Subscribe to get a free eCookbook with my top 10 recipes + new weekly recipes!

Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

5 stars based on 29 votes

carrot cake

When my kids were babies, I started a small baking business specializing in cakes and cupcakes, mostly for children’s birthday parties. Before I opened, I spent weeks testing recipes for all of the classic cake flavors, trying to find the best, most reliable recipes. This is the carrot cake that won me over (for the others, check out my Vanilla Birthday Cake, Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes, Chocolate Cupcakes, and Red Velvet Cupcakes). Unlike most carrot cakes, which are heavy and dense, this one is light with a fine texture. The secret, which I learned from Fine Cooking Magazine, is finely chopping the carrots in a food processor to the consistency of couscous rather than grating them.

carrot-sheet-cake

Before we get to the recipe, and since Easter is upon us, I just had to share this photo of the Holland Lop that we’ve been bunnysitting for a friend these past few months. Yes, he’s real! His name is Snowman and my daughter is totally smitten with him. Isn’t he cute?! (He’s also a pain in the you know what!)

snowman

Anyway, here’s what you’ll need for the cake.

ingredients

And here’s what you’ll need for the frosting.

frosting-ingredients

Begin by soaking the currants in hot water.

soaking-currants

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

dry-ingredients-1

And whisk to blend.

dry-ingredients-2

Add a bit of the flour mixture to the drained currants and nuts.

currants-pecans-flour

Toss well; coating the currants and nuts with flour will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.

floured-currants-and-pecans

Next, add the carrots to a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

ready-to-chop

Process until finely chopped to the consistency of couscous.

finely-chopped-carrots

Transfer the carrots to a bowl and wipe the processor bowl clean. Add the eggs, granulated sugar and brown sugar.

eggs-and-sugars

And mix until smooth. With the machine running, slowly pour in the oil.

eggs-and-sugars-blended

Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture.

adding-wet-to-dry

And stir to combine.

mixing-dry-and-wet-ingredients

Mix in the carrots, currants and nuts.

adding-carrots-currants-and-nuts

The batter will look orange.

cake-batter

Bake the cake for about 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

baked-cake

While the cake cools, make the cream cheese frosting. Simply beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until creamy, then gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth.

frosting-1

Use an offset spatula to frost the cake.

frosted-cake

And sprinkle nuts on top, if desired. I usually make this recipe as a half sheet cake — it’s casual and easy that way — but you can also make it as a 9-inch layer cake. Enjoy!

carrot-cake-1

Shop This Recipe

Once Upon a Chef is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites -- at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting Once Upon a Chef!

Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Servings: 16-20
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • Baking spray with flour, such as Baker's Joy or Pam with Flour (or softened butter and flour), for the pan
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2-1/4 cups all purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with knife
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable oil

For the Frosting

  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9x13-inch heavy-duty metal cake pan (or, skip the butter and flour and spray the pan with a nonstick cooking spray with flour, like Baker's Joy or Pam with Flour).
  2. Soak the currants in 1/2 cup hot tap water for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Transfer 1/4 cup of this mixture to a small bowl and add the drained currants and the chopped nuts; toss to combine.
  4. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the carrots until very finely chopped, to about the consistency of couscous. Transfer to a small bowl, then rinse out the food processor bowl (you’ll use it again).
  5. In the bowl of the food processor (again, fitted with the steel blade), mix the eggs and sugars until blended. With the machine running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream until combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the mixture into the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until well combined, then stir in the carrots and the currant-nut mixture.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool on a rack to room temperature before inverting the pan to remove the cake. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl if using a hand mixer), combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and add 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar; mix on low to combine. Mix in the remaining sugar in two additions, keeping the speed on low. Once all of the sugar is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  2. Scrape about three-quarters of the frosting onto the center of the cake. With a narrow metal offset spatula, push the frosting from the center out to and just over the cake’s edges. Spread with as few strokes as possible to prevent crumbs from catching in the frosting. Cover the top of the cake first. Leave it as is (I like that look) or use the remaining frosting to cover the sides. Sprinkle the nuts on top of the cake, if using.
  3. Note: This cake can also be made as a 9-inch layer cake. You'll have enough frosting for the middle and top of the cake; just leave the sides bare -- it's pretty that way.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (20 servings)
  • Calories: 535
  • Fat: 32g
  • Saturated fat: 9g
  • Carbohydrates: 60g
  • Sugar: 46g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 5g
  • Sodium: 352mg
  • Cholesterol: 74mg

Reviews & Comments

  • Hi..
    I love the looks of this recipe, but was hoping to make it into mini-cupcakes (24-count). Any suggestions about baking time??
    Thanks!

