The best carrot cake recipe has layers of moist & flavorful carrot cake topped with a luscious whipped cream cheese frosting, and chopped pecans. No extra stuff inside the cake, just shredded carrots!
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.
I double the frosting recipe for a layered cake. If you're just making a 9x13 pan then make the frosting according the recipe.
This cake gets better and better the longer it's in the fridge. It's not rare for us to still be eating this cake on day 3 and 4. Even with the chopped pecans on the frosting!
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.
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.
I don't have a 1/8 teaspoon so I just eyeball it and use the 1/4 teaspoon and only fill it halfway with the ground cloves.
To avoid lumps in the cream cheese frosting make sure it's softened well. I place my unwrapped bar of cream cheese on a microwave-safe plate and cook for about 25-30 seconds.