Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
This is a simple recipe for classic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. The recipe uses tons of carrots without pineapple, coconut, or raisins. The cake can be made as a sheet cake, layered cake, or cupcakes!
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Components Used: Cream Cheese Frosting
Carrot cake is one of my favorites. It feels like the epitome of springtime to me!
A lot of carrot cake recipes call for pineapple, coconut, raisins, and walnuts. For me, that is a bit of overkill. I like a simpler, more classic version. Tons of carrots, some warming spices, and walnuts for texture contrast.
My secret ingredient in any carrot dessert is orange. Orange flavor pairs so well with the warming spices in carrot cake and really sets it apart. It’s very subtle but the hint of a sweet citrus is just what it needs.
Here’s how to make it!
STEP 1: Prep your Carrots and Walnuts
Peel your carrots and shred them on a box grater or in the shredder on your food processor.
Place the walnuts in a dry pan over low heat and stir occasionally. Keep a close eye on them. When they become really fragrant remove the walnuts from the heat and set aside to cool. I always like to toast my nuts for recipes. It brings out their flavors so much more and really makes all the difference.
STEP 2: Mix the Dry Ingredients
Whisk together all of your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. The lineup here is all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
STEP 3: Mix the Wet Ingredients
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer) mix together your wet ingredients on low speed until incorporated. This includes: eggs, oil, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
This recipe does not require a mixer so a large bowl with a whisk will do fine as well.
STEP 4: Add the Dry Ingredients to the Wet Ingredients
Turn the mixer off and add all of the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl. On low speed, mix for about 15 seconds. Turn the mixer off again and scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Mix again for about 15 more seconds. Turn the mixer off.
As always, with cakes and quick breads and delicate baked goods you want to mix as little as possible. Over-mixing creates tough and dry baked goods.
STEP 5: Add the Mix-Ins
Add the carrots and walnuts to the mixer and mix for a few seconds. Scrape down the bowl and then mix for a few more seconds.
If you want to add in raisins, coconut, or pineapple- add it in here.
STEP 6: Bake
This batter can be used to make a sheet cake (as I’m doing here), a layer cake, or cupcakes.
For a sheet cake, pour all of the batter into a greased 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) pan. You can add an optional layer of parchment paper to the bottom of the pan before adding the batter. If you leave an extra 1 inch (2.5 cm) of parchment on all sides of the pan then you will be able to lift the cake out of the pan once it’s completely cooled. This will allow you to cut the cake more evenly and have a nice presentation for serving.
For a layer cake, prep 2- 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pans with cooking spray and parchment paper. Divide the batter between the 2 pans.
For cupcakes, prep a cupcake tin with paper liners. Scoop the batter 2/3 of the way full with batter.
Bake and then cool completely.
STEP 7: Frost
While the cake(s) are cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. Then frost the cake(s) with the frosting and add chopped walnuts on top. It’s important not to frost too soon. If the cake is still even slightly warm, the frosting could melt and create a mess.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
This is a simple recipe for a classic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. This recipe uses tons of carrots and walnuts but no pineapple, raisins, or coconut. The cake can be made as a sheet cake, layered cake, or cupcakes!
For the Cake
- 280 grams (2 ½ cups) grated carrots
- 75 grams (¾ cup) chopped walnuts, plus more for topping the cake if desired
- 240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- 226 grams (1 cup, 240 ml) canola or vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 400 grams (2 cups) brown sugar, light or dark
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
For the Frosting
- 226 grams (8 ounces) full fat cream cheese, room temperature
- 57 grams (4 tablespoons, ½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 420 grams (3 ½ cups) powdered, icing, or confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Peel and grate the carrots using a box grater or with a food processor. Measure out 280 grams (2 ½ cups).
- Put the chopped walnuts (75 grams, ¾ cup) in a dry pan and place over medium heat. Stir frequently for a few minutes until the nuts smell toasty. Remove from the heat to cool.
