Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Tested & Perfected Recipes

This classic carrot cake is nicely spiced, ultra-moist, and topped with lavish swirls of cream cheese frosting.

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. This is the carrot cake that won me over. It is perfectly spiced, ultra-moist, and topped with a luscious, not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting.

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.

For more classic cake recipes, check out my Vanilla Birthday Cake, Vanilla Cupcakes, Chocolate Cupcakes, Red Velvet Cupcakes, and the Chocolate Lover’s Birthday cake in my cookbook.

What You’ll Need To Make Carrot Cake

ingredients for carrot cake

How to make Carrot Cake

Begin by soaking the currants in hot water to plump them up, then drain.

draining the soaked currants

Combine the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

dry ingredients in bowl

Whisk to blend.

whisked dry ingredients

Add 1/4 cup of the flour mixture to the drained currants and nuts.

adding flour mixture to currants and nuts

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

currants and nuts tossed with flour

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

carrot pieces in food processor

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 in food processor

Process until smooth.

processed eggs and sugar

With the machine running, slowly pour in the oil.

liquid ingredients ready to blend with dry

Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture.

stirring wet and dry ingredients

Add the carrots, currants and nuts.

adding carrots, currants and nuts to carrot cake batter

The batter will look very orange!

orange carrot cake batter

Transfer the batter to a greased and floured 9×13-in cake pan.

carrot cake batter in prepared pan

Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

baked carrot cake

How to make Cream Cheese frosting

While the cake cools, make the cream cheese frosting. Combine the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth and creamy.

beating butter and cream cheese for carrot cake frosting

Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar.

gradually adding the confectioners sugar to the frosting

Once all of the confectioners’ sugar is added, beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

cream cheese frosting for carrot cake

Use an offset spatula to frost the cake.

frosted carrot cake

Sprinkle nuts on top, if desired, and serve the cake directly from the pan.

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.

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Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This classic carrot cake is nicely spiced, ultra-moist, and topped with lavish swirls of cream cheese frosting.

Servings: 18 to 24
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 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

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9x13-inch heavy-duty metal cake pan, or 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 45 minutes. Let cool on a rack to room temperature.

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. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, mixing on low to combine. Once all of the sugar is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  2. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting over the cooled cake, swirling artistically. Sprinkle the nuts on top of the cake, if using, and serve the cake straight from the pan.
  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.
  4. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cake can be frozen (without the icing) for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, double-wrap it securely with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place it in heavy-duty freezer bag. Thaw on the countertop the night before you plan to eat it. Ice the cake prior to serving.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (24 servings)
  • Calories: 401
  • Fat: 23 g
  • Saturated fat: 6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 46 g
  • Sugar: 35 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 4 g
  • Sodium: 246 mg
  • Cholesterol: 52 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • My husband brought home a huge bag of shredded carrots from his employe. What to do? Carrot cake. I only had raisins. Loved the trick of coating them in flour so they don’t sink in the batter. I used 1/2 cup oil and the the balance apple sauce. I also cut back the granulated sugar to 1/2 cup. The cake was incredibly moist and with the icing we didn’t miss the sugar at all. This is definitely one to make again.

    • — Katrina on November 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    We don’t necessarily love raisins. Do we need to adjust the carrot cake recipe if we omit them?

    Love your recipes…thank you so much, Jenn.

    DW from Atlanta area

    • — DW on November 27, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi DW, it’s fine to omit them with no other modifications. (And so glad you like the recipes!)

      • — Jenn on November 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hello, can I substitute the oil with unsalted butter?

    • — Eugenia Behar on November 27, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yes, as long as you melt it. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 30, 2021
      • Reply
      • Thank you, I really appreciate that you always answer all our questions. You are the best!

        • — Eugenia on November 30, 2021
        • Reply
        • 💗

          • — Jenn on December 1, 2021
          • Reply
  • My daughter has a nut allergy. What can I substitute for nuts? Oats? Or will the cake be fine without the extra texture?

    • — Cheri on November 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Cheri, It’s fine to omit the nuts — enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 3, 2021
      • Reply
  • Can I use olive oil vs. vegetable oil? Or perhaps applesauce? What would be an appropriate substitute?

    • — Jamie L Leighton on October 15, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Jamie, I wouldn’t recommend olive oil here as it has a definitive flavor that I don’t think would work well with the cake. You could use half vegetable oil and half applesauce if you’d like. Please let me know how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on October 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • I’ve been using your recipe for a year or two now and its fantastic. Two questions though.

    I recently purchased a convection oven which seems to dry it out more. I’ve dropped the temp 25′ and cooking time by about a third, so its not overcooked, but does seem to be drier than before. Any thoughts?

    Also, had a request from someone who loves the cake to add a liquor next time, maybe Grand Marnier. Any thoughts on that?

    • — Steve on October 6, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Steve, so glad you like the cake! Regarding your convection oven, you’ve done the right thing by reducing the oven temperature by 25°. I don’t think convection is a great setting to use for baking though. I’m assuming you have a traditional setting as well? If so I would definitely use that for baking. And regarding the Grand Marnier, I think you could get away with adding about 2 tablespoons to the cake batter. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on October 8, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Can I shred the carrots in the food processor with the shredding blade or does it have to processed very fine?

