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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.
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Perfect Homemade Carrot 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.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- 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’ve been making this cake recipe for years and it’s always a hit – and you know it’s going to work. It’s a perfectly spiced moist carrot cake!
- This recipe also makes 24 carrot cake cupcakes!
- Oil – I always use vegetable oil in my carrot cake recipes. It’s a neutral flavor and keeps the cake super moist.
- 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.
How to Make the Best Carrot Cake from Scratch
- 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.
Best Frosting 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 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 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.
Tip From Dorothy
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
This is up to personal preference. You can fold in some raisins once the batter is mixed if you like them in your cake.
This recipe should stay moist – there is so much oil and applesauce in the recipe, along with the carrots, it stays that way. Make sure not to over mix the cake, not to over bake it, and make sure you grate your own carrots. The pre-shredded carrots don’t have as much moisture.
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.
The BEST Carrot Cake Recipe
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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 March 22, 2023
What type of 9×13 rectangular pan would you recommend? Glass? Le Creuset? Metal? I’m excited to make this cake for Easter.
I always recommend metal pans for baking. Glass doesn’t conduct heat as well.
This was moist and delicious. Even my wife liked it, and she has insisted for the last 30 years that she doesn’t like carrot cake. I didn’t have applesauce so I used the same amount of finely grated apple, and it worked fine. I also added a handful of raisins and put some nuts in the batter rather than the frosting. I used a half recipe to make one 8″ cake, cut the cake in half, and frosted with a half-recipe of frosting. For my taste, there was way too much frosting. Next time I’ll make a quarter recipe of frosting (or less) for one 8″ cake and frost just the top.
Tried this and it was great!
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.
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!!
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!!
Can you omit the nuts from the frosting without affecting the consistency?
Yes it’ll be just fine without! Enjoy!
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.
I’ll happily eat carrot cake all year long, not just for Easter! This naked cake looks so gorgeous, Dorothy!
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!