Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is seriously the best carrot cake recipe! It’s my mom’s recipe that is always loved by all – a classic carrot cake that is perfectly moist with homemade cream cheese frosting on top. Making it from scratch is actually very quick and it can even be made ahead of time.

slice of carrot cake on a white plate, whole cake in the background

If you love classic carrot cake, you’ll also love these Carrot Cake Bars and Carrot Cake Cookies! You can also use carrots for some breakfast goodies like these Carrot Cake Muffins.

Carrot Cake Ingredients

For the Cake Batter

  • White granulated sugar
  • Vegetable oil – you can use another neutral oil, like canola oil.
  • Eggs – room temperature is best.
  • Vanilla extract – the recipe uses two whole tablespoons which adds the best flavor
  • All-purpose flour
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • Grated carrots – I highly recommend grating them yourself. Using freshly grated carrots results in a much more moist cake. It’s definitely worth the time and effort.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Butter – the recipe calls for unsalted. You can also use salted and just omit the salt. Softened to room temperature.
  • Cream Cheese – use full-fat block cream cheese, not the spreadable cream cheese in a tub. The cream cheese will need to be softened to room temperature
  • Salt – salt in a frosting? Yes! The salt helps slightly offset the sweetness. You can omit if you use salted butter.
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Walnuts – You can also substitute pecans or feel free to omit if you don’t eat nuts. If you want to take it a step further, you can lightly toast the nuts first.

How to Make Carrot Cake from Scratch

Classic Carrot Cake is dense yet soft and incredibly moist. The grated carrots add a wonderful texture and flavor. Making this recipe from scratch is actually very easy.

While the oven preheats, mix up the cake batter. You’ll start by mixing the sugar and oil together in a large bowl. You can use a hand mixer to do this, or mix by hand using a spoon or rubber spatula. Then add the eggs and vanilla and mix again until well combined.

collage of images showing carrot cake batter process steps

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda). Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir together until just combined. Finally, stir in the grated carrots.

Pour cake batter into greased cake pans and bake. The carrot cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake. Allow to fully cool before frosting.

collage of images showing a carrot cake with and without frosting

How to Make Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting

A rich and creamy cream cheese frosting is simple to make. All you need is butter, cream cheese (brick-style, not spreadable), powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. The butter and cream cheese will need to be softened to room temperature.

Grab a large bowl and mix together the softened butter and cream cheese. You can use either a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. It’s best to use a larger bowl so you don’t make a mess when the powdered sugar is added.

Add the vanilla and salt and blend until combined.

collage of images showing how to make crema cheese frosting

Finally add the powdered sugar and mix together. I prefer to add the powdered sugar in parts for easier (less messy!) mixing and to be able to adjust the sweetness level. Beat until it’s smooth and combined.

Does cream cheese frosting need to be refrigerated?

Cake frosted with cream cheese frosting can sit out at room temperature for 1-2 hours, but after that, it needs to be refrigerated. Refrigeration is needed due to the dairy content in the frosting.

What is a crumb coat?

Using a crumb coat with this carrot cake is optional, but it makes it easier to cleanly frost the cake. A crumb coat is making a very thin layer of frosting that helps seal in the cake crumbs. The cake is then chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes before frosting fully.

carrot cake with crumb coat layer of frosting

Storage, Freezing, and Make Ahead Tips

Make Ahead: The great thing about a classic carrot cake is it is so MOIST. This makes it a great make ahead option. You can bake (and even frost) the cake a day in advance.

Storage: Store frosted carrot cake in the fridge, covered, for up to 5 days. Before serving, I recommend bringing it to room temperature. Unfrosted carrot cake can be stored, covered, at room temperature for 2 days.

Freezing: Carrot cake can be frozen! Tightly wrap each unfrosted cake layer or frosted cake slices with plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to 3 months.

alice of carrot cake, whole carrot cake, cake server

Recipe Notes and Tips

  • Make into one large cake instead of layers: Depending on the cake pan size, the bake time will vary. For a 9×13 inch cake pan, the bake time will be similar to the two layers. Use a toothpick to check for doneness.
  • Make Cupcakes instead: Add the cake batter to a greased or lined muffin pan and bake at the same temperature for about 14 to 18 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Raisins and Nuts are optional. This carrot cake recipe is great with or without them. You can add ½ cup chopped nuts to the batter itself or ½ cup raisins.
  • Worried about your cake sticking? Line your cake pans with a round of parchment paper. Grease the pan, add the parchment circle, then grease the parchment paper too. No sticking!
  • Grate your own carrots! Grating fresh carrots helps make the carrot cake extra moist. You can use a box grater or the shredding attachment with your food processor.
  • Allow the cake to fully cool before adding the cream cheese frosting. A warm cake will start to melt the frosting making it tricky to spread. You can even pop the cakes into the fridge for 10-20 minutes so they are slightly chilled.
  • Crumb coat for easier frosting. You can apply a very thin layer of frosting, then chill before fully frosting.

inside of a carrot cake on a white platter

Why is oil used and not butter?

The oil helps keep the carrot cake extra moist. Cakes made with oil also stay moist longer than cakes made with butter and they tend to have a more even crumb.

What makes carrot cake moist?

First, the carrots! Both the amount of carrots and using grated carrots (especially freshly grated) adds moisture to a carrot cake recipe.

Using oil also makes the cake moist. And of course, removing the cake from the oven when a toothpick comes out clean and not overbaking is key.

Is carrot cake healthy?

Although there are carrots in this cake, this carrot cake recipe is definitely a sweet dessert. If you’re looking for a less sweet option to use carrots in, I recommend my Carrot Cake Muffins.

slice of carrot cake on white plate, fork, bite of cake

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Carrot Cake

This is the best Carrot Cake recipe! It's a perfectly moist carrot cake with homemade cream cheese frosting that is easy but impressive.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 3 hrs
Course Cake, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 10 slices
Calories 950kcal

Ingredients
  

Cake

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 cups grated carrots

Cream cheese frosting

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ - 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts optional

Instructions
 

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper to just fit the bottom of the pan.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar and oil together until well blended. Stir in eggs and vanilla.
  • Stir dry ingredients together, add to wet ingredients and blend well. Stir in carrots.
  • Pour into greased 9-inch round cake pans and bake for 35-45, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese frosting

  • In a large bowl and with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese.
  • Add the vanilla extract and salt, then carefully beat in the powdered sugar until you get to your desired sweetness level.
  • Place the bottom layer of the cake on a serving plate. Optional - skim off the top of the bottom layer to make it flat, then do a crumb coat (light layer of frosting) and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Frost just the top of the bottom layer. Add the second cake, then frost the top and optionally the sides as well. Garnish with chopped walnuts.
  • Chill in the fridge, covered, up to 2 days.

Notes

  • Make into one large cake instead of layers: Depending on the cake pan size, the bake time will vary. For a 9x13 inch cake pan, the bake time will be similar to the two layers. Use a toothpick to check for doneness.
  • Make Cupcakes instead: Add the cake batter to a greased or lined muffin pan and bake at the same temperature for about 14 to 18 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Raisins and Nuts are optional. This carrot cake recipe is great with or without them. You can add ½ cup chopped nuts to the batter itself or ½ cup raisins.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 950kcalCarbohydrates: 108gProtein: 8gFat: 56gSaturated Fat: 36gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 521mgPotassium: 267mgFiber: 3gSugar: 84gVitamin A: 7008IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 69mgIron: 2mg
Keyword carrot cake, cream cheese frosting

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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