    Thanks

    • — Innaya on September 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Innaya, That’s fine, just keep in mind that the cake will be a bit more dense. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    I made this recipe in to cupcakes today for a party.
    I got exactly 30 cupcakes. I fill the liners 1/4 cup , cooking time 20 minutes.
    I add it 8 onces canned crushed pineapple.
    They were delicious and moist everyone loved it .
    Thanks Jenn for this amazing recipe🥕🥕

    • — Fanny on September 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this with Cup4Cup gluten-free flour (+ 1.5tsp xantham gum) and the whole family loved it. I mean REALLY loved it. By far the best gluten-free cake. I reduced white sugar by 1/4 cup and cut oil to 1 cup, and it was great. Can’t recommend it enough for celiacs. I had a super fine shredder on my box grater that worked perfectly – clearly the fine shreds contribute to the moistest cake ever. My non-gluten-free kids couldn’t tell it was gf. Note – I served icing as a dollop on each piece and 2 kids said it was so good it didn’t even need icing. Thank you!

    • — Jennifer on August 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, question about the frosting. How long would it last in the refrigerator once prepared and could it be frozen? I’d like to bake the batter up as cupcakes – and pace ourselves as we eat through them. Love, love, love your recipes and helpful hints. Can’t wait for your new cookbook!! Thanks from Canada.

    • — Liz on July 19, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, Liz! The frosting should last nicely in the fridge for up to a week. I don’t think it would freeze well though.

      • — Jenn on July 19, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi jenn
    For cupcakes is going to be the same temperature?
    What about cooking time?

    • — Fanny on July 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Fanny, the oven temperature can stay the same; you’ll just need to adjust the baking time. They should take 20 to 25 minutes. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 14, 2021
      • Reply
  • Best tasting carrot cake by far with delicious icing!

    • — Sharita on July 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi. I made this over the weekend…first time I’ve baked it in over a year…and oh my wow…so good. I only had three eggs so decided to use a cup of crushed pineapple to make up for the last egg …and oh my the cake came out so moist, and delicious! I also used a potpourri of nuts and finely chopped them in my food processor with the cream cheese and again turned out amazing! My finicky brother in law could not stop eating the cake or the frosting and announcing how amazing this carrot cake is!

    Thank you for your amazing recipe! Such a godsend to use for left over carrots!

    • — Leticia on June 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • Thank you Jen for another baking success. Made this for work colleagues & they all echoed it was THE BEST CARROT CAKE EVER!!
    I love baking with your recipes but it is an absolute joy to listen to people compliment your recipes.
    Many thanks for all your fantastic baking ideas.

    • — Jacqui on May 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen! Would it affect the recipe if I left out the nuts? Nut allergies in this household.
    Thanks!

    • — Melissa on May 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • No, it’s perfectly fine to leave out the nuts. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 13, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hello 🙂
    I tried out the cake and just took it out of the oven to check it – been in with 180 C for 40 minutes. The cake had risen a lot from the middle looking a bit like a pyramid and it unfortunately failed the toothpick test – it came back gooey.
    Any ideas why it might have risen in the middle and why it could be gooey after so long in the oven?
    Put it back in for 20 minutes and hoping for the best 🙈

    • — P on May 1, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi P, Sorry you had a problem with the timing on this! Did you use a 9×13-inch baking dish? How did the cake come out?

      • — Jenn on May 3, 2021
      • Reply
  • This is delicious and moist. I substituted the following: used Cup4Cup flour(gluten free) and raisin. I reduced the amount of sugar as well. This turned out incredible with all the modifications I made.

    • — Irene M. on April 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • This carrot cake was soooo moist and flavorful, I loved all the spices added! The cream cheese frosting was also delicious. I made this into 2 circle pans and it worked out great!

    • — bridget on April 4, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    Could i use grape seed oil instead of vegetable oil?
    Thanks so much

    • — Melissa Pickard on March 31, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 31, 2021
      • Reply
    • I love this carrot cake recipe we make it every year for Easter
      It’s the best one we have tried over the years and super easy to make
      Super moist and frosting is just right
      Have printed and laminated this recipe as it’s truly the tastiest one we have tried
      Thank you for sharing your great recipes with us all

      • — Sam on March 31, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, My family is not a fan of fruit baked in cakes. Can I omit the currants? Will it dry out the cake if I do?

    Thanks,
    Kelly

    • — Kelly on March 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Kelly, It’s fine to omit the currants — the cake will still be plenty moist. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn¡
    For this recipe how many cupcakes could be?
    I want to make for easter.
    Thanks for this wonderful recipe ❤the best carrot cake¡ 🥕🥕🥕🤗

    • — Fanny on March 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Fanny, Glad you like it! It should make 24 cupcakes. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Do you have an idea of (1) the ease of your recipe made into a round cake and (2) how many times to do the cake for 2 10″ layers?
    Thanks so much for getting back to me (in advance).

    • — Lynn on March 16, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Lynn, I think you’ll need to make 1.5 times the recipe. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on March 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Super moist and delicious carrot cake. We don’t like raisins/currants in any cake, but we love coconut. I added about 1/2-3/4 cup coconut to the batter and the frosting. I used pecans in the cake. Since my husband and I couldn’t possibly eat all this we shared with neighbors. Everyone loved it! Truly delicious!

    • — Deb McLean on February 22, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hello Jenn,

    Can use grapeseed oil as a substitute for the vegetable oil?

    • — joyce on February 9, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 12, 2021
      • Reply
  • I made this cake the other day for my daughter. It was a huge hit! The cake was perfectly moist and well balanced with the cream cheese frosting. This will be my go-to carrot cake recipe from now on!

    • — Tami Arnold on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
    • OMG! Best carrot cake I’ve ever made. We don’t like currants so I left them out. We love coconut so I added a cup of unsweetened coconut to the batter and some to the frosting. We shared with our neighbors (it’s a huge cake!) and also got 5 stars.❤️

      • — Deb McLean on February 20, 2021
      • Reply

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