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carrot cake layered with white frosting and decorated with pecans on a white plate.
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4.85 from 13 votes

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.
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour 45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 925kcal
Author: Dorothy Kern


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.



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
  • 9x13-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.


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