This is my favorite recipe for carrot cake! It is 100% made from scratch, easy to make, versatile, and utterly delicious. One of our most popular recipes! Just read all the rave reviews!
Watch The Video
Related: If you are looking to make cupcakes, see our easy carrot cake cupcakes inspired by this cake.
How to Make Carrot Cake From Scratch
This carrot cake is quick, easy to make, and utterly delicious. It wasn’t until recently that we realized just how much we love carrot cake. It wasn’t something either of us grew up eating. Thanks to this easy recipe, we fell in love. You can make this cake quickly without lots of fancy equipment. Not only is this the best-tasting carrot cake we’ve made, but it’s a cinch to make.
Carrot Cake Ingredients
The ingredients you need for this cake are simple and I bet you have quite a few of them already in your kitchen! The full recipe is below, but here is a quick overview:
I like using all-purpose flour, but you can substitute some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat or white whole wheat flour. For a gluten-free carrot cake, swap the flour for your favorite gluten-free flour blend.
Baking soda helps the cake to rise. We don’t add baking powder, the cake does not need it.
Salt, cinnamon, and vanilla extract make the cake taste amazing.
Oil keeps the cake nice and moist — any neutral-flavored oil will work. (Melted coconut oil works, too, but there will be a light coconut flavor in the baked cake.)
Sugar makes the cake moist, light, and delicious. I love a combination of white and brown sugar, but you can use one or the other. Since posting the recipe, some of our readers have asked whether or not we can reduce the sugar called for in the recipe. You can, just keep in mind that the amount we specify will produce the moistest cake.
Eggs give the cake structure.
Lots of carrots make this the best carrot cake. I like to hand grate my carrots since I prefer the texture, but you can use your food processor or buy pre-grated carrots from the store. When we first tested the cake, we scaled the number of carrots back to two cups since three cups just sounded a bit extreme. After baking and letting it cool, we were a little disappointed. So if you’re making the cake and start to second-guess the number of carrots called for in our recipe below, don’t. You need all three cups. It is a carrot cake, after all.
Pecans and raisins are optional! I know that some people love nuts and raisins in carrot cake, while others cannot stand to add them. These are completely optional, so go with what you love.
Making the Cake Batter
The method for this carrot cake recipe could not be simpler! If you have a couple of bowls and can stir ingredients together then you can absolutely make this cake! As you can see from our recipe video, all you need to do is combine all the ingredients. Here’s how I like to do it:
- Dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in another: I like to whisk my dry ingredients together in one bowl until they are well blended. Then I whisk all the wet ingredients together in another bowl.
- Fold the dry and wet ingredients together: Then I switch to a rubber spatula or large spoon and fold the two — wet and dry ingredients — together until I don’t see any large streaks of flour. (We use the same method when making this cinnamon coffee cake, our pineapple upside-down cake, and this buttery blueberry cake. Both recipes are so good!)
- Add carrots, nuts, and raisins: When I’ve got the batter ready, I fold in the carrots, and if I’m using them, the nuts and raisins.
Baking Carrot Cake
When it comes to baking the carrot cake, divide the batter between two buttered and floured cake pans and bake until done. The cake layers bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes (they smell fantastic). After baking, let the layers cool then frost with your favorite frosting.
Frosting the Cake
We love our extra creamy cream cheese frosting. It’s soft and creamy and doesn’t firm up like some cake frostings. (If this is what you are looking for, check the notes section of the recipe, we provide a recipe for traditional cream cheese frosting).
The frosting is actually the same one we used to top our Guinness Chocolate Cake. It’s made with only three ingredients:
- Cream cheese
- Powdered sugar
- Heavy cream
If you’re not into frostings or if you don’t have the ingredients on hand, try the cake as-is without any frosting at all. Or, sift a little bit of powdered sugar on top. When Adam and I were testing this recipe, we skipped the frosting the first couple of times and fell in love with the cake completely plain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make carrot cake cupcakes using this recipe? Yes, absolutely (and if you read through the comments, many of our readers have done just that). To make cupcakes instead of a cake, we’d recommend baking for 14 to 18 minutes (or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean). Then let them cool for a few minutes in the cupcake pan before transferring them to a cooling rack. The recipe should make about 24 cupcakes. We have been asked this question so often, that we’ve added a carrot cake cupcakes recipe.
Can I make one large single-layer cake? Yes, but the baking time will change. For a bundt cake, a 10-cup or 12-cup Bundt pan should be fine. You will likely need to increase the baking time by about 30% in the 10-cup pan, somewhat less in the 12-cup. The batter will also fit into a 9-inch by 13-inch pan, but you might need to leave out a bit of the batter so it does not overflow. (I’d also bake the cake on a sheet pan, just in case some batter comes over the sides.)
