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The Best Carrot Cake Recipe

You’ll love making this easy recipe for the BEST Carrot Cake that features moist layers of cake with the help of butter and grated carrots and a hint of orange zest to brighten up the flavor. Top with a tangy and rich cream cheese frosting for a perfect Springtime dessert! 

Slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting on a white plate.

Springtime is here, and there’s no better time to use fresh carrots to make a delicious carrot cake! Carrot cake is a moist, dense cake made with grated carrots mixed into the batter, giving it a sweet and slightly crunchy texture. This recipe is spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and is flavored with a hint of orange zest to help brighten up the natural flavors in all of the ingredients, adding a refreshing taste that pairs well with the rich layers. Carrot cake with butter gets topped with a rich homemade cream cheese frosting to round out the flavors for an iconic dessert that can be served during Easter or any time of the year! 

What Does Carrot Cake Taste Like?

When adding vegetables to a cake recipe, you may think the taste wouldn’t be desirable. That’s just not true with carrot cake! Carrot cake tastes like a sweet and warmly spiced treat, with a moist texture thanks to the carrots and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. If nuts, raisins, or pineapple are included, they offer an extra crunch and tang. It’s a comforting treat that mixes sweetness with spice and creamy textures.

This carrot cake recipe with butter pairs wonderfully with cold brew coffee or tea for an indulgent afternoon dessert, or it can be served when celebrating a birthday, hosting a holiday brunch, or even for Thanksgiving! No matter when you serve it, this cake will fit right in! 

And if you enjoy this carrot cake recipe, you’ll love making Raw Carrot Cake, Vegan Carrot Cake, or fluffy Carrot Cake Donuts

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Moist and flavorful: This carrot cake recipe is moist and flavorful, thanks to the perfect blend of fresh carrots, butter, spices, and a hint of orange zest.
  • Easy to make: No need to be intimidated! This cake recipe is easy to make with straightforward instructions and looks like it came straight from a bakery.
  • Creamy frosting: The addition of cream cheese frosting adds a creamy, tangy contrast that enhances the flavor and texture of the cake. 
  • Versatile: This classic cake normally more popular during the Spring can be served for birthday parties, special occasions, or even winter holidays! 

Ingredient Notes

Carrot cake recipe ingredients.
  • Room Temperature Butter – Acts as a base for the cake, adding a tender crumb by creaming well with sugar and creating air pockets for a light texture.
  • Light or Dark Brown Sugar – Adds moisture and a rich, molasses-like flavor to the cake.
  • Eggs – Provide structure and stability to the cake, helping to bind the ingredients together.
  • Vanilla Extract – Enhances the overall flavor of the cake, adding a subtle sweetness and warmth. 
  • Orange Zest – Adds a zesty, citrus note that brightens the cake’s flavor, adding a refreshing layer. 
  • All-Purpose Flour – Holds the ingredients of the cake together while keeping it soft and tender.
  • Leavening Agents (baking powder, baking soda) – Help the cake rise, creating a fluffy, light texture by producing carbon dioxide when mixed with wet ingredients.
  • Seasonings (salt, cinnamon, nutmeg) – Salt enhances the overall flavors of the cake, while cinnamon and nutmeg add warmth and a hint of spice that pairs well with the carrots.
  • Milk – Adds moisture to the batter, making sure the cake is soft and tender.
  • Grated Carrots – The star ingredient, providing natural sweetness, moisture, and a slightly textured bite to the cake, making it uniquely delicious.
  • Garnish (caramel sauce, chopped walnuts) – While optional, caramel sauce adds a sweet, sticky topping that complements the creaminess of the frosting, while chopped walnuts offer a crunchy contrast and nutty flavor.
  • Cream Cheese Frosting – A simple mix of room temperature cream cheese and butter are mixed with powdered sugar for a rich frosting used to add between layers and top the cake. 

