Best Carrot Cake Recipe (Naked Cake)

5 from 1 vote
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Look no further for the Best Carrot Cake Recipe because I’ve got it here for you today! This carrot cake is made from scratch, is so moist and is frosted with just the right amount of homemade toasted pecan cream cheese frosting.

It’s a naked cake because the frosting is only on top and in between the layers. I love making naked cakes because ANYONE can make them – they’re not supposed to be perfect – which is great because I am anything but a perfect cake decorator.

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Carrot cake layer cake

This is one of the most-requested desserts I get from friends and family so, needless to say, I’ve pretty much perfected it! It’s a “Mel ate it” cake, which means it’s one of the only desserts he eats. If he eats it, you know it’s good!

When you make it so many times you can tweak and adjust until you get a perfectly balanced cake. In this case, layers of carrot cake with just enough cream cheese frosting. Once you try it, I think you’ll agree: this really is the Best Carrot Cake recipe and will be your go-to from now on.

This is a naked carrot cake which is just a fun way of saying that it’s frosted on top and in between the layers, but not on the sides. It’s a super easy way to frost a cake and it’s so forgiving. In fact, part of the charm is that it doesn’t look perfect. I hope this naked cake trend continues – I love it!

Carrot cake slice

How to Make the Best Carrot Cake from Scratch

What makes this easy carrot cake recipe so great is the combination of applesauce and oil in the batter. A lot of versions I’ve tried are greasy because they have so much oil. I avoid this problem by using applesauce in place of some of the oil. The cake is soft and moist without all the excess oiliness.

  • First, whisk the salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and flour in a medium bowl and set it aside.
  • In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs until they are uniform in color. Add the oil, vanilla, applesauce, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Whisk again until smooth.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet one and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined, then stir in carrots.

Mixing the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls first makes it easy to combine everything without overmixing the batter. So, be sure to stir until the batter is just combined. 

Baking Pan Options

Once you’ve made the batter it’s time to bake the cake! For this recipe, I like to use 8” cake pans so you end up with nice thick layers of cake. I then “torte” the layers of cake so I have four layers.

You have options for baking this cake:

  1. Two 8-inch round pans (make a thick 2 layer cake or torte for a four layer cake, like I did)
  2. Two 9-inch round pans (makes a slightly thinner 2 layer cake or torte for 4 layers
  3. THREE 8-inch round pans for a three layer cake (don’t torte the cake layers)
  4. You can also bake this in a 9×13-inch pan OR as about 24 cupcakes.

For best results, be sure to grease and flour your cake pans. I also line the inside of the pan with parchment so the cake slides out easily once it’s baked. Learn how to prepare your cake pans here.

Carrot cake step by step

Tips for Baking Carrot Cake

  • Bake the cakes for 40 to 45 minutes at 350°F.
  • Keep an eye on your cakes while they bake. If you notice they are browning quickly lower the oven temperature to 325°F.
  • If you lower the temperature you may need to leave the cakes in the oven a little longer. You know the cakes are done when a cake tester, inserted into the cakes, comes out clean.

Once the cakes are baked let them cool completely in the pans before removing them.

Putting Nuts and Raisins in Carrot Cake

Walnuts or pecans work well in this cake. I don’t include any nuts in the actual cake, but I do add pecans to the frosting!

If you love raisins in your cake feel free to add them! For this recipe, you can add a half cup of raisins when you add the shredded carrots to the batter. I’m not a raisin fan, so I don’t add them.

Naked carrot cake

Cream Cheese Frosting is the best for Carrot Cake

The best carrot cake recipe needs an equally great cream cheese frosting, am I right? I think you’re going to love my homemade cream cheese frosting recipe. It’s not too sweet or too savory and it’s the perfect mix of cream cheese, butter, and sugar. I also add chopped pecans to give the cake some texture and crunch. It’s a great combo!

All you do to make it is:

  • Beat cream cheese and butter until it’s nice and smooth. 
  • Slowly add powdered sugar until the mixture comes together. 
  • Add the vanilla and salt and continuing beating the frosting until it’s smooth. Stir in chopped pecans.

How to Frost a Naked Carrot Cake

Once you have your carrot cake and frosting, it’s time to assemble the cake. You could smear the frosting on and call it a day, but taking a few extra steps will take it from ordinary to extraordinary. 

