Topped with a thick layer of tangy cream cheese frosting, this homemade Carrot Cake is wonderfully moist and perfectly spiced. It’s a simple but sophisticated take on a classic dessert that you’re sure to fall in love with!
The Best Carrot Cake Recipe
I didn’t grow up on carrot cake, so I’ve had to make up for lost time in my adult years. And I knew what I wanted for this recipe – my goal was to have a moist, warmly spiced cake that was easy to make, yet still special enough for holidays such as Easter.
This Carrot Cake is a low-key cake, with a smaller size and just one layer. It features an easy-to-make recipe with carrot cake that’s moist and perfectly spiced, then topped with an irresistible swirly layer of homemade cream cheese frosting.
I know you’ll find this homemade carrot cake to be simple yet elegant, a beautiful way to enjoy a classic dessert without a lot of fuss!
Why I Love This Recipe
Why do I think this easy carrot cake recipe is The Best? Well, there are a few reasons:
- It uses considerably less oil than most recipes I found. This gives the cake better flavor and texture, without compromising moistness (thanks to the carrots!).
- I think the best carrot cakes include an extra dose of warm spices. Because, after all, carrot cake really is a spice cake. I’ve found that so many recipes skimp on the spice. But not this one!
- This recipe incorporates both white granulated sugar AND brown sugar. I love how brown sugar plays with warm spices. Plus, it adds extra moistness to the cake’s crumb.
- And like I already said: I love its simplicity, with a smaller size and only one layer.
- Lastly, EVERYONE’S favorite reason >>> cream cheese frosting!!
What You’ll Need
This moist carrot cake begins with your standard cake ingredients, plus a few warm spices and, of course, carrots.
For the Carrot Cake:
- All-purpose flour
- Baking soda
- Spices – Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger give this carrot cake a perfectly spiced flavor. Since I like a very cinnamon-y spice cake, I use a whole tablespoon of cinnamon – but you can certainly reduce the amount if you like.
- Vegetable oil
- Sugar – I use equal parts brown sugar and granulated sugar in this recipe.
- Pure vanilla extract
- Grated peeled carrots – See tips below.
- Roasted chopped salted pecans – These add texture and flavor to the cake, but omit them if you like.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Cream cheese – Softened to room temperature.
- Butter – Softened to room temperature.
- Powdered sugar – Sweetens the frosting and also gives a smooth, creamy texture.
- Pure vanilla extract
- Ground cinnamon – Sprinkled over the top for a bit of extra spiced flavor, plus a pretty appearance.
The Easiest Way to Shred Carrots
The carrots are obviously the main ingredient in this cake – though primarily for the moisture they add. Had I known as a kid that carrots add terrific moistness and don’t actually make the cake taste like vegetables, I surely would have embraced this dessert at a much earlier age!
For a quick and easy way to shred carrots, I use the large holes on a box grater. It’s best to use larger, thicker carrots than small, skinny ones as they are just easier to handle.
Note that this recipe calls for 1-1/2 cups of grated carrots, but you do not need to pack the shreds tightly into the measuring cups.
How to Make Carrot Cake
This spiced carrot cake requires just a few steps – you don’t even need a mixer to make the batter! (Though you will for the frosting!)
- Make the cake batter. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, sugars, and vanilla until combined. Add the eggs. Fold in half of the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, then the remaining half until well incorporated. Fold in the carrots and pecans, and then add batter to the cake pan.
- Bake. Bake for 42 to 45 minutes, until the cake is springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Make the cream cheese frosting. Beat the cream and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla.
- Assemble the cake. Transfer the cake to a serving platter and top with as much frosting as desired, swirling it on top with a spoon. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.
- Serve. If not serving immediately, refrigerate and then remove from the fridge 20 minutes prior to serving.
Tips for Success
Here are a few tips for making the best carrot cake possible.
- Use a light-colored pan. I’ve found that a lighter pan results in the best cake. I recommend this light-colored aluminum cake pan.
- Adjust the spices to your liking. As I mentioned, I like an exuberant cinnamon-y flavor to my spiced carrot cake. If you’re not a huge cinnamon fan, you might want to add a little less.
- Don’t over bake. For moist carrot cake, it’s important to not bake it longer than necessary. The top should spring back easily when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out without crumbs.
Though this spiced carrot cake is pretty simple, it’s absolutely elegant enough for the holidays. We tend to celebrate Easter with a smaller gathering, so this single-layer, easy carrot cake recipe fits our family just perfectly.
I like to place the cake on a pretty platter, swirl on the cream cheese frosting, and then sprinkle it with a bit more cinnamon. So pretty!
I prefer to eat this cake cold, straight from the refrigerator. Because I adore a piece of cake with thick, cold cream cheese frosting!
But if you’d like to take some of the chill off, remove the cake from the fridge 20 to 30 minutes before serving. You want to ensure that the cream cheese frosting doesn’t get warm and droopy – so this isn’t a cake to keep on the dessert table for hours.
How to Store Leftovers
- How to store. Carrot cake without the frosting can be stored at cool room temperature for up to 2 days. Once the cream cheese frosting is added, it must be refrigerated. Frosted carrot cake can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. Be sure to keep it covered in a container. Eat the cake cold or let the cake or individual slices sit on the counter for 20 minutes before serving.
- Can I freeze carrot cake? Carrot cake can be frozen with or without the frosting. Use a freezer-safe container for best freezing results.
More Spring Desserts
- Citrus-Poppy Seed Cookies
- Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Ripple
- Lime Baby Cakes
- Lemon Heaven Bars
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for the carrot cake:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon use less if desired…I like a very cinnamon-y spice cake!
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger dried ginger, not fresh
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1.5 cups grated peeled carrots – do not pack the grated carrots tightly into the measuring cups – to grate use the large round holes on a box grater
- ⅓ cup chopped roasted salted pecans about 1/4″ in size – here’s my favorite brand
for the cream cheese frosting:
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ground cinnamon for sprinkling over the top
- In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ginger.
- In a large bowl, whisk oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add half of the dry ingredients and fold together with a rubber spatula. Add remaining dry ingredients, folding together again until incorporated. Fold in carrots and pecans.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 42 to 45 minutes, or until top of cake is springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool cake in pan for 30 minutes. Turn out cake from pan, removing parchment paper. Let cool to room temperature on cooling rack.
- For the cream cheese frosting: In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth.
- To assemble the cake: Place cake on serving platter. Using as much of the frosting as you desire (I use nearly all of this amount), swirl the frosting onto top of cake with an offset spatula or spoon. Sprinkle cinnamon lightly over the top with a small mesh shaker. If serving right away, there's no need to refrigerate. Otherwise, store cake covered in refrigerator.