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!
Easily the best carrot cake I have ever had. No contest. I used sour cream instead of applesauce and it was perfect.
Can you add nuts and raisens to recipe as it is?
Yes, you can add 3/4 to 1 cup of chopped nuts and 1/2 cup of raisins.
can i use sweetened apple sauce instead of non sweetened? this was all they had in Asda 🙁
Yes, that’s fine! You can reduce the granulated sugar by 2 tablespoons if using sweetened applesauce.
I made this and it was sooo good! But I found that the icing tastes better at room temp than refrigerated. Would it be okay to leave it on the counter instead of storing in the fridge?
Since the frosting has cream cheese in it, it does need to be refrigerated. You can let the cake sit at room temperature for an hour or two so it can come to room temperature before serving though.
Can the carrot cake be baked in a 9×13 pan. I need to transport it
Yes, I have some notes in the recipe on how to bake it in a 9×13. Baking time is 35 to 45 minutes.
This is a wonderful recipe! I baked this in two 8 x 8 pans then split the cakes and made a lovely four layer cake. It was delicious!!! The only thing I would do different next time is to buy shredded carrots rather than shred them myself! 🙂 Thank you for sharing this!
So glad you enjoyed the cake, Kathy! I don’t recommend buying the pre shredded carrots, they’re really dry and don’t work well in carrot cake.
I used pre shredded carrots once in a cake and they turned green! It was very odd and not pleasant looking LOL. If you have a kitchen aid mixer they sell an attachment for shredding ! I love it
Amazing! I did choose to cut the powdered sugar in half for the frosting and then add a little bit more to taste, as 2 cups powdered sugar was quite intimidating, and that definitely was the right choice for those who aren’t huge fans of extremely sweet frosting. The recipe as a whole is wonderful.
I used this recipe first for my class to make sure it was good and then I gave it to my family they loved it! Very good frosting and perfect fluffy cake.
Can I freeze this cake (without frosting)?
Yes, you can wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 3 months.
Does this recipe need to be adjusted for high altitude?
I’m not familiar with high altitude baking, but some readers have found this guide helpful for adjusting my recipes.
There’s just two of us and I only had 4 oz of cream cheese so I cut the recipe in half and baked in a 8″ x 8″ square pan. Came out perfectly!
I’ve made this recipe in the round pans but wondering can I make it in two loaf pans? If so, are the measurements different?
I think that would be fine. It depends on the size of your loaf pans, but as long as they’re 8×5 or 9×5 this recipe should be enough for two loaves.
I took this cake to a family gathering and everyone loved it, now they request it. Grandpa even said it was the best carrot cake he ever had (and carrot cake has always been his favorite). So, I gotta say it is the best carrot cake recipe. The only thing I did was add the raisins and candies pecans.
Can I bake in a Bundt pan and do a frosting drizzle?
Yes, that would be fine! I’m not sure on baking time, but I would guess 45 to 65 minutes.
I followed the recipe exactly and it was perfect except my icing was too thin. I don’t know what I did. The cream cheese and butter were a little softer than just room temp. How can I make it thicker at this point?
Did you make sure to use a block of cream cheese? If you used cream cheese in a tub, it can cause that to happen. You can try adding more powdered sugar or a little cornstarch to thicken it. You can also refrigerate it for 20 to 30 minutes and see if that helps.
Can you make this in a instant pot?…What would be the direction?
I haven’t tried it, so I’m not sure.
Best cake eveeer!
Could you add pineapple?
Yes, you can replace the applesauce with one 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple that’s been drained.
I forgot to buy apple sauce!!! And I need to make this today!!
What could I use to substitute that will be as delicious???
You can replace it with 1/2 cup of sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, or crushed pineapple.
Yummy yummy. Made this for my daughter’s birthday cake and it was so easy to make. It turned out very moist and just the right amount of spice. I added the optional walnuts but otherwise I made it just as written. This recipe is a keeper at my house.
Could I make the cake the day before and then frost the day we will have it?
Yes, that would be fine!
Great cake–always a crowd favorite. I make a slight adjustment to the recipe and reduce the baking powder by 1/4 tsp–I found the full amount tended to lead to a green discoloration of the carrot shreds.
I make it in a jelly roll pan and cut out circles to make 3 mini cakes so I can distribute the joy!
Absolutely the best carrot cake I have ever eaten, I am not a baker and it comes out FANTASTIC! I add walnuts and omit the ginger and nutmeg. Simply delicious
I made this carrot cake for Thanksgiving family and then made a second one for my son’s birthday cake (his birthday is around Thanksgiving and he loves carrot cake). It turned out beautiful visually, just like the photo and it was the most delicious moist carrot cake. Everyone had a piece and raved about it! I am definitely in agreement that this is appropriately called “The Best Carrot Cake Recipe”. This one goes into my saved recipe folder for sure! Only negative, because I made two cakes…it took forever to clean and grate 6 cups of organic carrots!
Loved it!,,? This recipe if take amazing
I have made this recipe as cupcakes, love , love them. I wa t make as cake, can I use a bundt pan? Also , would it be ok to use baby carrots and pre shreeded carrots if I grate them food processor? Thank you!
Yes, you can use a bundt pan! You will just need to increase the baking time. It’s fine to use baby carrots and a food processor too. Do you mean the pre shredded carrots you can buy at the store? If so, I don’t recommend them because they’re extremely dry.
I used 9 inch round pans but my cake only raised 1” to 1-1/4”! Followed recipe exact, measuring ingredients using my new Ozeri scale. Should it have raised more?
Susan in Ohio
Mine usually turned out about that tall. Maybe a little taller, but not much. If you prefer taller layers, you can bake them in two 8-inch cake pans and increase the baking time.
My fiancé LOVES carrot cake and I decided to make it for him this Thanksgiving. I’ve never made carrot cake before and am so happy with this recipe! So is he! This carrot cake was absolutely DELICIOUS and perfect. It was so moist and light. The cream cheese frosting was amazing too. I made two – one with sliced cakes to make four layers and one with just two thicker layers. Both are absolutely yummy and kept well in the fridge all week. This is going to be my fail proof recipe! I also love the whole article and the step by step directions. It was super easy to make!
(Sorry, I forgot to add a rating to my previous comment.)
Can you make this cake the day before or is it best to make it the same day it is to be served?
Excited to try this recipe!
You can make it the day before! If you frost it, just be sure to store it in the refrigerator. You can set it out a couple hours ahead of time so it can come to room temperature.
i made it on 2nd dec and served it on 5th. kept it in fridge. it was amazing – so moist
wow this has to be the best carrot cake ever!! my family were wowed by the cake – it was so moist and kept the soft texture for days. definitely make this again