pans and return the cakes to the wire rack to finish cooling.
To make the cream cheese frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter and mix for about 30 seconds-1 minute until well combined and smooth. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue mixing until fully combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
To assemble the cake:
- Level the tops of each cake with a knife or cake leveler. Place one of the cakes on a cake stand, top with a little over 1/2 cup of the frosting, and smooth it out into one even layer. Place the other cake on top and use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake. Top with pecans or other toppings of choice if desired.
Adapted from Better Homes & Garden
To make cupcakes instead of a cake:
Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes. The full recipe will make 24 cupcakes or you can cut the recipe in half to make 12 cupcakes.
If you love pineapple, here’s my favorite recipe for Pineapple Carrot Cake!
Absolutely delicious. Just about to make it for a second time.
This cake was a huge hit at a family gathering – one of my in-laws needs a gluten free cake – if I substitute the flour for gluten free will I be OK or is there anything in the recipe with gluten?
Hi, Carolyn! Most of the ingredients, except for the flour, should naturally be gluten-free. However, there may be a few that aren’t. I believe some powdered sugars can contain gluten. I’d be sure to check that and use your best judgment.
I make this with Gluten free flour and it comes out fantastic! My family loves them!!
Just what I was looking for! Just one problem, your first ingredient is 1 cup of flour(500) grams.. 500 grams equals 2 cups. So is it one cup.or two?
So sorry, a bit dyslexic! It was the other way around, 2 cups equals 500 grams and not 250
Hi, Jasmin! 1 cup of flour equals 125 grams, so 2 cups is 250 grams. You can find my post on how I measure flour here.
Does the cake need to be refrigerated if making it a day ahead of time?
If you frost it, then it does need to be refrigerated because the frosting has cream cheese in it.
This is about the fourth time I’m making this cake. Everyone loves it.
Love it, could I sub butter for the veg oil?
That would probably be fine! I’d recommend melting 3/4 cup of butter and replacing it with the 3/4 cup of oil.
So excited to make this for my family for our easter dessert! I am going to be piping some carrots on the top. Do you think the frosting too thick for piping a design?
The frosting isn’t super thick, so I think it would be fine to pipe some carrots on the cake! You may want to increase the recipe by half just so you have more for decorating.
I want to make this today for Easter tomorrow for my boyfriends family! But was thinking cupcakes would be easier so I could send some with my family and take to my boyfriends. Can I use this same recipe and just pour it into individual cupcake tins instead of cake pans??
Yes, that would be fine! You can make about 24 to 28 cupcakes with this recipe or use my carrot cake cupcake recipe here.
This carrot cake is the BEST! We make it every Easter and a few times during the year! We absolutely LOVE it! Thank you so much for posting this! Happy Easter!
Made sheet cake for Easter dessert and it’s yummy ? I added walnuts to batter and on top of my frosting. I think my family is going to love this ? thank you,
Any special instructions on the grating of the carrots? How fine or coarse?
I just use the larger side of a cheese grater for grating the carrots.
Can I substitute light olive oil for the oil?
Yes, that should be fine.
This cake went over SO well on Easter! I made the cakes the day before and stored them on the counter, covered. Spices were great and I agree that the giant amount of shredded carrot is necessary. Cake was very moist the next day when I iced it. From the cream cheese icing recipe above, I added two tablespoons of lemon juice and subbed salted butter and it was INCREDIBLE.
Love this cake! Can I freeze any leftovers?
Yes, you can! It should freeze well for up to 3 months.
I made this DELICIOUS carrot cake for our Easter family dinner, and it was a HUGE hit!! Everyone loved it. The cake was so moist and flavorful, and the frosting was by far the best cream cheese frosting I have ever made. I did substitute crushed pineapple for the applesauce because we all prefer pineapple. I will definitely make this recipe again!
This was the most delicious carrot cake we ever made. Thank you.
Hi, I tried your recipe for the Carrot Cake and it was delicious, and very easy to make just like you said. I will never go back to Cake mix ever again, when it comes to baking a cake. I made this cake twice already because it was so good. I ended up making it on Easter too. Thank you for sharing your recipe, And you’re
right a beginner can make it, It was my first time making a cake from scratch. It’s now my favorite cake recipe to make. Thanks!
How long would baking time be if I used a bundt pan?
I would guess 45 to 60 minutes.
Should I pack the brown sugar in a cup?
Yes, I always pack mine.
I’m in a bind! This is my favorite carrot cake recipe. I sent my husband to the store and he got regular applesauce instead
of unsweetened. How would I balance this out with the sugar?
Hi, Jen! I would just reduce the granulated sugar by 2 to 3 tablespoons.
Why was my layers so thin
Did you make any adjustments to the recipe? Have you tested your baking powder/soda to make sure they’re still fresh?
I’ve made this cake multiple times and it never fails to impress. So many requests for the recipe or for me to make it again. I use quick homemade applesauce in the microwave which probably helps add flavor. On several occasions, some of my carrot shreds have turned green during the baking process–I understand this to be a reaction to the baking powder–so I must not be mixing the dry ingredients as well as I thought. I usually explain this to my cake eaters as zucchini lol, but this time I’m reducing the baking powder by 1/4 tsp which I saw suggested in another online forum. I bake it in a jelly roll pan as a sheet and then usually cut out 6 circles to make 3 small cakes which makes a nice presentation with a nod towards portion control. The scraps are cobbled together into a fourth cake glued with left over frosting by my husband because this cake is so good we’re not wasting any of it. Lastly I lightly sprinkle on top around the periphery a mixture of candied ginger and turbinado sugar that I process together in the food processor for a bit of crunch and a bit more ginger taste.
Can the amount of applesauce be adjusted to replace or reduce the eggs or vegetable oil?
You could reduce the oil a little more and replace it with the same amount of applesauce. I’m not sure on the eggs though, I haven’t personally tried that.
This is a delicious carrot cake recipe which allows slight additions that don’t compromise the integrity of the bake. I have made this recipe twice and each time I upped the spice to 1.5 T of cinnamon, 1T of ginger, and add a dash of clove. I added golden raisins and toasted pecans. Beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy before adding sugar and you will have a splendid rich frosting. I LOVE THIS CAKE!
This cake is a family favorite now and I have been requested to make it for all of our gatherings the past few years. Tastes so good! I typically serve without icing and just sprinkle powdered sugar over the top. Thank you for sharing this recipe with us, Danielle!
This was wonderful!!! I’m very picky about my carrot cakes, and this turned out beautifully. I did make two substitutions that I wanted to share for anyone who might want to make a cake that was a little more “health-conscious.” :). I used coconut oil instead of vegetable, and I cut the brown sugar to 1 cup and substituted xylitol for the granulated sugar. So delicious!
I love this cake and have made it many times, but is it possible to substitute a 6” cake pan? I’m looking to add more height.
Yes, that would be fine! You may want to divide the batter between three or four 6-inch pans though.
Love this recipe. Had it but lost it, now I found it and I definitely won’t lose it again. Thank you!!!!
How many calories would the whole cake be?
Hi, Hannah! I’m not sure about the nutritional information, but you can plug everything into an online calculator to get an estimate.