You’ll love this wonderfully moist, perfectly spiced Carrot Cake Recipe. This cake is surprisingly simple to make and includes a step-by-step video for no-fail results every time. Top everything off with a simple cream cheese frosting for what truly might be the perfect cake.
If I had to choose a favorite cake recipe on my blog, I think this carrot cake recipe would be it. Maybe I’m biased, but even though I’m wildly in love with my white cake, vanilla cake (a reader favorite!) and chocolate cake, this carrot cake is hands-down the one I will reach for first every time.
There’s something about its deliriously moist crumb, the perfect amount of spices, and yes, that all-time favorite cream cheese frosting of mine. It’s sweet without being too sweet, carefully crafted with both butter and oil and just the right amount of carrots –the flavor is so good that even Zach reached for a second piece.
I know you are going to love this one just as much as we do, so let’s dig in!
What You Need
Here are a few of the key ingredients that make this carrot cake recipe the best:
- Flour. All-purpose flour works great here. I don’t recommend using cake flour for this recipe; it tends to yield a lighter crumb, and we want our carrot cake to be on the denser side.
- Sugar. A combination of granulated sugar and brown sugar (either light or dark) makes for a moist, flavorful cake.
- Spices. Both cinnamon and nutmeg create the perfect spice profile that pairs so well with the brown sugar, carrots, and nuts.
- Oil AND butter. This is the ultimate dynamic duo for cakes! Oil adds moisture (canola or vegetable oil will work) and unsalted butter adds a rich flavor. Don’t substitute one for the other–we really need both here!
- Eggs. Room temperature eggs work best, so set yours out ahead of time. If you forget, you can just place your eggs in a bowl of warm water for 10-15 minutes before using.
- Vanilla. We’ll add a full tablespoon of vanilla for some extra flavor. If you’ve got some homemade vanilla laying around, definitely use it here!
- Carrots. Do not use pre-shredded or “matchstick” carrots! They are way too thick to use in this carrot cake recipe, unless you like biting into discernible chunks of carrot (I do not!). I usually need about 4 carrots for this cake, and I always peel my carrots before grating them. You could use a box grater, but I prefer to use my food processor.
- Nuts. You can use either chopped walnuts or pecans, or you can leave them out entirely.
This carrot cake recipe is made complete with my cream cheese frosting. It’s so simple and a big favorite on my site. Here’s what you need:
- Butter. Since we’re adding salt ourselves, stick with unsalted butter and make sure it’s softened.
- Cream cheese. Use the brick-style cream cheese–not the spreadable kind in a tub. Your cream cheese should also be softened so it can incorporate nicely.
- Vanilla. A teaspoon rounds out the flavor of this frosting.
- Powdered sugar. We’ll add this for structure and sweetness.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
SAM’S TIP: To grate your carrots in the food processor, first use the “shred” blade. Once your carrots are shredded, switch to the standard blade and briefly pulse until the carrots are fine pieces. Don’t overdo this step or you’ll end up with carrot puree (this is also why I start by using the shred blade on my processor; I’ve found that just tossing the carrots in with my standard blade quickly breaks down the carrots too much).
How to Make Carrot Cake
- Whisk together the flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the oil and butter and mix well. Then, add the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Finally, stir in your vanilla extract.
- Fold in your carrots and nuts.
- Evenly divide the batter between two 8″ baking pans that have been greased, floured, and lined with parchment circles. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.
- Let the cakes sit in their pans for 10 minutes after baking, then invert them onto a cooling rack. Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.
- Prepare your frosting, frost your cake, and serve!
SAM’S TIP: While a single batch of frosting will cover this cake, I typically increase the recipe by 50% (or even double it!) to allow for a thicker coating and decoration.
Frequently Asked Questions
While you could, I personally found this carrot cake recipe to be a bit too heavy for cupcakes. Because of this, I developed a carrot cake cupcake recipe that I would recommend using instead. It’s still flavorful and delicious, but not so moist that it requires a fork for eating.
If you’re interested in more carrot cake variations, I also have a carrot cake cookie recipe you can try out, too.
Yes, you can. I’d recommend stirring in a heaping cup when you add the carrots and (optional) nuts. The amount is up to you, about a cup should be a good amount.
The best way to prevent a green carrot cake is to peel your carrots before shredding. If this step is skipped, the peels sometimes take on a green color after baking. This is harmless and the cake can still be enjoyed, but it’s not quite as attractive.
Some sources also claim that your cake may turn green if you accidentally use too much baking soda or if you don’t mix your dry ingredients well enough (and the baking soda isn’t evenly distributed).
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook.
The Best Carrot Cake Recipe
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (315g)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
- 1 cup light or dark brown sugar¹ firmly packed (200g)
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup canola or vegetable oil (235ml)
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted (113g)
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups grated carrots² peel before grating (340g)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans optional (125g)
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and prepare two 8-inch pans⁴ (see note for using different sized pans) by lining the bottoms with parchment paper and lightly greasing and flouring the sides.
- In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Add your canola oil and melted butter and stir well (batter will be pretty stiff and thick at this point, I usually use an electric mixer or my stand mixer to combine everything nicely).
- Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.
- Stir in vanilla extract.
- Stir in carrots and nuts (if using) until ingredients are well-combined.
- Evenly divide carrot cake batter into prepared baking pans and bake on 350F (175C) for 40 minutes (toothpick inserted in center should come out mostly clean with only few moist crumbs).
- Allow cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert onto cooling rack to cool completely.
- Allow cake to cool completely before covering with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until creamy, well-combined, and lump-free.
- Add vanilla extract and sprinkle salt into the bowl and stir well to combine.
- With mixer on low, gradually add powdered sugar until ingredients are completely combined (be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula).
- Once your cake has cooled completely, cover with frosting.
1Brown sugarEither light or dark brown sugar will work fine, dark brown sugar will make your cake slightly more moist and rich, but light brown sugar works perfectly if you don’t have dark on hand.
²Carrots (& how to grate them)For me, this usually requires about 4 large carrots. I always peel my carrots before grating. Make sure to use the small shred of your box grater. Another way I like to prepare my carrots is to use the “shred” setting on my food processor and then switch to the blade and briefly pulse the carrots so that you have fine pieces of carrot (don’t over-do it though, or you’ll have carrot juice!). Whatever you do, don’t use store-bought “matchstick” carrots, they’re not nearly thin enough!
³FrostingA single batch of my cream cheese frosting recipe will cover this cake, but because I like a lot of frosting and will usually pipe decoration on the top of the cake, I sometimes increase the recipe by 50% or even double it.
⁴Cake pans, different sizesThe following bake times have been reported by readers who have tried making this cake in different sized pans. Keep in mind bake time will generally be longer when using a glass pan, and very dark pans may require less time. The best way to test that your cake is finished baking is to use the toothpick test: a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out with a few moist crumbs (not wet batter) or clean.
- Two 9″ pans: bake for approximately 30-33 minutes.
- 9×13″ pan: bake for approximately 45-50 minutes
- Bundt pan: bake for approximately 55 minutes.
- Four 6″ pans: bake for approximately 40 minutes
- Cupcakes: See my carrot cake cupcake recipe.
StoringIf you’re eating this cake the same day you make it or within 48 hours of making it, and you are able to store it somewhere cool and dry, you do not have to refrigerate it–though you do want to store it in an airtight container. Any longer than that I would recommend storing in an airtight container in the fridge where it will keep for about 5 days.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
This recipe was originally published August 22, 2018.