This Homemade Carrot Cake recipe is a delicious spin on my mom’s classic carrot cake that she makes every year. It’s perfectly spiced, moist, and has the best orange cream cheese frosting.

Homemade Carrot Cake

Every year, around Christmas, my mom would make her famous carrot cake. It’s rich, decadent, filled with fresh carrots, and was finished with my favorite thing – cream cheese frosting.

For her, making that carrot cake was always a labor of love. Grating the carrots, making batter, and assembling the cake all took a little time but the end result was a delicious cake that EVERYONE loved.

This homemade carrot cake recipe is my spin on her classic recipe. It has a little less oil and sugar but it’s still incredibly moist, filled with plenty of those carrot cake spices, and has a thick cream cheese frosting that I know you’ll love.

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homemade carrot cake ingredients

Carrot Cake Recipe Ingredients

All Purpose Flour: the base of the carrot bake batter is all purpose flour.

Baking Powder and Soda: to give the cake some lift we’re using leavening agents – baking powder and baking soda.

Salt: it might seem counterintuitive to add salt to a baked good but it’s incredibly important. Salt helps to enhance the flavor of the cake batter. Adding a bit of salt helps to ensure that the other flavors, like the flavor of the spices, really shine through.

Spices: speaking of spices, a carrot cake is nothing without a bold spice combo. This carrot cake uses ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground nutmeg.

Eggs: large eggs help to give the cake structure as well as provide some extra fat.

Oil: to keep the carrot cake moist, you’ll need a bit of a neutral flavored oil. My personal favorite to use is avocado oil but you could also use vegetable oil.

Applesauce: another way we’re keeping this cake moist is by using applesauce. You’ll need one cup of unsweetened applesauce for this cake.

Sugar: for this cake you’ll need a combination of both dark brown sugar and granulated sugar.

Vanilla Extract: there’s a generous dose of vanilla extract in this cake because what’s carrot cake without vanilla?

Crushed Pineapple: my mom always put crushed pineapple in her carrot cake so that’s what I’m doing too, ok? it gives the carrot cake a bit of extra moistness and the perfect flavor. you’ll need to drain the crushed pineapple a bit before adding it to the batter.

Carrot: freshly grated carrot is the star of the show in carrot cake. I know it’s extra work, but be sure to grate the carrot fresh before adding it to the cake. Store bought shredded carrots are too dry and you’ll end up with crunchy carrots in your cake. You can use a box grater or food processor to grate your carrots.

Walnuts: last but not least, you’ll need chopped walnuts to fold into the batter. Again, pecans are traditional but I’m more of walnut gal, so that’s what we’re going with! You’ll also need some additional chopped or crushed nuts to decorate the cake as well.

carrot cake batter

Ingredient Substitutions and Additions

  • Flour – I haven’t test this recipe with gluten free flour but I do think it could work well if you used a cup for cup gluten free all-purpose replacement.
  • Walnuts – you can easily swap the walnuts in this recipe for chopped pecans if you prefer!
  • Raisins – I left out raisins in this cake because one, my mom’s traditional recipe didn’t call for them and two, because I just don’t like them, haha. If you’re a raisin fan though feel free to add them to the cake batter!

Helpful Kitchen Tools

Box Grater or Food Processor: either one of these can be used to grate your fresh carrots for the cake batter.

Cake Pans: you’ll need two or three 9-inch cake pans, depending on how many layers you want to make your cake.

Parchment Paper Rounds: these help to ensure your cake layers can easily be removed from the pan after baking.

Mixing Bowls: you’ll need three different mixing bowls to make this cake. One for wet ingredients, one for dry, and an extra large one to make the cream cheese frosting.

Whisk: I like to use a large balloon whisk mix together both the dry and the wet ingredients.

MEASURING CUPS and Measuring Spoons: standard measuring cups and spoons will help you get perfect measurements for your cake.

Hand Mixer or Stand Mixer: you can use either to make the creamy cream cheese frosting.

Microplane: I like to use this zest a fresh orange for the cream cheese frosting.

Wire Rack: this comes in handy when you’re cooling the cake layers before frosting.

Cake Stand: trust me, you’ll need this! It makes assembling and frosting the cake so much easier.

Cake Leveler or Serrated Knife: to ensure you get a perfectly even cake, you’ll want to use a cake leveler or a serrated knife to even out the tops of the cake.

Offset Spatula: this tools comes in handy when it’s time to frost the cake.

cream cheese frosting in mixing bowl

The Best Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Now it’s time for the best part of this cake – the cream cheese frosting. To be honest, if a cake doesn’t have cream cheese frosting I don’t really want it but thankfully this carrot cake has a thick layer of perfectly creamy and sweet cream cheese frosting.

It’s not traditional but my take on this cake includes a delicious spiced cream cheese frosting with notes of fresh orange and cinnamon. The orange zest adds a brightness and the ground cinnamon helps to drive home the delicious spiced flavor of the cake.

Here’s what you need:

  • cream cheese – be sure to grab the blocks and not the spreadable kind in the tubs. If needed, you can use a dairy-free cream cheese instead.
  • butter – I like to use unsalted butter and add my own pinch of salt to the frosting before mixing. If you’re keeping the frosting dairy free, go with a vegan butter.
  • powdered sugar – this adds the sweetness you need to the frosting. Start with around three cups and then adjust to your tastebuds.
  • ground cinnamon – this recipe calls for half a teaspoon to really pack in that delicious cinnamon flavor.
  • vanilla extract – this is a must in any good cream cheese frosting.
  • orange zest – trust me on this one – it’s delicious. If you’re not a big fan of orange flavor, feel free to leave it out.
  • salt – this helps to enhance the overall flavor of the frosting.

carrot cake batter in pans

How to Make Carrot Cake

Step One: Preheat oven to 350 degrees a place a rack in the middle of the oven.

