Best Carrot Cake Recipe

April 8, 2020  ·  Published January 1, 2012

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The BEST Carrot Cake you’ll ever eat!! Made with an abundance of fresh carrots, sweet spices and a rich cream cheese frosting.

Carrot cake has long been my favorite cake and this is the only recipe I ever use!

Slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting on a white dessert plate sitting on a green cloth napkin.

Carrot Cake Perfect for Any Celebration

This recipe will forever change your opinion on what carrot cake is supposed to be. All the best things in one utterly divine slice of cake:

  • Tender softness. A melt-in-your-mouth texture.
  • Moist crumb. No dryness in the slightest here.
  • Plenty of finely shredded carrots (they add light flavor, a nice moisture and give it such a pretty natural color too).
  • Perfect level of sweetness.
  • Great blend of spices and vanilla for a boost of flavor.
  • Fluffy yet stable.
  • Finished with a decadent frosting. Cream cheese frosting is the only way to go here.

I’ve made this cake probably close to 100 times. I’m always looking for an excuse to make it and will continue to do so. When I’m throwing out options for someone on their birthday this always has a way of being the top idea on the list :).

And of course it’s the best cake to serve for a spring celebration or Easter. This year I’ll be making half the recipe and doing one layer (which can be done in a 9-inch round or 8 by 8 pan) for our small family of four.

And if you’ll be celebrating the holiday eating on your own or just two of you, you could always make cupcakes and freeze some for later.

Sending love to each of you. I hope you are finding some joy in cooking and baking these days.

I’m thinking of you, and praying for all of you in these trying times. Holding on to hope for a better tomorrow. This too shall pass in time.

In the meantime let’s be there for each other, from a distance.

Whole carrot cake sitting on a wooden cake stand.

Carrot Cake Ingredients

For the cake portion you’ll need:

  • Eggs: This cake has quite a few eggs, they really help bind and build up the structure of the cake.
  • Vegetable oil: Canola oil will work great too.
  • Unsweetened applesauce: Another 1/2 cup of vegetable oil can be substituted if needed.
  • Granulated sugar and brown sugar: Stick with the blend of both. If you don’t have brown sugar you can mix 2 tsp molasses to 1 3/4 cups total white sugar.
  • Vanilla extract: This just adds a light background flavor. Vanilla bean paste works well too.
  • All-purpose flour: Bleached or unbleached flour may be used.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: Stick with the blend for a good rise.
  • Salt: Standard table salt or sea salt work great here.
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger: I’ve found this is my favorite blend of spices to use here. If you love that spice flavor you can double the nutmeg and ginger.
  • Carrots: I shred these by hand but you could also do it in a food processor fitted with a shredder attachment.
  • Pecans (optional): These are optional based on personal preference but I always think of them as a must. I don’t like them in the cake taking away from that soft texture but I love adding them to outside of the cake (usually coating the whole circumference around the cake).

Scroll down for ingredient amounts and directions.

Ingredients that are used to make carrot cake shown here including salt, flour, white sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, baking soda, eggs, carrots, vegetable oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and baking powder.

Ingredients used to make cream cheese frosting shown here including powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract.Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients

For the frosting you’ll also need:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Powdered sugar

To make the cream cheese frosting follow link here for step by step tutorial.

Four steps of preparing cake batter shown here. First showing to whisk flour and spices, second adding wet ingredients and sugar to a mixing bowl. Third blending, and fourth adding flour mixture to batter.

How to Make Carrot Cake from Scratch

Here’s a quick overview of the steps:

  1. Preheat oven, prepare two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer blend sugars and wet ingredients.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix just to combined.
  5. Add carrots and mix briskly just to distribute through batter.
  6. Pour batter among two prepared pans and bake until cooked through.
  7. Cool completely then frost.

Next four steps of preparing cake batter shown. Including blended batter after adding flour mixture. Adding finely shredded carrots. Mixing. And batter in two round cake pans.

How to Store

Carrot cake should be stored in the fridge. I like to store it in a cake carrier so it doesn’t dry out. Then let rest at room temperature a while before you serve it – unless of course you prefer it cold (it’s tasty this way too).

How Long Does Carrot Cake Last?

Frosted carrot cake should keep about 5 days in the refrigerator (unfrosted layers can be kept at room temperature for 2 days).

Carrot Cake with one slice being removed.

Can It be Frozen?

Yes. Carrot cake can be frozen as unfrosted layers, wrapped separately in foil or plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container. Or individual slices that are frosted can be frozen.

Is Carrot Cake Healthy?

No. You could find healthier versions of carrot cake online but this recipe is not healthy. All things in moderation.

Close up image of carrot cake, sliced into to show interior.

Tips for the Best Carrot Cake

  • Finely shred carrots. This offers a perfectly uniform texture, cleaner slices and no large visible chunks of carrots.
  • Use freshest carrots if possible for best flavor.
  • Precisely measure ingredients (no guessing here and don’t adjust amounts listed). If you have a kitchen scale use that for the most accuracy.
  • Don’t over-mix the batter after adding in flour and after adding in carrots. Otherwise cake can be spongy and may not rise as high.
  • Properly prepare cake pans. Don’t forget to grease pan, line with parchment (or foil) and dust with flour. No risk of cake sticking and falling apart.
  • Use cake strips to wrap around cake pans if you have them for more even layers and a higher rise. Be sure to soak in water a while before using.
  • Bake just until cooked through. Under-cooked and cake will collapse, over-cooked and cake will be dry.

