A beautifully spiced, tender, and incredibly moist carrot cake recipe with luscious cream cheese frosting. The best carrot cake you’ll ever make!
It’s that time of the year: it’s my husband’s birthday!
Last year, his birthday cake was decadent and delicious tres leches, which is his absolute favorite. But this year, he told me that he wanted the ‘carrot cake that you made that one time we visited JD and his wife in San Antonio.”
Anyway, we’re biased when it comes to carrot cake. It’s Brian’s third favorite (behind tres leches and my Strawberry Engagement Cake) and Greyson can’t get enough of it. A moist and tender crumb, plenty of sweetness and spice from the brown sugar and spices, and that amazing, yet incredibly simple cream cheese frosting.
As much as I love frosting, as a grown up I actually like minimal frosting just to enhance the cake. A good helping between each layer…the top should, of course, be slathered in gorgeous swoops of frosting…
Ugh, just so pretty.
What make this the best carrot cake recipe?
This carrot cake does not skimp on the carrots. At least three cups, or 4 medium carrots. This leads to the cake being really moist without being mushy or dense.
Next is the addition of brown sugar. While granulated white sugar is a purely sweet taste, brown sugar has the addition of decadent molasses which gives a deep, rich earthy flavor and adds extra moistness to your carrot cake.
The spices are so perfect here. Most of the time when you find a carrot cake recipe, the cake ends up too dry and flavorless (or overwhelmingly over-spiced), but this was the best carrot cake we’ve ever had, needed no additions.
The cream cheese frosting isn’t cloyingly sweet, so the tangy goodness of the cream cheese really shines and compliments the sweetness of the cake. And, once again, this is a naked (or semi-naked) cake so expert frosting skills are not necessary to make this cake look gorgeous. I find carrot cake looks pretty whether professionally decorated or rustically imperfect.
Perfect Carrot Cake Q&A’s
Can I use matchstick or pre-shredded carrots?
No, matchstick carrots are too large to use in carrot cake. Grate the carrots by hand using a box grater. You can use a food processor with a shredding tool, but be careful because you can turn the carrots shreds into carrot puree.
Can I substitute vegetable oil in carrot cake?
Yes, You can use 1:1 applesauce, coconut oil, or butter.
Can carrot cake be made ahead?
Yes, the cake can be made up to two days ahead, kept wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge.
Can I freeze carrot cake?
Yes, the cake layers un-decorated can be kept frozen for up to 2 months, wrapped in multiple layers of plastic wrap and a layer of foil, kept in individual gallon sized zip-top bags. The cream cheese frosting can also be frozen
How do I store carrot cake?
Wrap it in plastic wrap or foil and keep in the fridge for up to a week. Do not let sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
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- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 3 cups finely grated peeled carrots, about 4 medium-sized carrots
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 2 (8-ounce) packages full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper or coat with flour.
- Using a hand mixer, beat both sugars and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots.
- Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely.
- Using a mixer, beat all frosting ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy.
- Place 1 cake layer on platter. Top with 4 to 4-1/2 ice cream scoops of frosting. Spread evenly over the cake using an offset spatula, taking it over the edge. Repeat with each layer, making swirls on the top of the cake. Use offset spatula to smooth the excess frosting over the sides until you have your desired naked or semi-naked cake.
- Decorate as desired.
Keep in fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap or foil for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 730 Total Fat: 39g Saturated Fat: 9g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 28g Cholesterol: 89mg Sodium: 570mg Carbohydrates: 90g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 61g Protein: 5g
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.