How do you store the carrot cake? Technically, because there is a cream cheese frosting on the cake, it should be kept in the fridge, but most bakers (even professional ones) are okay with leaving a frosted cake on the counter for a day or two (as long as your kitchen isn’t hot). If you prefer to refrigerate the cake, it will last for 5 to 6 days.
Can I use applesauce instead of oil in the carrot cake recipe? This is something we have never tried ourselves, so you may need to do some experimenting on your own. That said, you should be able to swap some of the oil for applesauce without too many issues.
Can I add pineapple to the carrot cake? Yes, absolutely. It will add even more moisture to the cake so use fresh pineapple or if you are using canned, drain it first before adding to the cake. We do not recommend adding more than 1 cup.
Incredibly Moist and Easy Carrot Cake
This is the best carrot cake recipe I’ve ever used. We prefer to use a hand grater when preparing the carrots since it creates delicate carrot shreds that melt into the cake batter. Pre-shredded bags or shredding carrots using a food processor are also options, but the carrot shreds will be larger.
This recipe is forgiving. You can make this with or without the nuts or raisins. We love the combination of granulated and brown sugar, but if you only have one of them, use it, and the cake will still be delicious.
Frosting: Our creamy frosting recipe shared below is not a traditional cream cheese frosting. Thanks to whipped cream, it’s creamier and has soft peaks (you can see it in our video). We love it, but if you prefer a more traditional frosting, see the tips section below the recipe. We have provided instructions for a classic cream cheese frosting that works nicely with this cake.
Watch Us Make the Recipe
You Will NeedFor Carrot Cake
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ¼ cups (295 ml) canola or other vegetable oil
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (190 grams) lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups (300 grams) grated peeled carrots, 5 to 6 medium carrots
1 cup (100 grams) coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup (65 grams) raisinsFor Creamy Frosting
8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups (140 grams) powdered sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) cold heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup (50 grams) coarsely chopped pecans, for topping cake
- Make the Batter
1Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottom with parchment paper and then grease the top. Or grease and flour the bottom and sides of both pans.
2Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176C).
3Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl until very well blended.
4In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla.
5Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking after each one.
6Switch to a large rubber spatula. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add the dry ingredients in three parts, gently stirring until they disappear and the batter is smooth.
7Stir in the carrots, nuts, and raisins.
- Bake Cake
1Divide the cake batter between the prepared cake pans.
2Bake until the tops of the cake layers are springy when touched and when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.
3Cool cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then carefully turn the cake layers out onto cooling racks. Remove the parchment paper and cool completely. If you find that a cake layer is sticking to the bottom of the pan, leave the cake pan upside down and allow gravity to do its thing.
- To Finish
1In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with a handheld mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
2Beat in the powdered sugar, a 1/4 cup at a time, until fluffy.
3Pour in the whipping cream. Beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the frosting is whipped and creamy. This frosting resembles the texture of whipped cream. Chill covered until ready to frost the cake.
4When the cake layers are completely cool, frost the top of one cake layer, and place the second cake layer on top.
5Add the remaining frosting to the top of the carrot cake and use a butter knife or small spatula to swirl the frosting around. Leave the sides of the cake unfrosted. Finish with a handful of nuts on top.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Frosting Substitute — Traditional Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large bowl, beat 16 ounces of cream cheese and 1/2 cup of softened butter together for a minute or two until smooth. Add 4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 1 1/4 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Beat for 2 to 3 minutes until extra creamy. If it is too thick, add 1 tablespoon of cream or milk.
- How to Make Carrot Cake Cupcakes: For cupcakes, we’d recommend baking for 14 to 18 minutes (or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean). Then let them cool for a few minutes in the cupcake pan before transferring them to a cooling rack. The recipe should make 22 to 24 cupcakes.
- Using a bundt pan: We have never done this in our kitchen, but a 10-cup or 12-cup Bundt pan should be fine for this recipe. You will likely need to increase the baking time by about 30% in the 10-cup pan, somewhat less in the 12-cup.
- Using a 9-inch by 13-inch pan rectangular pan: Simply add all the batter to the rectangular pan and bake. Bake time may be slightly longer.
- Recipe inspired and adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Recipe for Carrot Cake Cupcakes.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.
Recipe updated, originally posted April 2014. Since posting this in 2014, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear and added a quick recipe video. – Adam and Joanne