    - Kate S on September 19, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Kate, I’d check for doneness around 12 to 15 minutes. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on September 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I first made this recipe for Easter. I was not allowed to take home any leftovers as it was a big hit with the hostess! One tip from the recipe I particularly thought was helpful was to put the carrots in a food processor instead of grating them. The small couscous size pieces were a better way of doing it. I’m being asked to make it several times. No better carrot cake recipe out there!

    - Barbara Barker on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this for my husband for his birthday yesterday and he said it was the best ever. Since he’s tried a lot, I thought I’d let you know. The chopped carrots were a big helpful tip.
    Love your recipes and your generosity.

    - Sammy on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • Oh wowza! This recipe looks amazeballs. I am going to add it to my bookmarks and make it soon. I have a weakness for carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

    - Kimmy on September 11, 2017 Reply
  • Hi Jen,

    Cake is delicious. I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese for the frosting and 3-1/2 cups confectioners sugar and it was delicious. Another great recipe from Jen.

    Thanks

    - Janelle on September 5, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Fantastic recipe! Delicious and brings back childhood memories. I omitted the currants and it didn`t impact the taste. The icing was delicious! although I must add that the icing wasn`t as firm as I thought it would be., it wasn`t that thick. Maybe I whipped it up too long.

    - Sandy on August 24, 2017 Reply
  • Does this need to be stored in the fridge because of the cream cheese frosting?

    - Katrina on July 19, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Katrina, technically it should be refrigerated, but I’ve stored it on the counter and it’s been fine.

      - Jenn on July 19, 2017 Reply
  • If I use raisins instead of currants do I still need to soak them in hot water?

    - Lynda O'Brien on June 21, 2017 Reply
    • While it’s not mandatory, I recommend it- it definitely helps to plump them up. Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on June 21, 2017 Reply
  • Hi! So the recipe requires baking soda but no baking powder? Just want to be sure before I make a mistake. Thanks!

    - Gualu on May 4, 2017 Reply
    • That’s correct– hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on May 4, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jen,
    If I were to make this cake with whole wheat flour instead of white flour, would it require any alterations or could I just go ahead with the recipe as is?
    Looking forward to your answer
    Vanita

    - Vanita Tondon on April 30, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Vanita, I would suggest replacing only about 1/2 of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat and see how you like the results. I suspect using all whole wheat will affect the texture of the cake. LMK how it turns out!

      - Jenn on May 1, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    For a long time I have been wanting to make an authentic American cheesecake. I made one once, but the recipe came from a Dutch magazine and was, though OK, a bit disappointing. Since all of your recipes I tried ended up in my cookbook, I gave this one a try and it was AMAZING! Of course I have no reference of significance, but the cake is easy to make, it is at the same time light and moist, sweet and spicy and just fingerlicking good! Today you were thought of from across the big pond while we were eating your heavenly good carrot cake out in the garden on the first sunny day of spring. Beautiful picture right? Thanks again Jen for another perfect recipe!

    - Abi-Janne Boevé on April 9, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is the absolute best carrot cake recipe! My husband doesn’t even like carrot cake but he ate 1/3 of this one in one night! The frosting has a wonderful light/whipped texture and is not too sweet. I think grinding up the carrots in the food processor really gives the cake a nice texture and lots of moisture! Thank you for this amazing recipe.

    - Ashleya on April 9, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Carrot cake with homemade icing is delicious and lovely to serve. Using sheet cake pan, so it’s easy to cut into squares and serves a crowd! Adding this to my Easter Brunch menu, with your fabulous pumpkin bread recipe. Thank you for these wonderful recipes.