Be sure to check out the recipe card for the full ingredient list below

Equipment Needed

  • (3) 8-inch cake pans
  • Parchment paper
  • Nonstick spray or additional butter for greasing pans
  • Stand mixer with paddle and whisk attachments
  • Rubber spatula
  • Offset spatula
  • Cooling rack
  • Cake stand or serving plate
  • Grater (for the carrots)

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Prepare for baking: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch cake pans with butter or nonstick spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside. 
  2. Combine the dry ingredients: Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a mixing bowl and whisk to fully combine.
  3. Combine the wet ingredients: To the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the butter and brown sugar and beat on medium speed for 8-10 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add in the whisked eggs along with the milk until evenly incorporated.
  4. Mix the cake batter: Add the mixed dry ingredients along with the milk, alternating in batches, starting and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined without overworking. Fold in the grated carrots on low speed until incorporated. 
  5. Bake and cool: Evenly pour the carrot cake batter into each prepared cake pan. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the tops of the cake spring back when lightly pressed in the middle. You can also check this by inserting a toothpick or wooden skewer. If it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, the cake is done baking. Let them cool for 5 minutes in the pans before removing them and transfering them to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  6. Make the cream cheese frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a whisk attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Gently incorporate the confectioners’ sugar, adding one cup at a time. Continue beating at a medium-high speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.
  7. Assemble and frost: Start by positioning one cake layer on a cake stand and applying a layer of cream cheese frosting on it. Smooth out the frosting with an offset spatula. Do the same with the next two layers, adding and evening out the frosting on each. Finish by covering the top and sides of the assembled cake with the rest of the frosting. Finish with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a sprinkle of chopped walnuts. Enjoy!
Flour mixture with a whisk in a bowl and beaten egg mixture in a glass measuring cup.
beaten butter and brown sugar in a glass mixing bowl.
carrot cake batter in a glass mixing bowl.
carrot cake batter in a glass mixing bowl.
carrot cake batter in a glass mixing bowl.
Unbaked carrot cake and baked carrot cake layer in a baking pan.

Tip: Grate your own carrots rather than buying pre-grated ones to make sure they are fresh and moist.

Carrot Cake Add-Ins

  • Add a cup of crushed pineapple to the batter for a tropical twist.
  • Stir in a half cup of chopped walnuts or pecans for a crunchy texture and nutty flavor.
  • Mix in half a cup of raisins or dried cranberries to introduce a chewy texture and a burst of sweetness.
  • Swirl in a quarter cup of coconut flakes for a subtle coconut flavor that pairs well with the flavor of carrots.


  • Replace all-purpose flour with an equal amount of gluten-free flour blend for a gluten-free version.
  • Use coconut oil in place of butter in the cake batter for a hint of coconut flavor while keeping the cake moist.
  • Substitute the brown sugar with coconut sugar to add a caramel-like sweetness.
  • To make this carrot cake dairy-free, substitute the butter with an equal amount of your preferred plant-based butter and use a dairy-free milk alternative, such as almond milk or oat milk, in place of regular milk. For the cream cheese frosting, use a dairy-free cream cheese alternative.

Storing and Freezing

Storing: The carrot cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Before serving, let it sit at room temperature for about an hour for the best flavor and texture.

Freezing: To freeze the carrot cake, either whole or in slices, wrap it securely in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Place it in the freezer, where it will keep for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting topped with caramel sauce and chopped walnuts on a marble cake stand.

expert Tips

  • Make sure the butter, cream cheese, and eggs, are at room temperature before starting to achieve a smoother batter and frosting.
  • Grate your own carrots rather than buying pre-grated ones to make sure they are fresh and moist.
  • Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet mixture gradually to prevent overmixing, which can lead to a dense cake.
  • Tap the cake pans on the counter before baking to release any large air bubbles, to make sure they rise properly. 
  • Allow the cake layers to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting to prevent the cream cheese frosting from melting.
  • Apply a thin layer of frosting between each layer and around the cake as a crumb coat, then chill before applying the final layer of frosting for a more professional look.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does it matter if I use light or dark brown sugar for this recipe?

Light brown sugar will give your carrot cake a subtle, sweet molasses flavor, while dark brown sugar offers a deeper, more pronounced molasses taste. The choice between the two depends on your preference for the cake’s sweetness.

Can I make this cake without a stand mixer?

You can use a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar and to mix the batter. Make the butter and sugar are well combined, and the batter is smooth.

How do I know when the cake is perfectly baked?

The cake is done when it springs back to a light touch in the center, and a skewer or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached. Avoid overbaking to maintain its moist texture.

Slice of carrot cake on a plate.

If you make this recipe, take a photo and tag #bakedambrosia on Instagram and Facebook so that I can see your creations and feature them on Instagram! To stay up to date with the latest recipes, follow Baked Ambrosia on PinterestFacebookInstagram, and Youtube. ♡

slice of carrot cake on a plate.