Step Two: Grease and flour two or three 9-inch cake pans. Alternatively you can grease the pans and then line them with parchment paper rounds and then give them another spray of oil.

Step Three: To a mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Whisk together until well combined.

Step Four: To another large mixing bowl add eggs, oil, applesauce, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and crushed pineapple. Whisk together until well combined.

Step Five: Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the batter is well combined. Fold in the grated carrots and walnuts.

Step Six: Divide the carrot cake batter evenly between all two or three of the prepared 9-inch pans. For three layers:bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For two layers: Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then remove and place on a wire rack to continue to cool completely.

Step Seven: Add the cream cheese and butter to a large mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until fluffy, for around 1-2 minutes. Next, add the vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, and orange zest and beat on low for 30 seconds. Next, add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and beat for 3-5 minutes until the frosting is fluffy.

Step Eight: Remove the cakes from from the pans. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the cakes so that there is a flat surface. Place one cake on a cake stand and evenly cover with frosting. Place the second cake layer on top. Repeat the process and cover the second layer evenly with frosting. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with extra chopped walnuts. Place the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes to set before slicing and serving.

cut carrot cake on platter

Tips and Tricks for the Best Carrot Cake

  • Pour an equal amount of batter into each cake pan to ensure that all of the layers bake evenly and take the same amount of time to bake. This is the perfect time to pull out your food scale if you have one!
  • Use parchment rounds or grease and flour your cake pans before adding the batter to ensure your cake layers can easily be removed from the pans.
  • Let your cake layers cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
  • Before frosting, don’t forget to level your cake layers with a cake leveler or serrated knife to ensure you get an even cake.

Can I Turn This Carrot Cake Into Cupcakes?

Yes! You can easily turn this carrot cake recipe into cupcakes if you like. Use a regular sized cupcake/muffin pan and line with cupcake liners. Fill each well 2/3s of the way full and bake at 350 degrees for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean once inserted. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

Can I Freeze Carrot Cake?

Yes! To freeze this carrot cake start by letting it chill in the fridge for at least six hours so that the frosting firms up. Then, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and then place in a freezer safe storage bag. The cake will last in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let the cake thaw in the fridge before eating. 

How to Store

Because this carrot cake has a frosting made with cream cheese and cutter you’ll need to store this cake in the fridge. It should keep well in the fridge for up to five days.

slice of carrot cake on plate with fork

More Delicious Dessert Recipes

I hope you give this Homemade Carrot Cake a try! It’s perfectly spiced and the cream cheese frosting makes it!

Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @allthehealthythings on INSTAGRAM. Your reviews and ratings help support All the Healthy Things and make it possible for me to continue to create the recipes you trust and love.

Print
slice of carrot cake on plate with fork

Homemade Carrot Cake

  • Author: Ashlea Carver
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8-12 1x
  • Category: dessert
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: English
  • Diet: Vegetarian
  • Author: Ashlea Carver
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8-12 1x
  • Category: dessert
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: English
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil (like avocado oil)
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 18 oz can crushed pineapple, lightly drained
  • 2 1/2 cups freshly grated carrot
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, plus more for garnish

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees a place a rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Prep the Cake Pans: Grease and flour two or three 9-inch cake pans. Alternatively you can grease the pans and then line them with parchment paper rounds and then give them another spray of oil.
  3. Mix the Dry Ingredients: To a mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Whisk together until well combined.
  4. Mix the Wet Ingredients: To another large mixing bowl add eggs, oil, applesauce, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and crushed pineapple. Whisk together until well combined.
  5. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the batter is well combined. Fold in the grated carrots and walnuts.
  6. Bake the Cakes: Divide the carrot cake batter evenly between all two or three of the prepared 9-inch pans. For three layers: bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For two layers: Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then remove and place on a wire rack to continue to cool completely.
  7. Make the Frosting: Add the cream cheese and butter to a large mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until fluffy, for around 1-2 minutes. Next, add the vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, and orange zest and beat on low for 30 seconds. Next, add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and beat for 3-5 minutes until the frosting is fluffy.
  8. Assemble the Cake: Remove the cakes from from the pans. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the cakes so that there is a flat surface. Place one cake on a cake stand and evenly cover with frosting. Place the second cake layer on top. Repeat the process and cover the second layer evenly with frosting. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with extra chopped walnuts. Place the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes to set before slicing and serving.

Keywords:

homemade carrot cake, carrot cake recipe, carrot cake, how to make carrot cake

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3 Comments

  1. To be honest I’ve never met a recipe on ATHT that I didn’t love. I made this for Easter dinner and it was delicious. So moist and flavourful. Thanks for another lovely recipe.

    1. Ashlea Carver says:

      That makes me so happy, Nicole! so glad you loved the carrot cake!

      1. Dolores Yeager says:

        Thank you so very much for sharing your awesome recipe with everyone!!!
        I don’t like taking credit for someone else’s recipe so I will tell everyone about you, thank you so much Ashley!!!!