If you’re like me, baking inspiration can come from pretty ordinary places.
You see a recipe, a friend mentions a craving, or, you know, there’s that half a bag of carrots staring at you every time you open the fridge.
This particular bag of veggies had gotten quite a lot of use already – a few went into the homemade chicken soup and toasty tartines I made, then another handful were peeled and chopped for snacks for the drive up to Chicago for Mom’s birthday.
And now, it seemed an obvious choice to put most of the remainder into a cake.
Blame my economical nature (or, ahem, what my family terms “cheap”) if you like, but I’m kind of partial to ingredients like these.
You know, the ones that are versatile enough to be part of entrees, easy road snacks, and then still key players in weekday desserts.
If only all good foods had so many uses!
I’ve made (and loved) other tried-and-tested versions of carrot cakes before this one, but just like with cookies, it’s still always fun to play with a classic.
Even on its own, this cake – dark and moist, fragrant and full of bright orange shreds – is a beautiful way to eat your vegetables.
So consider this your obvious inspiration: next time you find yourself with some carrots to use up (and honestly, they’re so cheap, why wouldn’t you?), this is what you need to do.Print
Need a classic carrot cake? Use our gorgeous recipe, with toasted pecans, plump golden raisins, and thick cream cheese frosting.
For the Cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
For the Frosting:
- 16 ounces (2 blocks) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened to room temperature
- 5 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line and lightly grease two 8-inch cake pans.
- In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt together.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, eggs, and sugars.
- Whisk the flour mixture into the liquid mixture just until moistened.
- Stir in the carrots, raisins, and pecans. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes until springy and golden.
- Let the cake cool for 20 minutes in the pan before removing from the pan and letting it cool completely on a cooling rack.
For the Frosting:
- In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar one cup at a time. Beat until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Beat on high for 2 full minutes.
- Decorate the cooled cake. Serve and enjoy!
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Dessert
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Toast and Chop the Pecans
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Place whole pecans on a small baking sheet pan. Toast in the oven until lightly browned and aromatic.
Step 2 – Prep the Carrots
Peel the carrots with a vegetable peeler.
Roughly grate them to get small, coarse shreds. Set aside.
Step 3 – Mix the Dry Ingredients
We like using all-purpose flour rather than cake flour for this recipe – carrot cake should be a little dense and very moist!
We love the combination of warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. If you want a fun flavor combo, you can even try using 1 1/2 teaspoons of our homemade pumpkin spice – it’s not just for pumpkin pie, believe it or not!
Step 4 – Mix the Liquid Ingredients
Mix until all of the ingredients are completely incorporated, and the sugars have dissolved with the liquid ingredients.
Step 5 – Combine
Add the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Mix until just incorporated. Don’t overmix! You will continue to mix the batter when you add the other ingredients in the next step.
Step 6 – Add the Other Ingredients
Stir in the carrots, raisins, and pecans – stir just until mixed and everything is completely incorporated together.
Step 7 – Divide into Pans
Line the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Lightly grease the pans with cooking spray.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. For a stunning presentation, you can use a third cake pan – just be sure to evenly divide the batter, and reduce the bake time by about 5-8 minutes.
Step 8 – Bake
Bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes, until springy and golden. You can insert a toothpick in the center, as well. If it comes out clean with just a few crumbs, it’s good to go.
Let the cake cool for a few minutes before inverting it onto a plate; then let it cool completely.
Step 9 – Make the Frosting
In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment (either one works!), beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Add the confectioners’ sugar one cup at a time. Beat until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Beat on high for 2 full minutes.
Step 10 – Decorate and Serve
I like using extra chopped pecans and shredded carrots for the garnish. How pretty! For another garnish idea that is lovely during the spring and summer months, consider decorating your dessert with an array of sugared flowers.
You can serve immediately, or place in the refrigerator for an hour to set the frosting before serving.
Do I Have to Use Pecans and Raisins?
Of course not!
If you have a nut allergy, get rid of those nutty little creatures. Or, you can easily switch up pecans and golden raisins for your favorite nuts and dried fruits. Walnuts would be equally as tasty, and many dried or dehydrated fruits like cranberries, pineapple, or currants are all yummy subs.
I would love to know how you decorate the final design of this moist and delicious dessert! I used ground nuts and more shredded carrots – what will you choose to do?
Be sure to rate the recipe, and please feel free to leave me a message in the comment section below.
Take a look at all of our fluffy cakes for more dessert inspiration (cream cheese frosting lovers should go directly to our satsuma layer cake!). Here’s a list of even more carrot desserts and baked goodies to try:
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on March 1, 2011. Last updated: January 26, 2020 at 14:39 pm. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.