    - Donna Wolf on March 16, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Easy, delish. left out the nuts. Family was crazy about it!!

    - SHERRY FERRICK on March 16, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this to try out for Easter and it was fabulous. Left out the nuts, personal preference, but it was still really good. Very moist, nice texture.

    - Trish on March 2, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Carrot Cake is my favourite and this recipe certainly makes me like it even more.
    I made in 9″ tins and sandwiched together but have just replaced my tins with 10″. How would I go about making enough batter for 2 10″

    - Lorraine on February 25, 2017 Reply
    • Glad you like the carrot cake! Are you tins round or square?

      - Jenn on February 26, 2017 Reply
  • Hi Jen
    I would like to make this in a springform pan and add a cream cheese layer , what r your thoughts ? Do u think that would work? Thanks for sharing your expertise.

    - Maria morelli on February 18, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Maria, yes, I think that would work. I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      - Jenn on February 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Carrot cake is my husband’s favorite dessert, so, naturally, when I showed him how beautiful this site is, the first thing he noticed was the carrot cake photo! This recipe is FANTASTIC — moist, light, and beautifully spiced ! Before this cake I’ve made two-layer carrot cakes without raisins, which I generally find too big and distracting. But for this recipe I took a chance on the Zante currants, and I love them! They are perfectly sized and provide, with the walnuts, a nice bit of texture and flavor. I frosted the cake just as it is frosted in the photo. To me the cake’s flavor improved the following day, and it stayed fresh and moist for a week. Delicious for dessert and [guilty smile] breakfast.

    - Marie-Jeanne on February 14, 2017 Reply
  • Can I use raisins since no one sells currants where I live??

    - Tiffany Arceo on February 9, 2017 Reply
    • Sure Tiffany, raisins will work really well.

      - Jenn on February 9, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’m really looking forward to making this. Love your recipes! Sorry to bother you, I just have one question – if I were to make this two days ahead before my party, do you think that’s too much time – would alter the taste and/or dry out?

    - Jen on January 20, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Jen, I think 2 days would be fine, but probably wouldn’t stretch it more than that for the best results. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on January 20, 2017 Reply
  • You mentioned to bake in a heavy 9×13 heavy metal pan. Would it work in a glass pan? Thanks

    - Abbie on December 31, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Abbie, Glass will work, although I’d keep an eye on it and reduce the heat by 25°F if it looks like it’s starting to brown around the edges. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on December 31, 2016 Reply
  • Hi,
    I live in France and I see you’ve spent some time here, so maybe you could help me by giving me an equivalent/substitution name of allspice and ground clove spices over here?
    Thank you!

    - Bianca on December 24, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Bianca, In France, ground cloves are called “girofle en poudre” and allspice is called “quatre-épices.” If you can’t find either of them, go ahead and replace with more cinnamon. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on December 24, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This carrot cake is magnificent! The cake is the perfect density/moisture/taste and the frosting is divine… fluffy, flavorful and not too sweet! I made a 9″ layer cake and had enough frosting to cover the entire cake. As usual, every recipe I try of yours’ gets added to my cookbook. Thank you!

    - Aileen on November 30, 2016 Reply
  • Oh this recipe looks divine Jenn! I want to make 2 9″ rounds instead of the 9″x13″ pan; what modifications do I need to make to baking time and/or temperature?

    Thank you!

    - Aileen Heller on November 19, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Aileen, You don’t need to alter the temperature at all, but the baking time may be a tiny bit longer if at all. Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on November 21, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Jen, this carrot cake was amazing!! I may have blended the dry ingredients and wet ingredients too much, because it came out quite dense. Is that a possibility?
    Although this cake had great reviews with family and friends, could I substitute the currants with pineapple bits? Just a preference for myself.
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful and perfect recipes!!

    - Beatrice on November 6, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Beatrice, glad you liked the cake. It really shouldn’t be dense, but I don’t think over blending it would’ve caused that. Did you really finely chop the carrots in a food processor? (They should be the consistency of couscous.)

      - Jenn on November 7, 2016 Reply
      • 5 stars

        I did. Hmm.. this calls for a re-bake! May I substitute pineapple bits instead of currants? Just a personal preference.

