The BEST Carrot Cake Recipe
This is my favorite homemade carrot cake recipe! 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. In fact, over the last 6 years this recipe has received nearly 600 5-star reviews – and counting!
Originally posted in 2017, I decided it was finally time to update this popular recipe with more step-by-step photos and tips to ensure that it turns out perfectly for you. I guarantee that once you learn how simple it is to make your own carrot cake from scratch, you’ll want to make it over and over again.
What You Will Need
While there are quite a few ingredients in this recipe, I promise it’s fairly simple. I won’t cover every single ingredient, but I wanted to touch on a few important ones:
- Spices: There’s a mix of ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. All three spices add such a wonderful flavor to this cake, but aren’t too overpowering. Feel free to add more spices, if you prefer though.
- Oil: Any kind of neutral-flavored oil is fine to use here, but I typically use vegetable or canola oil. You may also use melted coconut oil, just make sure all of your other ingredients are at room temperature so that it doesn’t solidify.
- Applesauce: This adds the perfect amount of moisture, so you end up with a moist cake that isn’t greasy. I always use unsweetened applesauce whenever I make this recipe. If you can only find sweetened applesauce, just reduce the granulated sugar by 2 to 3 tablespoons.
- Sugar: I use a bit more brown sugar than granulated sugar because it adds more moisture and flavor to this carrot cake.
- Carrots: I don’t like to skimp on the carrots when it comes to this recipe, so there’s 3 cups of grated carrots. Make sure to use freshly grated carrots here too. Avoid using a bag of pre-shredded carrots as they are often too dry and thick for carrot cake.
- Cream Cheese: Make sure to use a block of cream cheese. Avoid using cream cheese that’s either whipped or in a tub, it’s typically too thin and will result in a runny frosting.
How To Make A Carrot Cake
Make The Cake Layers
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray two 9-inch round cake pans well with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottoms of each pan with a parchment paper circle. This will make it much easier to remove your cake layers from the pan!
- Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt to a large mixing bowl and give it a good whisk.
- In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together your oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, applesauce, and vanilla extract.
- Add the grated carrots to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Adding them at this point will ensure that they are fully incorporated into your batter and prevent you from over mixing it later on.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Make sure not to over mix your batter! This can overdevelop the gluten and cause the cake to turn out dense/gummy. Trust me, no one wants that.
- Divide the cake batter evenly between both cake pans. Tip: If you want to get perfectly even cake layers, I recommend using a food scale to weigh your cake batter.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the tops of the cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the pans, then remove the cake layers from the pans and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Mix Together The Cream Cheese Frosting
- Beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add the butter and continue mixing until well combined.
- Lastly, mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. If needed, stop and scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl to ensure that all of the frosting ingredients are thoroughly mixed together.
Assemble & Frost The Cake
- Level the tops of each cake layer. You may use either a large knife or a cake leveler for this step, I personally love this cake leveler. It’s a great option for beginners too!
- Place one of the layers on a cake stand and scoop a little over 1/2 cup of the frosting on top, then smooth it out evenly.
- Place the other cake layer on top and use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake. An angled spatula or even the back of a spoon works great for this step! If you want to add a little something extra, feel free to toast some chopped pecans or walnuts and sprinkle them around the top of the cake.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, if you frost the cake with the cream cheese frosting it does need to be refrigerated. It will keep for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Of course! You can wrap individual slices with plastic wrap and freeze them in a large freezer bag.
The cake layers and frosting can also be frozen separately for up to 3 months. I do suggest wrapping the cake layers tightly with plastic wrap before freezing them.
The easiest method is to use a box grater and grate the carrots just like a block of cheese. If you have a food processor with a grater attachment, that works too.
I also recommend peeling your carrots and removing any brown spots or blemishes before grating them.
Absolutely! Chopped walnuts or pecans would be fantastic in this recipe, I suggest using about 3/4 to 1 cup. If you love raisins, you may also add 1/2 cup.
Adjusting Your Pan Size
One of the most common questions is whether or not this recipe can be baked in another pan. The answer is YES!
Here are a few more commonly used baking pans that you can bake this cake in:
- 9×13: Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.
- 8-inch round pan: Grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper circle. Pour the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
- Cupcakes: The full recipe will make 28 cupcakes. Only fill each liner about 2/3 of the way full so that they don’t overflow and bake for 16 to 20 minutes. I also recommend doubling the frosting to have enough to cover all of the cupcakes. If you prefer a smaller batch, try my carrot cake cupcakes instead.
- 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. I have a whole post that explains the spoon & level method.
- Don’t have any applesauce? You may replace it with 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt, sour cream, or one 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple that’s been drained.
- I opted to stick with my favorite cream cheese frosting. It makes enough to frost the carrot cake like you see in the pictures. If you really love frosting, then I suggest increasing the recipe by half.
- Additional frosting options: If you want to try another frosting, my vanilla buttercream frosting, ermine frosting, or the whipped honey mascarpone frosting I used on my Pistachio Cake recipe would be delicious too.
The BEST Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the carrot cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour spooned & leveled (250 grams)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup canola or vegetable oil (180ml)
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar (300 grams)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce (125 grams)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups lightly packed grated carrots (300 grams)
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 1 (8-ounce) package brick style cream cheese (226 grams) softened
- ½ cup unsalted butter (115 grams) softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar (240 grams)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- To make the carrot cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray two 9-inch round cake pans well with non stick cooking spray and line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper circle. 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 to 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 for 30 to 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 20 to 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 to 1 minute until well combined and smooth.
- Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue mixing until fully combined, stopping to scrape 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 cake layers 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 layer 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