Possible Variations

To the batter try adding:

  • 1 cup shredded coconut.
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts.
  • 1 cup drained crushed pineapple (reduce carrots to 2 1/2 cups).
  • Replace half the carrots with shredded zucchini.
  • Use all brown sugar for a more caramel-like flavor.
  • Add other spices like a little allspice, cloves or anise.

Four slices of carrot cake shown on white scalloped dessert plates with flowers and carrots around plates.

More Delicious Carrot Cake Inspired Recipes to Try

Best Ever Carrot Cake

5 from 11 votes

My all time favorite cake! This is my go to carrot cake and I'm always looking for an excuse to make it. It's perfectly spiced and sweet, it has an abundance of carrots making it extra moist and it uses both oil and applesauce so the cake isn't overly greasy. And the cream cheese frosting is perfect!

Servings: 16
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (283g) all-purpose flour (scoop and level to measure)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup (175ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (130g) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150g) packed light brown sugar (break up any clumps)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (348g) finely grated carrots**
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting HERE (use amounts listed in notes there for a 2 layer cake)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Butter two 9" round cake pans, line with parchment paper, butter parchment paper, dust parchment paper with flour, shake out excess.* Line pans with water soaked cake strips if you have them.

  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

  4. In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer blend together vegetable oil, applesauce, eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla.

  5. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Mix in grated carrots just to evenly distribute. Divide mixture evenly into 2 prepared cake pans.

  6. Bake in preheat oven for 33 - 38 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes in cake pan, then run a knife around edges of cakes and invert into a wire rack to cool completely.

  8. Frost cakes then finish with chopped pecans if using. Store cake in airtight container in refrigerator.

Recipe Notes

  • *This cake can also be made in a 9x13 dish just increase baking time to 40 - 50 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, or recipe can be halved and baked in an 8x8 dish or just 1 (9-inch) round pan (bake time should be the same).
  • Nutrition estimate does not include pecans as they are optional, cream cheese frosting is included.
Nutrition Facts
Best Ever Carrot Cake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 546 Calories from Fat 252
% Daily Value*
Fat 28g43%
Saturated Fat 19g119%
Cholesterol 87mg29%
Sodium 256mg11%
Potassium 214mg6%
Carbohydrates 71g24%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 57g63%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 4244IU85%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 77mg8%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Carrot Cake
Author: Jaclyn

How to Decorate Carrot Cake

There are many different ways you can decorate carrot cake.

  • I like to add a swirled frosting finish done by hand using an offset spatula and adding a border of chopped pecans covering the entire outside edge. It’s helpful to use a cake turntable when decorating.
  • Then many times I like to tint some of the frosting green and some orange. Then I do a grid-like decoration of oranges rows on the top of the cake, followed by piping a green life-like border around the top edge (refer to image below).
  • Another option is to decorate with marzipan or fondant carrots like I did here.

Recipe first shared January 1, 2012. Photos have been updated and recipe modified just lightly to reduce sugar by 1/4 cup and include brown sugar in place of 3/4 cup of the white sugar.

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103 Comments

  • Rolly

    Made this today absolutely delicious!! My husband was having a bad day.this made it much better

  • Shauna

    This Carrot Cake is AMAZING!! I agree, BEST Carrot Cake EVER!! Your recipes never disappoint. Thank you so much for sharing!! I love that it doesn’t include pineapple, yet it’s so moist and has the perfect balance of flavor!! A definite keeper.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Love to hear you think of it as the best carrot cake! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!

  • Emily

    I cannot describe to you how much this recipe has changed my life. I made this recipe for my mom, who is a carrot cake lover. This carrot cake is better than any cake you will ever get in the store. It is not terribly difficult to make. One taste will make you understand why it is so important to use this recipe. This will forever be my go-to from now on for any and all family events. Amazing work, Jaclyn!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Glad to hear it’s your go-to Emily! Thanks for the great review!

  • Emily

    Hi! Super excited to try this recipe, but I wanted to ask, if my cake is smaller in diameter but taller in height, will that amount of frosting still be enough? And also, how do you cut the recipe in half for a smaller cake? I love your page, I’m a really big fan! 🥰

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Yes that will be enough frosting for a smaller but taller cake. And to half you will want to half everything exact (for those that are 3/4 cup it will convert to 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp).
      So glad to hear you like my website, thanks for letting me know!

  • Lysa

    OMG!!!
    Best carrot cake…ever! My first try was a dry disaster (another recipe) But this right here?! Reminded me of being a kid all over again, when my grandma first introduced me to this sweet, melt in your mouth delectable All the right spices, very very moist! It was the “best thing smoking “for Easter. Besides the ham 😉 Thank you sooooo much for sharing!❤️❤️

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Glad to hear it was a success and brought back good memories for you!

  • Jonise Daggett

    This recipe is nothing less than amazing! I made it for my fiancée birthday and it was definitely a HIT!!!! Omg I never baked a cake from scratch and it turned out perfect, the directions was very straight to the point and precise. I only trust cake recipes from Cooking Classy! Thank you, thank you!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Love to hear you trust my recipes! So glad this cake turned out well for you!

  • A. Nicole

    First time using one of your recipes and it came out divine!! I pretty much followed everything to a t; the only addition was I added 1/4 ground cloves. Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful recipe….can’t wait to make more!

  • Jan

    Oh my goodness!! This cake is absolutely delicious! My 9yo granddaughter wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear the cake was Carrot Cake, but bc Gigi made it, she tried it, and….she loved it!! ☺️ The whole family enjoyed it very much! Thank you for the recipe!
    Happy Easter to you and your family!