The best Carrot Cake recipe is made from scratch with no fluffy mix-ins. Classic carrot cake with fresh shredded carrots, warm spices, and topped with a whipped cream cheese frosting. Learn how to make a layered carrot cake recipe with all my tips for success.
Try these other twists to classic carrot cake like these Sheet Pan Carrot Cake Bars or this Tropical Layered Carrot Cake with Pineapple Pudding Frosting.
Homemade Carrot Cake Recipe
I make this carrot cake every single year, without fail, for Easter. It's a spring-time Easter tradition at my house.
My family favorite carrot cake recipe is a classic carrot cake with only shredded carrots in it. It uses ground spices that give it such a cozy flavor! Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves make the flavors stand out. But my favorite part is that not-too-sweet whipped cream cheese frosting that gets slathered on the layered cake.
Add one some chopped pecans for a crunchy, salty texture and you have one amazing carrot cake to serve to your family or guests.
Ingredients You'll Need
Simple baking ingredients is what you'll need to make this cake.
- All-Purpose Flour
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves
- Granulated Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Canola or Vegetable Oil
- Shredded Carrots
The whipped cream cheese frosting is a simple mixture, with some added sour cream, which makes it so creamy and not too rich. Sometimes cream cheese frostings can be so overpowering sweet, but not this one!
- Cream Cheese
- Powdered Sugar
- Sour Cream
- Vanilla Extract
How To Make Layered Carrot Cake with No Pineapple or Raisins
It's best to use a stand mixer to make this recipe but if you don't have one, a handheld mixer with a mixing bowl will work just fine as well.
Step One : Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. For extra protection you can also use Baker's Joy which is a cooking spray with added flour in it. I have found that just simply spraying the cake pans well with cooking spray turns out just fine.
Step Two : Combine the dry ingredients into a small mixing bowl and stir with a wire whisk. This acts as sifting by breaking up any clumps and getting the mixture smooth.
Step Three : In a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, add the sugars and egg. Beat together until combined well. Slowly add in the oil, while the mixer is going on low speed, increasing speed as needed. This helps to avoid any splashing of the oil. Beat for about 1 minute or until the mix is light in color and combined well.
Step Four : Add the shredded ingredients and dry ingredients (set aside from earlier) and beat on low speed until combined well and no flour pockets or streaks remain. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake in the oven for 30-32 minutes.
Step Five : Cool the cakes completely, to room temperature, and then wrap each one up in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the cakes for at least 8 hours, or overnight is fine, before frosting.
Step Six : When ready to serve, remove the cakes from the fridge and prepare the frosting according to directions below. If doing a layered cake be sure and double the frosting recipe so that you have enough frosting for between the cake layers, the sides, and on top of the cake. Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the frosting and serve.
How to Make Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
My favorite part of this cake is the whipped cream cheese frosting! It's not so super sweet that you can't even eat it, but rather sweet enough but also creamy and fluffy at the same time. I prefer to use a stand mixer to make the frosting, as there is lots of beating and whipping involved. Plus, I think a stand mixer mixes and whips frosting better than a hand mixer.
Step One : Add softened cream cheese, softened butter, sour cream, and vanilla extract to the bowl. Beat on low speed, increasing speed as needed, until the mixture is combined and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl before moving onto the next step.
Step Two : Add the powdered sugar and beat until it's fluffy and everything is combined well.
Tips For Success
Here are my helpful tips that will make this cake recipe a success in your own kitchen!
- Baking Pan : If you don't want a layered cake you can also pour the batter into a 9x13 baking pan. The cook time is longer, which is included in the recipe card below, and you don't need to double the frosting recipe if making a 9x13 baking dish.
- Refrigeration Time/Plan Ahead : Don't skip this! It's much easier to frost a cold cake. If the cake is cold, it's easier to spread the frosting onto it without all the crumbs getting into the frosting. Let the cakes cool completely, to room temperature, and then wrap each one in plastic wrap. Place them in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight is fine too. I actually don't mind this step because that means I can make the cake the day before and then only have to make the frosting for serving day.
- Carrots : 3 cups of shredded carrots is almost a 1 pound bag of carrots. I shred all but one carrot from the one pound bag when I make this recipe. Also, please don't use the pre-shredded carrots from the produce section. They are shredded into these large and long shreds, and they won't do well in this cake. For best results, and texture, shred the carrots yourself on the fine/small side of a cheese grater.
- Full-Fat Dairy Products : For best taste and texture do not use low-fat cream cheese or sour cream in this recipe. The lower-fat products have more water in them and they have less flavor. It is cake after all, so make the calories count and use the real stuff!
- Softened Cream Cheese + Butter : To avoid lumps in the frosting, make sure the cream cheese and butter are well softened before using.
- Frosting : While frosting the cake the frosting may not seem thick enough, but that's ok. As the frosted cake sits in the fridge it all hardens up nicely and comes together. That's why it's important to allow time for the frosted and decorated cake to be in the fridge. I would say at least 4 hours before serving. Even longer is fine too. You can serve it right away but the frosting will be softer.
- Tip : The cake gets better and better the longer it's in the fridge. It's normal for my family to be nibbling on leftovers even on day 3 or 4. Even the pecans stay somewhat crunchy and delicous!