- Measure out the rest of the ingredients. Let the eggs (4 large), cream cheese (226 grams, 8 ounces), and butter (57 grams, 4 tablespoons) come to room temperature.
- Position the oven rack to the center position. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
- If making a sheet cake: Prepare a 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) pan with non-stick spray and (optional) parchment paper. If making a layer cake: Prepare 2- 9-inch (23 cm) round layer cakes with non-stick spray and parchment paper. If making cupcakes: line a cupcake tin with paper liners. This recipe makes about 14-16 cupcakes. How to Prepare your Pans for Baking Tutorial
For the Cake
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour (240 grams, 2 cups), baking soda (1 ¾ teaspoon), salt (¾ teaspoon), cinnamon (2 teaspoons), nutmeg (¾ teaspoon), and ginger (¾ teaspoon).
- In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the eggs, oil (226 grams, 1 cup), brown sugar (400 grams, 2 cups), vanilla extract (1 ½ teaspoons), and orange zest (1 tablespoon) on medium speed until well combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until just blended, about 30 seconds. Scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Add in the carrots and walnuts and mix just until combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake for 35-40 minutes for a sheet cake, 22-26 minutes for layer cakes, and 18-22 minutes for cupcakes. Pull out of the oven when the cake is firm but springs back when gently pressed on. Let the cake(s) cool completely before frosting.
For the Frosting
- Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer. Mix on medium speed for about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides.
- Add the powdered sugar (420 grams, 3 ½ cups), vanilla extract (1 teaspoon), and salt (¼ teaspoon). Beat on medium high until blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cover the frosting and set aside at room temperature until ready to frost the cake.
- Once the cake is completely cooled and at room temperature, if making a sheet cake, frost the top of the cake. If making a layered cake, frost in between the layers and on top of the cake. If making cupcakes, top each cupcake with frosting.
- Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top if desired.
- Store the cake in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 1 week.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0
28 Comments on “Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting”
ahhhhh I miss walking!!! I try to walk more than most people do (ie instead of driving between the parking lots of 2 stores in the same complex I’ll just walk) but it’s not the same, so I’m feelin’ a bit jealouuuus.
Anyway-this carrot cake looks gorgeous and comforting and like the perfect way to use up all those carrots!
I hear ya about walking. It’s just harder to get into it once you leave a big city.
I agree totally hey
What a gorgeous carrot cake. I wish I could walk to work. I’m seriously tired of Baltimore traffic. I’m so jealous.
Thanks Jennie! I hear you on the traffic. It is really nice to not have to deal with that anymore and I really love my time walking and listening to podcasts. I didn’t realize you lived in Baltimore! We have been meaning to get down that way and check it out sometime soon. I’ve never been.
Hi! I just made this and it was yummy, but it didn’t really rise. Its texture was closer to that of a blondie. Did you use baking powder in addition to baking soda? It seemed like the leavening may have been off in mine. Thanks!
So sorry to hear that this didn’t work out well for you. No, I did not use any baking powder, only the baking soda. Did you make sure that you used a full 1 tsp plus 3/4 tsp of baking soda? Did you also make sure to bake it immediately? With chemical leavenors they start releasing their gases as soon as they become moistened so they must be baked immediately. Another thing that could affect the rise of any baked good is elevation. Do you live at a high elevation?
Thanks for a gorgeous carrot cake recipe, love cream cheese frosting, lots of it!
Great that you’ve made it easy to make additions as required to each of our personal taste…
Good tips & techniques are invaluable.
Would it be okay to add some pineapple to the mix or would this make cake batter too wet?
I shall add sultanas, pecans, orange zest to mix…
Would adding some wholemeal flour make the cake too heavy & dense? I was thinking of perhaps a 1/3rd wholemeal to white flour to add extra ‘nuttiness’ to the flavor of cake, however, I don’t wish to spoil this beautiful cake or alter the chemical reaction of baking powder & soda.