The Best Carrot Cake Recipe

Angelina Papanikolaou
This easy, from-scratch carrot cake recipe uses simple ingredients to make the best moist and perfectly spiced cake. Paired with fluffy cream cheese frosting, this is the only carrot cake recipe you need!
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Cake
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings
Calories 706 kcal


  • Kitchen scale
  • Stand mixer
  • 8-inch cake pans
  • Off-set spatula


  • 1 1/2 cups butter room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 5 eggs whisked
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • orange zest from 1 medium orange
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups milk room temperature
  • 6 oz grated carrots, about 3 large

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 12 oz cream cheese room temperature
  • 6 oz butter room temperature
  • 6 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar

For Assembly

  • Caramel Sauce optional
  • chopped walnuts optional


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8-inch cake pans by greasing with butter or nonstick spray and then lining the bottoms with parchment paper.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • Lightly beat the eggs and vanilla extract in a glass measuring cup.
  • Add the butter and brown sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the whisked eggs to the butter/sugar mixture and beat the mixture until light and fluffy, Mix in the orange zest.
  • Add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk until completely blended and smooth. Begin and end with the dry ingredients.
  • Add the grated carrots to the batter and mix on low speed until combined.
  • Evenly divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans and bake in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You will know that the cake layers are done baking when the tops spring back when lightly pressed in and a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
  • When the cake layers have finished baking, remove them from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes in the pans before removing them. Transfer the cake layers to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, until creamy. Slowly add the confectioners sugar, one cup at a time. Beat on medium high speed until smooth and fluffy.


  • To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on a cake stand and spread a layer of cream cheese frosting on top. Use an offset spatula to even out the frosting. Repeat with the remaining two cake layers and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. If you’d like, decorate your cake with caramel sauce and chopped walnuts.


  • Gluten Free: To make gluten free carrot cake, substitute the flour with a 1:1 gluten free baking flour. I always have great success with Bob’s Red Mill gluten free baking flour.
  • You will know that the cake layers are done baking when the tops spring back if lightly pressed down and when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Make ahead: If you are preparing the cake in advance, keep it in the refrigerator. Before you are ready to serve the cake, remove it from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. 
  • Store carrot cake: Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator. When storing frosted cakes in the refrigerator, I always chill them for about 15 minutes to harden the frosting. Then, I loosely cover the cake in plastic wrap or place it in a cake keeper. This Carrot Layer Cake can be stored for up to 1 week covered in the refrigerator.


Serving: 1sliceCalories: 706kcalCarbohydrates: 128gProtein: 9gFat: 47gSaturated Fat: 29gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 194mgSodium: 850mgPotassium: 243mgFiber: 1gSugar: 35gVitamin A: 3961IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 171mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was and tag @bakedambrosia on Instagram

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  1. well i just started my journey into grandmother hood, so i began to bake. This will be my very first cake i really ever baked from scratch. I just pulled it out of the oven===so far so good! I had to make some substitutions (ie no baking soda, and i had pumpkin all spice and not the individual spices) I tasted the batter prior to putting it into the pans and well it tasted pretty darn delicious to me!!! Oh and i added raisins and pecans and a 1/3 cup of coconut! hopefully i didnt mess it up with those ingredients as i am a adventurous cooker and just add things on a whim, but with baking one can not really do that I was told …..Thank you Angelina for accompanying me into this new chapter in my life…God Bless #forever20 #gonebutnotforgotten #mommylittleboyalways #elawl

  2. 5 stars
    The Single layer chocolate cake – AMAZINGLY MOIST, TASTY, FLUFFY – JUST WOWWWWWWWWW! For someone who was told I was pants at baking whilst growing up and my cakes were given to the birds – I completely lost my confidence in baking, despite actually being pretty good I just had that voice saying I’m not good enough. Thanks to you Angelina it has restored my confidence and I was told it was the best chocolate cake ever. I sincerely would like to thank you for changing my belief and I can now make tasty cakes and bakes for my boys! Thank you so much – sending you virtual hug – this is very big for me and a great achievement before ending 2023. Wishing you lovely festive holidays and Happy New Year! Thank you for bringing my 2023 to a beautiful end and so glad I found you xxx

  3. 5 stars
    Absolutely yummy!!!
    The best carrot cake I’ve ever had. It’s so soft, so fluffy, flavourful… Just amazing. I used oat milk in mine and it turned out perfect
    Definitely sharing this with family and friends…

    (My phone only allows me to select 4 stars )

  4. 5 stars
    This cake is amazing! Super easy to make and the taste is very delicious. All of the flavors combine together beautifully. Thank you for another great recipe, Angelina!

  5. 5 stars
    This carrot cake looks so beautifully moist and I love those luscious layers of the smooth icing! Absolutely mouthwatering!

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