  • To torte the cake layers: Using a serrated knife, slice your cake rounds in half through the middle so you have four rounds of equal thickness.
  • Place one round on your serving plate or cake stand. Slather on some of the frosting so it’s covering the surface.
  • Place another cake layer on top and spread on some frosting. Repeat this process with the last two layers so you have four total cake layers with frosting. 
  • Spread the rest of the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. Leave the sides of the cake plain.

See how easy it is? Gotta love whoever came up with the naked cake concept!

Whenever I make this cake, it’s a show-stopper – everyone goes nuts for it! It’s so pretty as a dessert centerpiece – it looks a little rustic and totally homemade. You’ll see when you make it – you’ll get rave reviews!

Homemade carrot cake

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The BEST Carrot Cake Recipe

Naked Carrot Cake with Pecan Cream Cheese Icing – this easy cake recipe is the BEST carrot cake ever! Plus the frosting is to die for.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Yield 10 servings
Serving Size 1 serving

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups shredded carrots from about 4-6 carrots

For the Frosting:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8” round cake pans (or use floured nonstick cooking spray). Place a strip of parchment in the bottom of the pan that goes up the sides for easy removal.
  • Whisk salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and flour in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  • Whisk eggs until beaten, then whisk in oil, vanilla, applesauce and both sugars. Whisk until combined, then add dry ingredients and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined, then stir in carrots.
  • Divide batter between the two pans. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. (Note: after about 30 minutes my cakes were browning a lot on top, so I reduced the oven temperature to 325°F. If you notice your cakes browning fast, you can lower the temperature as early as 20 minutes, and this may affect baking time a little. The cakes do get quite brown because of the brown sugar and spices, but the pans you use and your oven can cause it too.)
  • Let the cakes completely cool before removing from the pan and frosting.
  • To make the frosting: beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until the mixture comes together, then add vanilla and salt. Beat until smooth, then stir in pecans.
  • To frost the cake: I made four layers by “torting” the cake. To torte each layer, place a ring of toothpicks around the middle at equal intervals, then slice the cake in half using the toothpicks as a guide. Layer cake on cake plate with the frosting, adding pecan halves on top for garnish. You can frost the sides if you want, or leave it naked as I have.
  • Store loosely covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Recipe Notes

Baking pans:

  • Two 8-inch round pans: about 40-45 minutes
  • Two 9-inch round pans: about 40-45 minutes
  • Three 8-inch round pans: about 35-40 minutes
  • 9×13-inch rectangular pan: about 30-40 minutes
  • 24 cupcakes: about 15-25 minutes
 

Frosting

  • Two 8-inch or 9-inch round pans: either make a 2 layer cake or torte the layers to make a 4 layer cake (as shown)
  • Three 8-inch rounds: don’t torte, just make a 3 layer cake
  • If you don’t torte the layers you’ll have enough frosting to frost the outside of the cake as well as the inside.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 925kcal | Carbohydrates: 112g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 51g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 164mg | Sodium: 596mg | Potassium: 402mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 88g | Vitamin A: 5557IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 149mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cake, carrots

Click here for more Carrot Cake Recipes!

Carrot cake from scratch

This easy homemade carrot cake is completely from scratch! Make a carrot cake layer cake with toasted pecan cream cheese frosting – this cake is moist and perfect and can be made as cupcakes too!

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22 CommentsLeave a comment or review

  1. I’m so excited to make this! Can I make the cakes the night before and will they still be moist the next day? If so, how do you recommend storing them over night? I’m short on time the day of the party and was hoping to make the frosting and assemble the cake the day of.
    Thank you!!

  2. This cake looks so yummy! I love lemon desserts also! Can you recommend a bundt pan that does not stick? I love bundt cakes but need a new one and would like to buy one that a professional would buy! Thanks and thanks for a great blog!!

  3. Ahhhh I’m such a frosting lover so I was a little nervous about this one…until I saw that it’s loaded with frosting inside! Perfection!!

  4. I made a naked ice cream cake awhile ago and loved it. This looks crazy good. And finally someone who gets that cream cheese frosting can be overpowering. It’s good in small doses but I can’t take too much.

  5. I’ll happily eat carrot cake all year long, not just for Easter!  This naked cake looks so gorgeous, Dorothy!

  6. Carrot cake knows no season for this girl either. And I could eat cream cheese frosting by the spoonful. I love the look of naked cakes. This is beautiful!