Homemade Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake. 🥕🍰 It’s so underrated, especially at first glance. Once you taste it, there is no question that it is right up there with all the other delicious treats available (like our usual go to options of chocolate and peanut butter). With that said, if you can find the right recipe (like we have and are sharing with you today 🙌🏻), you will no doubt fall in love with carrot cake just as much as we have.

This classic dessert is packed full of spices, can be baked in so many ways (cake, muffins, mini bundt, full size bundt…) and it brings a handful of different of flavors, simply putting it on a whole other level of dessert. 😏👩🏼‍🍳 The sweet combination of spice cake, fresh grated carrot, toasted pecans, and the perfect addition of silky smooth, rich layers of cream cheese frosting put this dessert right up top with the big boys (peanut butter and chocolate, be warned!). Trust us. Would we steer you wrong? Hell to the no!

The best news about carrot cake…it’s seriously so easy to make! No, seriously. 😲 We do suggest baking this cake per the directions below first, but after that we encourage you to get creative! Add in what you like and take out what you don’t (although, we think you are going to love it just they way we do 😏). There are so many variations of carrot cake, whether it be with or without raisins, walnuts instead of pecans, add in some pineapple🍍…whatever you like! You can easily make this your own. Just stick with the basics we recommend to master this cake, and the rest is completely up to you!

Items we highly recommend to make a winning carrot cake include…

Freshly grated carrots: Buy fresh large carrots and grate them yourself. It takes some extra time, but definitely worth it in the end. You can also check out our favorite grater by clicking here. It’s awesome. You’re welcome.

TOAST YOUR NUTS! This is actually something we recommend for anything you bake with nuts. It heightens the flavor BIG time. You’re welcome.

Don’t over mix. Once everything is folded in and incorporated, you are done mixing.

Brown Sugar: we love brown sugar (dark or light) in cookies and specific cakes to up the moisture factor. This ensures the cake is never dry. Who wants dry cake? No. One. We are big fans of dark brown sugar for this cake.

And, now…let’s go bake a cake, babes! 🥕🐰

What You Need

Carrot Cake
2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
t tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 and 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups chopped pecans (1 cup for cake, 1/2 cup for topping)
2 cups grated carrots

Cream Cheese Frosting
16 ounces (2- 8 ounce blocks) full-fat cream cheese, room temperature/softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature/softened
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp milk
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Step by Step

  1. Grate your carrots, and set aside. Click here for our favorite grater, if you are looking for an upgrade. I mean, come on. It has a measuring function on the bottom. What more could you ask for!? 🙂
  2. TOAST YOUR NUTS: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread your pecans (or walnuts, whatever you choose) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
  3. MAKE YOUR CAKE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray. Line with parchment paper (you can buy some amazing pre-cut round sheets here!). Spray again with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  5. In another large bowl, whisk together your sugars, applesauce, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  6. Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients, and fold in until combined. No need to over-stir.
  7. Fold in your grated carrots and 1 cup of the toasted nuts.
  8. Pour batter evenly into your three 9-inch round cake pans.
  9. Bake for 22 – 25 minutes, checking with a toothpick if cooked through. Let cakes cool completely before frosting and assembling your cakes.
  10. MAKE YOUR FROSTING: In a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese and unsalted butter together until smooth for about 3 minutes. Add in your confectioner’s sugar, 1 cup at a time. Finish by adding in your milk and vanilla. Beat for about 3 minutes on medium-high speed until consistency is to your liking. If frosting is too thick, add more milk. If too thin, add more confectioner’s sugar until consistency is right.
  11. ASSEMBLE YOUR CAKE AND FROST: Place 1 9-inch round cake on top of a cake stand. Cover the top with cream cheese frosting and smooth out. Then, top with a second 9-inch round cake, and add more frosting, smoothing out the second layer. Add the third and final 9-inch cake round layer on top, and add remaining frosting to the top and down the sides. We decided to let the cake be a little bit “naked” for a rustic look, but frost to your liking. Garnish on top with your remaining toasted nuts.
  12. Place your finished cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve (I suggest chilling it for at least 30 minutes). Cut and serve!

NOTE: You can keep a covered cake in the refrigerator up to 5-7 days. I like to pre-cut my cake into slices and store in the fridge. It is not only more convenient, but quicker to grab a slice later! 🙂

Homemade Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Print Recipe
Serves: 10 - 12

Ingredients

  • CARROT CAKE
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • t tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped pecans (1 cup for cake, 1/2 cup for topping)
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
  • 16 ounces full-fat cream cheese, room temperature/softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature/softened
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

1

Grate your carrots. Set aside. 🙂

2

TOAST YOUR NUTS: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread your pecans (or walnuts, whatever you choose) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

3

MAKE YOUR CAKE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray. Line with parchment paper (you can buy some amazing pre-cut round sheets here!). Spray again with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

4

In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

5

In another large bowl, whisk together your sugars, applesauce, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl.

6

Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients, and fold in until combined. No need to over-stir.

7

Fold in your grated carrots and 1 cup of the toasted nuts.

8

Pour batter evenly into your three 9-inch round cake pans.

9

Bake for 22 - 25 minutes, checking with a toothpick if cooked through. Let cakes cool completely before frosting and assembling your cakes.

10

MAKE YOUR FROSTING: In a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese and unsalted butter together until smooth for about 3 minutes. Add in your confectioner's sugar, 1 cup at a time. Finish by adding in your milk and vanilla. Beat for about 3 minutes on medium-high speed until consistency is to your liking. If frosting is too thick, add more milk. If too thin, add more confectioner's sugar until consistency is right.

11

ASSEMBLE YOUR CAKE AND FROST: Place 1 9-inch round cake on top of a cake stand. Cover the top with cream cheese frosting and smooth out. Then, top with a second 9-inch round cake, and add more frosting, smoothing out the second layer. Add the third and final 9-inch cake round layer on top, and add remaining frosting to the top and down the sides. We decided to let the cake be a little bit "naked" for a rustic look, but frost to your liking. Garnish on top with your remaining toasted nuts.

12

Place your finished cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve (I suggest chilling it for at least 30 minutes). Cut and serve!

Notes

You can keep a covered cake in the refrigerator up to 5-7 days. I like to pre-cut my cake into slices and store in the fridge. It is not only more convenient, but quicker to grab a slice later! 🙂

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