The Best Carrot Cake Recipe

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!

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

Homemade Carrot Cake is not only perfect for Easter but, it is the perfect cake for any occasion! This cake is made up of three perfectly spiced, moist carrot cake layers made with simple ingredients. The cake layers are stacked together with a quick and easy fluffy cream cheese frosting.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Simple ingredients
  • Perfectly spiced and moist
  • Fluffy cream cheese frosting 
  • Quick and easy to prepare
  • A great make-ahead recipe
  • Perfect for Easter, Spring brunches, and celebrations

Ingredient Notes

Carrot cake recipe ingredients.
  • Carrots: Grate the carrots yourself. DO NOT use pre-shredded carrots because they tend to be dry and too thick for baking. Use the fine side of a box grater or a food processor fitted with the grating disc. This is key to moist carrot cake donuts, muffins, or cakes.
  • Brown sugar: Brown sugar makes the cake very moist. I like to use dark brown sugar for a deeper taste, but light brown sugar works just as well! Note that if you use light brown sugar, the color of your cake will be lighter than the pictures.
  • Orange zest: Orange zest is totally optional but highly recommended. The flavor pairs perfectly with the spices, brown sugar, and carrots to create the best ever carrot cake.

Additional Add-ins: I prefer my carrot cake plain, but if you would like a little extra crunch or texture, you can stir in 1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or raisins.

Step By Step Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. You want to make sure that your oven has enough time to reach the correct temperature.
  2. Prepare carrot cake ingredients and cake pans. It is important to have all the ingredients at room temperature before you get started. Ingredients that are at room temperature mix better together and produce better cakes! You will also need to prepare three 8-inch cake pans by greasing with butter or nonstick spray and then lining the bottoms with parchment paper. 
  3. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  4. Beat the eggs. In a glass large measuring cup, whisk the eggs and vanilla extract.
Flour mixture with a whisk in a bowl and beaten egg mixture in a glass measuring cup.
  1. Cream butter and brown sugar. Add the butter and brown sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. This should take about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Add the beaten eggs to the butter mixture and mix until the mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in the orange zest.
beaten butter and brown sugar in a glass mixing bowl.
  1. Add dry ingredients alternating with milk. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the liquids until completely blended and smooth. Use the following order: ⅓ dry ingredients → ½ liquids → ½ dry ingredients → remaining liquids → remaining dry ingredients
  2. Add the grated carrots. Finally, add the carrots to the batter and mix on low speed until combined. 
carrot cake batter in a glass mixing bowl.
carrot cake batter in a glass mixing bowl.
carrot cake batter in a glass mixing bowl.
  1. Pour batter into cake pans & bake. 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. 
  2. Cool cake layers. 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.
Unbaked carrot cake and baked carrot cake layer in a baking pan.
  1. Frost the cake. Once the carrot cake layers have cooled to room temperature, and you have prepared the frosting, it is time 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. 
  2. Serve & enjoy! This carrot cake is best served right away at room temperature. 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. 
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting topped with caramel sauce and chopped walnuts on a marble cake stand.

HOW TO MAKE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING 

The cream cheese frosting used in this best ever carrot cake recipe is so good, you’ll want to eat it by the spoonful! When combined with the cake layers, you end up with the most delicious carrot layer cake. Here’s how to make the fluffiest cream cheese frosting:

  • Use room temperature butter and cream cheese. It is very important that the cream cheese and butter are completely at room temperature before trying to combine them. Cold ingredients will not mix together well.
  • Beat the cream cheese and butter well before adding the other ingredients. I like to use my stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment for fluffy frosting, but a hand mixer works just as well.
  • Carefully add the confectioners sugar and salt. I recommend adding a little at a time to avoid getting powdered sugar all over your kitchen! 
  • Finally, beat the cream cheese frosting until smooth and fluffy. 
cream cheese frosting in a glass mixing bowl.

View Story

If you are a visual learner, check out my Carrot Cake Recipe Story here:

Expert Tips

  • Room temperature ingredients. Make sure all of your refrigerated ingredients (egg, yogurt, cream cheese, butter) are at room temperature before making the donut batter and frosting. I allow my ingredients to sit on the counter for 2-3 hours before beginning.
  • Additional Add-ins. If you would like a little extra crunch or texture, you can stir in ⅓ cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or raisins.
  • Toppings. I like to top my carrot cake caramel sauce and chopped walnuts. You can use either homemade or store bought caramel. Use the caramel instructions in this recipe if you would like to make your own.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I store carrot cake?

If you have any leftovers, you will need to cover and store your carrot cake 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. 

Can I make this gluten free?

Yes! 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.

How do I know when the cake is done baking?

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.

Slice of carrot cake on a plate.

More cake recipes you’ll love!

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 4 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Cake
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings
Calories 706 kcal

Equipment

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

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Assembly

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition

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

8 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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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