Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

If you’re like me, baking inspiration can come from pretty ordinary places.

Vertical close-up image of a two-layered carrot cake, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

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.

Vertical image of a whole decorated cake garnished with nuts and orange shreds on a white stand.

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.

Vertical top-down image of two plates with slices of carrot cake next to fresh vegetables.

You know, the ones that are versatile enough to be part of entrees, easy road snacks, and then still key players in weekday desserts.

Vertical top-down image of one slice of cake with white frosting and garnishes on a dark plate over a white towel with fresh vegetables.

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.

Vertical close-up image of the side of a decorated dessert with ground nuts on a white stand.

My recipe has toasted pecans, golden raisins, and buttermilk. And it looks crazy gorgeous covered in thick cream cheese frosting on top of a cake stand.

Even on its own, this cake – dark and moist, fragrant and full of bright orange shreds – is a beautiful way to eat your vegetables.

Vertical image of a slice of carrot cake on a bed of ground nuts on a dark plate with fresh vegetables in the background.

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.

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Horizontal image of a slice of carrot cake on a dark plate with fresh vegetables in the background.

Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


  • Author: Nikki Cervone
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 2-layer cake 1x

Description

Need a classic carrot cake? Use our gorgeous recipe, with toasted pecans, plump golden raisins, and thick cream cheese frosting.


Scale

Ingredients

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

Instructions

For the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line and lightly grease two 8-inch cake pans.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt together.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, eggs, and sugars.
  4. Whisk the flour mixture into the liquid mixture just until moistened.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar one cup at a time. Beat until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Beat on high for 2 full minutes.
  4. Decorate the cooled cake. Serve and enjoy!
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Dessert

Cooking by the Numbers…

Step 1 – Toast and Chop the Pecans

Horizontal image of toasted pecans on a baking sheet pan.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Place whole pecans on a small baking sheet pan. Toast in the oven until lightly browned and aromatic.

Let cool, and roughly chop them with a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board. Set aside, and leave the oven on.

Step 2 – Prep the Carrots

Horizontal image of whole and grated carrots on a plate and towel next to a grater.

Peel the carrots with a vegetable peeler.

Roughly grate them to get small, coarse shreds. Set aside.

Step 3 – Mix the Dry Ingredients

Horizontal image of assorted dry ingredients and spices in a white bowl with yellow designs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt together.

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

Horizontal image of a white bowl with blue designs and an orange liquid mixture in it.

In a large bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, buttermilk, pure vanilla extract, eggs, and both granulated and brown sugar.

Mix until all of the ingredients are completely incorporated, and the sugars have dissolved with the liquid ingredients.

Step 5 – Combine

Horizontal image of a white bowl with blue designs and a spatula mixing a thick orange mixture.

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

Horizontal image of carrot cake batter in a white bowl with blue designs and a spatula.

Stir in the carrots, raisins, and pecans – stir just until mixed and everything is completely incorporated together.

Step 7 – Divide into Pans

Horizontal image of carrot cake batter in two pans next to a towel.

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

Horizontal image of baked carrot cake in two pans on a wire cooling rack.

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

Horizontal image of a spatula with thick white frosting, and a mixing bowl with more white frosting.
Fluffy frosting, featuring the Bosch Universal Plus Mixer.

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

Horizontal image of two plates with a slice of carrot cake and cream cheese frosting next to fresh vegetables.

Decorate as you wish. But be sure to review our guides for cake decorating and decorating tools before you pick up that spatula!

I like using extra chopped pecans and shredded carrots for the garnish. How pretty!

You can serve immediately, or place in the refrigerator for an hour to set the frosting before serving.

Enjoy!

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?

Horizontal image of a slice of carrot cake on a dark plate with fresh vegetables in the background.

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. 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: March 21, 2019 at 18:23 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.

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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.

10 thoughts on “Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting”

  1. Looks delicious, Shannalee. And I prefer my carrot cake without frosting so yours is perfect. Can’t wait to try it out!

  2. I just got the official word that I only have to avoid wheat now, instead of all gluten grains. YAY! I’ll be trying this in a couple weeks – with gusto! 🙂

  3. That looks truly wonderful. Love the simplicity of the ingredients!

    Also, does it really stay all flat? Doesn’t look like you’ve shaved the top off and turned it upside down.

  4. I just made your other carrot cake recently! And HOLY CRAP that was amazingly good. I still have 1/2 a bag of carrots too though. Did you buy the huge bag at WF that was so cheap? Probably. I might have to try this one too.

  5. Have you been peaking in my refrigerator at the piles of carrots I have laying around? I always buy them, assuming I’m going to make a carrot soup or something more ambitious, and I forget I buy them and get more the next trip the store. I think a carrot cake is in my near future.

  6. I very much love a great carrot cake — and you’ve done it justice here. My latest obsession is using parsnips instead of the carrots (a trick I learned quite recently from a baking friend). Makes for a delicious cake, especially when paired with chopped hazelnuts and a bit of orange rind… YUM.

  7. Gosh, I love any sort of carrot cake. I’m sure this says terrible things about me, but I especially love it with little bits of pineapple within. Very casino buffet, I know… (But I always scrape off the little piped icing carrots.)

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