        - Beatrice on November 8, 2016 Reply
        • Oh yes Beatrice, sorry I forgot to answer that! Sure, you can use pineapple bits here; I would just make sure they’re very well drained diced into small pieces.

          - Jenn on November 8, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Thank you for this recipe. Cake was delicious, everybody liked it. I made it for my one year old, so I skipped the nuts. I don’t own a food processor, so instead I used the regular mixer, and it worked fine! I will do it again and again. Tastes better after a few days. Cheers!

    - Dianka on October 10, 2016 Reply
  • My son has a nut allergy. Do you have any recommendations for modifying this? Could you also recommend modifications if I skipped the currants too? My other son might not like them.

    - Helena on October 1, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Helena, you can omit the nuts and currants if you’d like. (If he likes raisins, you could replace the currants them.) Hope everyone enjoys!

      - Jenn on October 2, 2016 Reply
  • Cake looks so moist and delicious, I can’t wait to try it out.
    I am just curious to know if I would be getting the same result by skipping eggs. Would you recommend any other substitute for eggs?

    - Deepa Suresh on August 22, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Deepa, Unfortunately, you can’t omit the eggs in this cake. So sorry!

      - Jenn on August 23, 2016 Reply
  • If I wanted shredded coconut in the cake, where would be good place to put it? On top or actually in the cake?

    - Amy on July 12, 2016 Reply
    • I think that’s a matter of personal preference Amy. I think either would work!

      - Jenn on July 12, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Amazing recipe. Moist and delicious!

    - Sophia Louka on May 29, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this recipe for my mother-in-law. She requested the recipe!! Thank you!!!

    - Donna on May 13, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My daughter always loved the Costco carrot cake but they’ve stopped selling it at least in her area so for Mother’s Day her daughter made your cake. It was a hit with all the carrot cake lovers! Definitely a winner. Next time they will put all the frosting on (I thought 3/4 was just fine) but we were able to use the part they didn’t add when the girls made it into a glaze for cinnamon roll pancakes. We used raisins instead of currants but followed the rest exactly. Super duper!

    - Timaree on May 12, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    The carrot cake was fabulous – very moist with a wonderful mix of spices. Best I have ever tasted
    PS -jenn the metric for cream cheese is incorrect 12 ounces is 340 grams not 240 as stated .

    - Lee Ann on May 11, 2016 Reply
    • So sorry about that, Lee Ann. Thank you for letting me know — it has been corrected!

      - Jenn on May 11, 2016 Reply
  • I did discover one thing. I think your metric conversions are off. I calculate 12 ounces to equal 340 grams not 240. Just to let you know

    - LeeAnn on May 10, 2016 Reply
    • You’re right LeAnn- thanks so much for pointing that out and I apologize for any confusion that may have caused! Please let me know if you see any other errors!

      - Jenn on May 12, 2016 Reply
  • Tomorrow night will be a Jennifer full night as I just made the marinade for the chicken and the dressing for the crunchy Thai salad. But getting to the point – I made this in 2 9 inch cake pans. . What I am worried about is that I had more than enough icing to also ice the sides. What have I done wrong ? Fingers crossed it tastes good, it certainly looks fabulous.

    - Lee Ann on May 10, 2016 Reply
    • No worries, Lee Ann — the recipe makes a lot of icing. Hope your dinner is a success!

      - Jenn on May 10, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this last weekend, followed the recipe exactly, and it was delicious, the best carrot cake I have ever tasted. I use your recipes a lot and have never been disappointed. Thank you so much and I hope your cookbook is a big success, I will definitely be buying one.

    - Ann on April 28, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this cake on the weekend. A lovely moist cake with a delicious frosting. Love that cream cheese frosting!
    This is a recipe I will be making again! 🙂

    - SandraM on April 4, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Amazing…..that’s all I can say! Followed recipe exactly. Everyone loved it!

    - cindy weber on April 3, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn,
    Just wanted to know if this recipe can be turned into cupcakes? If so, what would be the modification (ex: bake time). Thank you in advance for your help!

