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!

A slice of Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

OVERVIEW

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.

Slices of Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Here’s how to make it!

STEP 1: Prep your Carrots and Walnuts

Carrots being grated and chopped 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

Dry ingredients mixed together in a bowl

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

Left side: wet ingredients measured out. Right side: wet ingredients mixed in a stand mixer.

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

Dry ingredients added to wet ingredients in stand mixer.

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

Carrots and walnuts added to the cake batter.

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.

Full tutorial on How to Prepare Your Pans for Baking

Bake and then cool completely.

STEP 7: Frost

Carrot sheet cake topped with chopped walnuts

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.

A slice of Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: 12 servings

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

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!

Ingredients

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 sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

Prep

  1. Peel and grate the carrots using a box grater or with a food processor. Measure out 280 grams (2 ½ cups).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Position the oven rack to the center position. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
  5. 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

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add in the carrots and walnuts and mix just until combined.
  5. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top if desired.
  5. Store the cake in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 1 week.

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Nutrition Information:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0