Any advice would be very welcome… Many thanks, Odelle Smith
I am not sure if i need such a big carrot cake. Specially if i am making it for the first time. If i want a smaller one, should i simply take half of the quantity of all the ingredients?
BTW i also tried your chocolate chip cookies receipe with 5 ingredients.. it turned out AMAZING ! Thank u so much for that receipe !!
Yes, cut all ingredients in half and bake in an 9X9″ square dish. Keep the temp the same, but will likely need to reduce the bake time. Just check on it, and remove when a tester comes out with a moist crumb. Glad you liked the cookies!
Aaaahhhmazing. I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out prefect. When I leveled the cake, I took that little cut off layer, smeared a little frosting on there and shamelessly ate over the kitchen sink. The rest of the cake is waiting in the fridge for my mom’s birthday dinner tonight. Mmmmmmmm……
That makes me so so happy Liz!
Very oily, cake layers fell apart (yes toothpick came out clean)…actually squished them together into balls flatten slightly and rebaked to a cookie …did not want to waste my ingredients
Hi Joan, I’m so sorry to hear that this cake didn’t work out for you. Can I ask if you made any changes to the recipe? I’m asking because I have tested it several times and several friends and family members made it this weekend without this problem. Would love try and identify what may have caused the problem for you!
Great recipe! I don’t often make carrot cake but I tried this recipe (with very minor modifications) and it turned out perfectly. Instead of using 2 tins I used 1 tube pan and baked for 60 mins. I also opted out of the walnuts as I was making the cake for a work-related event and wanted to mitigate any nut allergies (otherwise I would def add walnuts!!) Also for the frosting, I just blended whipping cream to make the texture more light and velvety .. but otherwise, I stuck to the recipe to a T!
Will def bookmark this one, Thanks Bettie! : )
That’s so great to hear! So glad it was enjoyed!
This carrot cake was the best carrot cake I’ve ever had no joke I made it for Thanksgiving and everyone loved it I’m going to make it again and I’m going to make it for my son’s birthday here in a few months I never want to lose this recipe LOL
That makes me so happy Trina! Thank you so much for letting me know!
I made this cake and I’m not much of a baker but it came out amazing.
The only thing I didn’t like that much was the frosting, I added the measurements you suggested but it came out a little salty.
Still, not too bad and the actual cake mix was amazing. It was full of flavor and the perfect amount of moist. This is a great recipe and thank you for keeping it simple and not adding pineapples, coconuts, or raisins.
Hi Paola! I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed this cake and that you enjoyed its simplicity! I appreciate the feedback about the frosting and updated the recipe to my current cream cheese frosting recipe that I use that does contain less salt.
Is there any way to turn this into a quick read recipe? Add more flour?
Hi Jane! I think you can definitely bake this in loaf pans as is and slice it like a quick bread!
Mom requested carrot cake for Mother’s Day, so I made her this recipe. I’d never made carrot cake before and this was delicious! Mom loved it. The only substitution I made was pecans for walnuts, because during Corona lock-down that’s what I had, and because Mom loves nuts I probably doubled the amount.
The cake smelled absolutely heavenly while it was baking and the frosting is fantastic.
This was my first carrot cake using real carrots rather than baby food carrots! When I made my mom’s recipe that uses Gerber Jr. Carrots, the middle always sunk as it cooled! Guess what, this one did it too! Do you have any idea why? Your cream cheese icing is spot on! I think we will be keeping this recipe for sure!
If you bake in two pans, does that change the cooking time? Can I put them in the oven at the same time? Do I need to double the frosting then?
I made the cake and it’s delicious. However, drasticaly reduced the amount of sugar in the case and frosting. I wonder of 400g pf sugar is what you intended fpr the recipe? Would te that make for a suuuuper sweet cake?
Hi, yes this recipe has been tested many times with 400 grams (2 cups) of brown sugar and it’s delicious!
Can I put pineapple in this recipe?. If so how much. I suppose well drained crushed in juice is best.