    - Sandra on April 3, 2016 Reply
    • Sandra, I think that would work, but because the batter for the cake is so liquidy, I would forgo the cupcake liners and instead, grease and flour the cupcake pan (or use non-stick cooking spray with flour). I would start checking them for doneness after about 20 minutes.

      - Jenn on April 4, 2016 Reply
  • OHMIGOD!!! It’s like you’re psychic!! I had carrot cake on the brain just now, pulled up your site and you just happened to have a recipe right there! Since your recipes are always amazing, I will have to give this a try.

    - Sara on March 30, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I tried the Carrot Cake for Easter and it was a BIG hit! Thanks

    - Colleen on March 30, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn,
    I just wanted to tell you that I made this carrot cake this past Easter Sunday and have received 6 formal requests for the receipe!! Everyone loved it! It was absolutely delicious and moist! Thank you so much for all your wonderful recipes.

    BTW: Do you happen to have a lemon cupcake recipe somewhere out there? 🙂
    THANK YOU AGAIN!

    - Sandra on March 29, 2016 Reply
    • Glad everyone enjoyed it, Sandra! I don’t have a lemon cupcake recipe posted but I’ll add it to my list. 🙂

      - Jenn on March 30, 2016 Reply
  • Can crushed pineapple be added to this recipe? Also, what is all purpose flour? Does that flour already have baking powder in it? Australia uses different descriptions.

    - Beverly on March 29, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Beverly, I wouldn’t add crushed pineapple to this recipe — it will make the batter too liquid, and the cake will not have enough structure to rise properly. Sorry! And all purpose flour is just plain flour. It does not already have baking powder or salt in it. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on March 29, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this cake for Easter lunch. It received rave reviews from my guests. The food processor preparation was brilliant. The soaked currants were much better than raisins. I especially loved the combination of spices. It’s an easy cake and tastes rich and elegant. Excellent with a good cup of coffee or tea. Thanks Jen for another showstopper.

    - Julie on March 28, 2016 Reply
  • Can you use canned carrots?

    - Dianna G. on March 28, 2016 Reply
    • I’d stick with fresh, Dianna, as canned carrots might add too much moisture and throw the texture off.

      - Jenn on March 29, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I am eating this as I’m typing this. Amazing!!! So delicious! The cake is full of flavor and the icing is light. Once again, thank you for a delicious recipe that makes me feel like a rock star when I serve it to my family.

    - Tammy Tepper on March 27, 2016 Reply
  • I have made many of your recipes and they are always wonderful; however, I made this carrot cake today and it totally fell in the middle and even around the edges it doesn’t seem to be done (although a toothpick came out clean). I used raisins instead of currants and avocado oil – could the avocado oil be the problem? Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly and I’ve never had a problem with my oven not cooking things properly

    - Terry Crouse on March 26, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Terry, So sorry you had trouble with the cake. I’ve made it dozens of times and never had that issue. I can’t say for sure about the avocado oil, as I’ve never baked it with it, but it sounds like the cake was likely just undercooked.

      - Jenn on March 27, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Just made this!!:)..It was amazing!!..best Carrot Cake I’ve ever made!! Thanks so much!!

    - Mary on March 26, 2016 Reply
  • HI Jenn! can you leave out the currants? And roughly how many carrots is one pound? Thanks Happy Easter

    - Sara on March 25, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Sara, Totally fine to omit the currants (and nuts, if you’d like) and there are about 6-8 medium (or 4 very large) carrots in a pound.

      - Jenn on March 25, 2016 Reply
  • can this be made ahead of time and frozen ?

    - Bohdanna Dackiw on March 25, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Bohdanna, The cake can definitely be made ahead and frozen but not the frosting.

      - Jenn on March 25, 2016 Reply
  • I don’t have a food processor,but I have a Vitamix. Do you think that would work okay for this recipe?

    - Karen on March 24, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Karen, I’m not sure how the Vitamix will do chopping the carrots — you could always just grate them really finely and use the vitamix for mixing the eggs, sugar and oil.

      - Jenn on March 25, 2016 Reply

Add a Review or Question

Hungry for More?

Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter — where I share new recipes and seasonal menus for every occasion.

Your email address will never be used for any other purpose.
Curious? See a sample newsletter.