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Look no further for the Best Carrot Cake Recipe! 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.

carrot cake layered with white frosting and decorated with pecans on a white plate.


Perfect Homemade Carrot Cake

This is one of Mel’s favorite desserts – and you know if he eats it, it has to be good. I’ve been making this cake for years and it’s always a hit – four layers of perfectly spiced cake with a moist crumb and a pecan cream cheese frosting that’s just one of the best things in the world.

I frost this as a naked carrot cake because it’s just easier, but you can frost the entire thing if you want. PLUS – this recipe also makes 24 carrot cake cupcakes! 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.

carrot cake layered with white frosting and decorated with pecans.

Ingredients Needed

  • Oil – I always use one and a half cup vegetable oil in my carrot cake recipes. It’s a neutral flavor and keeps the cake super moist. You can also use canola oil.
  • Applesauce – to cut down on how much oil is needed and to add extra moisture I always add unsweetened applesauce. Be sure you get unsweetened!
  • Spices – Lots of spices go into carrot cake, like cinnamon and ginger.
  • Grated Carrots – Be sure to shred your own carrots. Pre-shredded carrots often are stiff and crunchy and don’t bake properly.

Click to see the recipe card below for full ingredients & instructions!

How to Make Carrot Cake from Scratch

  • Shred your carrots in a small bowl. Be sure to shred your own carrots – do not use pre-shredded.
  • 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 ingredients and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined.
  • Stir in carrots and pour batter into prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of each layer.

Baking Pan Options

  • Two 8-inch round pans (make a thick 2 layer cake or torte for a four layer cake, like I did)
  • Two 9-inch round pans (makes a slightly thinner 2 layer cake or torte for 4 layers
  • THREE 8-inch round pans for a three layer cake (don’t torte the cake layers)
  • You can also make a 9×13-inch carrot sheet cake OR bake 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 paper so the cake slides out easily once it’s baked.

carrot cake layered with white frosting and decorated with pecans.

Best Frosting for Carrot Cake

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 room temperature cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar. I also add chopped pecans to give the cake some texture and crunch. It’s a great combo!

  • 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 Carrot Cake

Once you have your carrot cake and frosting, it’s time to assemble the cake.

hand on top of cake layer with knife cutting it.
  • Make a 4 layer cake by cutting the layers in half horizontally. 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.
  • Leave the layers in tact and frost in between them, then frost the outsides and top.
  • Make a Naked Carrot Cake: frost in between the layers and the top, but skip frosting the sides.
carrot cake layered with white frosting and decorated with pecans on a white plate.

Tip From Dorothy

Expert Tips

  • You don’t even need a mixer to make the cake – I just use a whisk and rubber spatula (but you can use a mixer if you want and beat on medium speed.
  • 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. They will get dark golden on top when done.
  • You know the cakes are done when a cake tester, inserted into the cakes, comes out clean.
  • If you want, add some nuts. 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! You can also add coconut in the cake or 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.

FAQs

How do you know when cake is done baking?

The toothpick test – press a toothpick in the center of the cake and it should come out clean or with just a sparse amount of crumbs. The cake will be dark golden in color.

How do you store carrot cake?

Store the layers unfrosted well wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours or in the freezer up to 2 months. Once the cake is assembled, store it in the refrigerator.

carrot cake layered with white frosting and decorated with pecans on a white plate.

The BEST Carrot Cake Recipe

4.85 from 13 votes
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.
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:

  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups (248g) all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups (355ml) vegetable oil
  • ½ cup (118ml) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups (300g) brown sugar
  • ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups shredded carrots from about 4-6 carrots

For the Frosting:

  • 16 ounces (452g) cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter softened
  • 3 ½ cups (396g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups chopped pecans
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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 Video

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.

Recipe Nutrition

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

Click here for more Carrot Cake Recipes!

Carrot Cake Recipes

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!

Last Updated on February 13, 2024



Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

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31 Comments

  1. Sounds amazing and planning to make it soon. One question though: I didn’t see anywhere in the instructions when I should add the carrots. I assume they are in the dry ingredients, but could also justify the wet ingredients. Does it really matter?

  2. Carrot cake is my all time favourite. I’ve never heard of a naked cake before…but I’m totally calling it this from now on 😛
    The more cream cheese icing the better, I say!

  3. This is a gorgeous cake! And any frosting, raisins, or pineapple you don’t want, I’ll eat your share and mine 🙂 lol!

  4. This looks delicious! Love the four layers and I think it’s so cute that you have a tag for desserts Mel ate- a real seal of approval 🙂 I also cracked up at “Also, I like saying “naked cake,” because I’m a 13-year-old boy” (me too!).