- What I Do : I make the cake the night before I need it (cool completely) and then I wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning I make the frosting and frost the cake, and garnish with pecans. Loosely cover it with tin foil and put it in the fridge all day and pull it out that night when I need it. Obviously your timeline may be different, so plan accordingly. I think the frosted cake is best served chilled from the fridge.
Carrot Cake FAQ's
- How to Store Carrot Cake Leftovers
- Leftover cake should be stored in the fridge. You can move pieces to air-tight containers with a lid, or just cover the plate that the cake is on with tin foil or plastic wrap.
- Leftovers will stay good for 4-5 days in the fridge. The cake gets better and better as it sits in the fridge, so leftovers are fabulous!
- Can I Freeze Carrot Cake?
- Yes you can freeze this carrot cake. Bake the cake according to directions and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Double wrap each 9-inch round cake in tin foil. I then place the wrapped cakes inside a gallon size Ziploc bag for extra protection.
- Freeze for up to 1 month.
- When ready to serve, let the cake layers thaw in the fridge overnight. Prepare the frosting and frost before serving.
- I would not recommend freezing the cake with frosting on it. Dairy tends to separate and curdle once frozen and thawed.
- Serving Suggestions
- I always serve this cake for Easter dinner dessert.
- It makes for a great dessert when guests or family are over.
- You can also make it for Thanksgiving desert. Lots of people like carrot cake at thanksgiving time.
- Birthday cake! My husband loves carrot cake so sometimes he specifically requests this has his birthday cake!
More Cake Recipes To Try
- Easy Lemon Lovers Layered Cake
- Berry Crisp Dump Cake
- Pumpkin Spice Sheet Cake
- Chocolate Sheet Cake
- Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
The Best Carrot Cake
- 9-inch Round Cake Pans
- Liquid Measuring Cups
- Box Grater
- Nut Chopper
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups shredded carrots (almost a 1 lb bag)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups vegetable or canola oil
Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 bar (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
- 5 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans, or a 9x13 cake pan, and spray with cooking spray and dust with flour. Set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl combine the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Stir with a whisk to combine and break up clumps.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or use a hand mixer and a bowl, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and eggs. Beat together for about 1 minute until it's creamy and combined. With the mixer on LOW speed drizzle in the oil slowly to avoid splashing. Gradually increase the mixer speed and beat until it's lighter in color and combined well. About 1 minute.
- Add the shredded carrots and the dry ingredients into the bowl. Mix together on low speed just until combined. Divide the batter between the two round cake pans, or put it all into the 9x13 dish.
- Bake the 9" round cake pans for 30-32 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. Bake the 9x13 dish for 40-45 minutes.
- Let the cake cool completely in the 9x13 pan. For the round cake pans, let cool for about 15 minutes in the pans and then invert the cakes onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.
- Once cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and let refrigerate overnight (preferred) or at least 6 hours. It's much easier to frost a cold cake!
- MAKE THE FROSTING: Add softened cream cheese, softened butter, sour cream, and vanilla extract into a bowl. Beat together for 1 minute on high speed. Scrape sides of bowl with spatula as needed. Add the powdered sugar and beat together until combined and fluffy. Frost layered cake with the round baking pans, or spread evenly on top of the 9x13 cake. Top with the chopped pecans.
- Cover the cake loosely with tin foil and let it refrigerate for 4-6 hours before serving (or longer!). This cake is best served cold but of course, it can also be eaten right away too.
Hi! Do you know if I can freeze this cake after frosting it?
Together As Family
You can freeze it but I don't freeze a whole lot because the texture seems to always be grainy to me once it's thawed. If you are going to freeze it, I would freeze it unfrosted for sure and then frost it once it's thawed and you're ready to serve it.
This is the best tasting frosting ever! The sour cream keeps it from being too sweet??
Together As Family
Yes it does. It's my favorite "trick" to help frosting not be overly sweet. So happy to hear you loved it.
I used a 9x13 pan and it took an hour to cook. The middle was still wobbly after 45 minutes.
Together As Family
It does take significantly longer in a 9x13 baking dish. Maybe try covering it loosely with foil towards the end of the bake time to prevent the top from over browning (if wanted).
I had been looking for a carrot loaf/cake/muffin recipe, this the perfect cake! Super moist and filled with favor and spice! I've made this 4 times in less than a month and received great comments about it! Thanks for sharing!
I am from Zimbabwe. I just made this delicious cake. A real winner. I baked it in a large bundt tin, lowered the temp slightly and it was cooked In about 45 minutes. As I didn’t have the ingredients for the frosting, I used the juice and zest of an orange and added powdered sugar till I had the right consistency and drizzled it over the cooled cake. It worked very well. Thank you for sharing your recipe
Question: do you use light brown sugar or dark brown sugar and does that matter?
Together As Family
I always use light brown sugar when I bake. You can use light or dark. Dark brown sugar does have a more distinct molasses taste. Like it's a stronger brown sugar taste. I don't care for it which is why I use light all the time.
I made this cake for a friend’s birthday. Easy and delicious! The most difficult thing was getting the pecans on the side of the cake. Lol
Together As Family
So glad you liked it! And yes, getting the pecans on the cake is the hardest part for sure, haha! Thanks for your comment and rating.