Treat yourself to a delicious homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. This dessert has plenty of flavor thanks to the spices. It also turns out incredibly moist with a tender crumb! It’s quick and easy to make and is perfect for any occasion.

cake server taking slice of three layer carrot cake out of round cake with cream cheese frosting

I was introduced to carrot cake at a young age because it is one of my parents’ favorites (they had it as their wedding cake!) I love how incredibly moist the cake is thanks to the carrots and the spiced flavor is irresistible (just like my spice cake). You are going to love this recipe!

Why You Will Love This Recipe

  • Easy to make from scratch. For the batter, you can use an electric mixer or mix the ingredients by hand!
  • Super flavorful. The addition of warm spices makes each bite delicious.
  • The best cream cheese frosting ever. It’s creamy and rich without being too sweet! Plus, it complements the spiced cake wonderfully.
  • A cake for any occasion! It is perfect for Easter, birthdays, housewarmings and more!

Ingredient Notes

carrot cake ingredients in bowls labeled with text
cream cheese frosting ingredients labeled
  • Carrots: Grate the carrots yourself for the best texture and extra moisture.
  • Spices: Check that your spices are fresh and not expired for the best flavor.
  • Applesauce: Use unsweetened applesauce to add moisture without extra sugar.
  • Vegetable oil: To add moisture, use a flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola.
  • Brown sugar: For a subtle molasses flavor, add light brown sugar to the batter.
  • Butter: Use unsalted room temperature butter for the frosting.
  • Cream Cheese: Block-style cream cheese is best for frosting since it is thicker and less likely to melt.
  • Confectioners’ sugar: Also known as powdered sugar, this will sweeten the frosting! Sift it first to remove any lumps.

Refer to the recipe card for ingredient details and measurements.

Recipe Variations

Try a different pan. This recipe also works for two 8-inch round pans and a 12-cup bundt pan. You can also make carrot cake cupcakes or a small carrot cake with just one 6-inch round pan.

Add pineapple. Swap out the applesauce for 1/2 cup crushed pineapple. It will add a subtle fruity flavor while adding moisture!

Add mix-ins. For something a little extra in your carrot cake, mix in 3/4 cup roughly chopped nuts, such as walnuts or pecans. Raisins or shredded coconut are also good options!

Use a different frosting. If you’re not a fan of cream cheese, make vanilla buttercream instead. Caramel frosting would also taste delicious!

How to Make Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

photo collage demonstrating how to make carrot cake batter in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer
  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together in one bowl. Flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves.
  2. Why the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Beat sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil and applesauce together until well combined. Then add the eggs and vanilla.
  3. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients just until combined.
  4. Add the shredded carrots. Fold in carrots until evenly dispersed.
  5. Bake the cake. Divide batter among cake pans and bake at 350 F for 28 to 30 minutes.
photo collage demonstrating how to make cream cheese frosting in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer
  1. To make the frosting, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix until combined.
  3. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  4. Frost cake. Level layers with a serrated knife if needed. Add frosting and add a layer of cake. Repeat and then frost the top and outside of the cake.

Expert Tips

Use room temperature ingredients. This will help the ingredients blend more smoothly and bake evenly.

Weigh your ingredients with a scale. This is much more accurate than using measuring cups. If you don’t have a scale, spoon and level your flour in a measuring cup (don’t pack it down).

Use good-quality ingredients. Make sure the spices are fresh for the best taste! I also suggest shredding the carrots yourself with a box grater and pat them slightly dry. The carrots will have more flavor and moisture this way!

Try my magic cake pan release. This paste makes cakes release from the pan with ease! No crumbs left behind.

Make the cake ahead of time. Carrot cake is one of those desserts that tastes better the next day. The flavorful spices blend together and the texture remains nice and moist.

slice of triple layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting on a plate

Make Ahead and Storage Tips

Storage: Frosted carrot cake will last about 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This will help keep its shape and stay fresher longer. However, carrot cake is okay at room temperature for a few hours while serving.

