This is my family's favorite carrot cake recipe. It's easy to make from scratch, super moist and so delicious!
This carrot cake is loaded with cinnamon and covered in a homemade cream cheese frosting. This is truly the best carrot cake you’ll ever eat!
Who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned, southern style carrot cake? It's such a wonderful dessert that is perfect to serve during the holidays, or any special occasion.
It’s a dessert that’s made from the heart!
What you need
For the cake batter
- all-purpose flour
- baking soda
- ground cinnamon
- granulated sugar
- vanilla extract
- vegetable oil
- shredded carrots
- chopped pecans
For the frosting
- cream cheese
- vanilla extract
- powdered sugar
- chopped pecans
- fresh herbs
How to modify the recipe if needed:
- Pre-shredded Carrots - A 10 ounce bag of pre-shredded carrots and be used instead of grating the carrots. I recommend cutting them into smaller pieces before adding them to the batter.
- Substitute Oil - Vegetable oil can be substituted with 1 cup melted coconut oil or 2 sticks melted unsalted butter.
- Nut options - The pecans can be substituted with walnuts. For even more more flavor, toast the pecans in the oven at 350°F on a baking sheet for 10 minutes.
How to make it
Carrot cake batter
Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Lightly grease two 9" cake pans with oil and cover the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.
TIP: Parchment paper is helpful to ensure the top of the cake does not stick to the pans.
Add a handful of flour to the pans and rotate the pans to coat with flour to prevent sticking. Shake out excess flour.
Grate the carrots using a cheese grater, chop the pecans and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, together with a whisk.
In a separate batter bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the oil, eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla extract for 2 minutes on high speed.
Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and stir until smooth.
Add the carrots, raisins and pecans and stir to combine.
Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Allow the cake layers to cool for 20 minutes in the pan.
Run a knife around the cake to release the sides and transfer the cake layers onto a cooling rack.
Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
Cream cheese frosting
Place the room temperature butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract into a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
Add the powdered sugar ⅓ third at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after each addition. Keep mixing until smooth and creamy.
How to decorate
This cake can be decorated in so many ways, but this is my favorite. It's simple and makes a stunning presentation!
Stack the one layer onto a cake stand. Use an offset spatula to spread the cream cheese frosting on top of the layer.
Set the second layer on top of the first and spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake.
Use your hands to press the extra pecans onto the outside of the cake.
TIP: Place a baking sheet under the cake stand to help catch any nuts that fall off during the process.
If you are using the raw carrots to decorate the cake, place them on the cake right before you are ready to serve.
If they are left on too long, the moisture from the carrots will seep out and cause the frosting to become "wet" around the edges of the carrots.
Peel 4 large carrots and cut the end off. (They should be at least 2.5 inches long.)
Cut the pieces in half lengthwise to get 8 little carrots. (One side will be rounded and the other side will be flat.)
Place them on top of the cake with the pointed ends towards the center as you see in the picture below. Use parsley leaves or any kind of herb you have, to create the "carrot leaves".
3-Layer Cake - If you'd like to make a 3-layer cake, divide the batter evenly into three 8" cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Cupcakes - This recipe makes 18-24 cupcakes. Use cupcake liners and bake for 25 minutes.
How to store it
The cake can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
To freeze, wrap the carrot cake layers, unfrosted, individually in 2 layers of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil. Keep frozen for up to 3 months.
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Carrot Cake Batter
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 4 large eggs (lightly beaten)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 cups grated carrots
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup chopped pecans
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- fresh herbs for carrot leaves (dill, parsley or cilantro)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (176°C). Lightly grease two 9" cake pans with oil and cover the bottom of the pans with parchment paper (optional). Add a handful of flour to the pans and rotate the pans to coat with flour to prevent sticking. Shake out excess flour.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 2 ½ cups flour, 4 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder and set aside.
- In a medium sized batter bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the 4 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 ½ cups granulated sugar and 1 cup vegetable oil on high speed for 2 minutes.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir them together using a spatula until combined. Stir in the 3 cups of shredded carrots, ½ cup of raisins and ½ cup of chopped pecans.
- Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Remove from oven, let cool for 20 minutes before transferring the cakes to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- n a large mixing bowl, beat the room temperature butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract using an electric mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar ⅓ at a time and beat until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
- Place the first layer on a cake stand and cover with cream cheese frosting. Stack the second layer on top and spread the top and outsides of the cake with frosting. Use your hand to press the additional 2 cups of toasted pecan pieces to the outside of the cake.
- Right before you are ready to serve, cut the ends off the whole carrots and then cut the carrot in half lengthwise. Place them on top of the cake with the pointed ends facing the center. Use a the herb leaves as the carrot tops. (See notes.)
- Calories do not include garnish ingredients.
- If you are using the fresh carrots to decorate the cake, place them on the cake right before you are ready to serve. If they are left on overnight, the moisture from the carrots will seep out and cause the frosting to become "wet" around the edges of the carrots.
- For a 3 layer cake use three 8 inch cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes.
- This recipe makes 18-24 cupcakes. Use cupcake liners and bake for 25 minutes.
- Store covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Carrot Cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap the slices individually in 2 layers of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil.