Perfectly-spiced, incredibly moist carrot cake sandwiched around a rich layer of vanilla cheesecake and then frosted with a whipped cream cheese icing. This cake is pure decadence, but surprisingly refreshing, and is the perfect way to kick-start springtime.
I first published this cheesecake/carrot cake recipe a few years ago, but I re-share it every year around Easter (because, just look at it!).
It’s one of my most prized recipes and it’s an absolute showstopper — nothing else on the dessert table can compare. With its moist and perfectly spiced (we’re using cinnamon and nutmeg) carrot cake layers, sweet but tangy cheesecake center, and light, whipped, cream cheese frosting, this is one of my favorite cakes, and I’m thinking maybe one of your future favorite cakes, too 😉
Cakes have always been my most difficult undertaking (I complained about this when I published my chocolate cake, and might have mentioned it again with my pineapple upside down cake and vanilla cake), and this one was no exception.
While it took a few tries to achieve a perfectly moist cake, a perfectly creamy cheesecake, and a suitable ratio of one to the other, I finally have a beautifully balanced cake to share with you, and since developing this recipe it’s been tested and proven time and time again.
Since the cheesecake layer is already plenty rich, I whipped the icing with a few tablespoons of heavy cream for a light and airy texture. This icing recipe makes enough to fully cover the entire cake, but I found that I preferred it with a semi-naked frosting around the sides, so as not to make this already-rich cake any richer.
Rather than overwhelming the cake, the frosting is a nice, subtle (and pretty!) accent.
This final, winning carrot cake was made without nuts (and without pineapple, which I know is a common add-in, but has never been a big hit with me) at the request of my youngest sister, but earlier versions of this cake included a cup of chopped walnuts and I’ve listed them as an option in the recipe.
I suppose raisins are also a possible add-in, but why anyone would ruin a perfectly good cake with raisins is beyond me (…sorry if you actually like raisins!).
In case you’re wondering, you can absolutely make this cake without the cheesecake center for a regular carrot cake. If you choose to do so, I recommend using my thicker cream cheese frosting for the best flavor (you don’t need such a thick frosting if you have a layer of cheesecake in the center, but without the cheesecake a thicker frosting would be more desirable, at least in my opinion!).
Cheesecake Layered Carrot Cake
Soft, moist carrot cake layered with a cheesecake center and covered in whipped cream cheese frosting.
Cheesecake *The cheesecake will need to cool for 4-6 hours before you can layer it with your carrot cake
- 24 oz cream cheese softened (three 8-oz packages) (680g)
- 1 cup sugar (200g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sour cream (120g)
- 3 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (315g)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
- 1 cup light brown sugar packed (200g)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teasoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups canola oil (355ml)
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups grated carrots (340g)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans optional
- 16 oz cream cheese softened (450g)
- 8 Tablespoons butter softened (113g)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar (500g)
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
Prepare cheesecake at least 4-6 hours before you wish to assemble the cake!
Preheat oven to 350F (175C)
Line 9" springform pan with parchment paper (remove the bottom, cover with a square of parchment paper and return rim (parchment paper will be sticking out the sides). This helps to make the cheesecake more easily transferable to the center of the other cake.
Using an electric mixer, beat together softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla, scraping down the sides with a spatula occasionally to ensure it is mixed well. (beat on medium-speed about 1-2 minutes, scraping down side occasionally, it should be creamy and well-mixed)
Add sour cream, mix well, stopping once to scrape down the sides before mixing again.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just mixed after each addition (and scraping down the sides after each addition)
Pour cheesecake batter into prepared springform pan.
Bake on 350F (175C( for 40 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to fridge to cool for at least 4-6 hours.
Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and grease and flour two 9-inch round pans.
In large bowl or KitchenAid mixer whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Stir in canola oil. Add eggs, one at a time, pausing to scrape down sides of the bowl after each addition.
Stir in vanilla extract.
Stir in carrots and nuts (if using).
Evenly divide carrot cake batter between prepared baking pans and bake on 350F (175C) for 30-35 minutes (toothpick inserted in center should come out mostly clean with only few crumbs).
Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert onto cooling rack to cool completely.
Frosting & Assembly
In KitchenAid or with hand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese. Stir in vanilla extract.
Gradually, carefully, stir in powdered sugar until completely combined (be sure to scrape down sides of bowl to ensure ingredients are well-combined).
Add heavy cream (start with just 1 Tablespoon, only adding the second if needed) and beat on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and then beat again for 15 more seconds.
Once cake and cheesecake have both cooled completely, carefully transfer one 9" carrot cake layer to cake stand/serving platter and layer the top with the cream cheese frosting.
Run a knife around the inside edge of the springform pan to loosen the cheesecake and remove the sides of the pan. Carefully place the cheesecake on the prepared carrot cake layer (you may need to trim the sides of the cheesecake with a sharp knife if it isn't exactly the same size as your cake layer). Layer the top of the cheesecake with the frosting.
Place second carrot cake layer on top of iced cheesecake layer.
Apply icing to the top and around the sides of the cake. You may wholly cover the cake or run a straight edge spatula against the surface of the cake for a semi-naked look.
Serve. Keep uneaten cake in the refrigerator.
This cream cheese frosting is a very smooth one ideal for naked frosting cover for the cake. For a sturdier frosting that covers the whole cake, please check out my standalone cream cheese frosting recipe.
This Cheesecake Layered Carrot Cake was originally published 3/16/16 — text has been updated.