Freezing: After you layer and frost the cake, place is in the freezer unwrapped for a flash freeze, about 3 hours. Remove it from the freezer and wrap it securely in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Store in the freezer for up to three months. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving.

Make ahead: After the cake has cooled, wrap it securely in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator up to two days prior to assembling and serving. The frosting by itself will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Recipe FAQ

Why is my cake dry?

Most likely there was too much flour added. Be sure to weigh your ingredients with a kitchen scale. The other reason could be that the cake was over-baked. Check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer.

Why is my cake sinking in the middle?

Opening the oven door and moving the pans during baking can cause the cakes to deflate in the center. It’s also possible that there is too much batter in the pan or too much liquid in the batter.

Why is my carrot cake green?

This happens if the baking soda isn’t evenly mixed into the batter (or if there was too much baking soda added).

Why is my cream cheese frosting melting?

If you’re baking in a warm or humid climate, this can cause frosting to melt. It’s also necessary to make sure the cake is completely cooled before frosting. Finally, use block-style cream cheese (it’s thicker and less likely to melt!)

carrot cake frosted with cream cheese frosting; crushed pecans sprinkled on top of cake

Did you love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below and if you REALLY loved it, consider leaving a comment further down the page.

triple layer carrot cake slice with cream cheese frosting taken out of cake

Get the Recipe: Quick and Easy Carrot Cake

This homemade carrot cake recipe with cream cheese frosting makes an incredibly moist, tender and flavorful dessert.
5 (7 ratings)
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Equipment

Ingredients

Carrot Cake

  • 2 ½ cups (312 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves or allspice, (optional)
  • 1 cup (200 g) packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (250 ml) vegetable or canola oil
  • ½ cup (125 g) unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (390 g) peeled and shredded carrots, slightly patted dry, (about 6 large carrots)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 cups (16 oz or 450 g) block-style cream cheese, softened, but still slightly cool
  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups (300 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Chopped pecans for garnish, (optional)

Instructions 

Carrot Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour three 6-inch round cake pans (or two 8-inch round cake pans). Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
  • In a large bowl, beat brown sugar, sugar, vegetable oil and applesauce until the oil is completely absorbed by the sugar (you can do this by hand, but a hand or stand mixer is easier). Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Stir by hand just until combined (it's okay if there are a few flour pockets). Add shredded carrots and stir until incorporated making sure to get any remaining flour bits mixed in.
  • Divide batter evenly among pans and bake at 350° F for 28 to 32 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. If using 8-inch rounds, increase time to 35 minutes. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edges of the pans and remove cakes. Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar and mix until combined. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated.

Assembly

  • If the cakes domed while baking, use a serrated knife to level off the cakes.
  • Frost the top of one of the cakes, then add a layer of cake on top. Repeat if you baked three layers. Now use an offset spatula or bench scraper to spread a thin layer of frosting around the sides and top of the cake. This will be the crumb coat. Place the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes to set.
  • Remove the cake from the freezer (the crumb coat should be harder and set). Again, use an offset spatula or bench scraper to spread frosting around the outside and top of the cake with remaining frosting. Garnish with chopped pecans if desired. Slice and serve.

Notes

Store covered and in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Freeze assembled cake uncovered for 4 hours in the freezer. Remove from freezer, wrap the entire cake securely in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Freeze cake for up to one month. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving.
Making this cake by hand: You don’t need an electric mixer to make this cake, but it does make the job easier. Make sure your wet ingredients are thoroughly combined if making by hand.
High altitude adjustments: Decrease both the brown sugar and granulated sugar by 2 tablespoons each. Decrease baking powder to 1 teaspoon. Do not pat the shredded carrots dry (you will need the extra moisture). Use a high-protein all purpose flour such as King Arthur or Trader Joe’s.
Serving: 1slice, Calories: 689kcal, Carbohydrates: 78g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 41g, Saturated Fat: 27g, Cholesterol: 117mg, Sodium: 360mg, Potassium: 285mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 54g, Vitamin A: 6170IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 101mg, Iron: 2mg

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