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Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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

Classic Carrot Cake with 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 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, Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Cupcakes, Chocolate Cupcakes, Red Velvet Cupcakes..

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: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • ½ cup dried currants
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2¼ cups all purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with knife
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¾ cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1¼ 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
  • ½ 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 ½ 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 ¼ 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

  • I’ve made many of your dessert recipes and they are always delicious, this was no exception!
    My husbands face after the first bite said it all, it’s really good.
    He blurted out, “that is a great sponge”! I KNEW he was secretly paying attention when I watch The Great British Baking Show 😂
    Thank you for another hit!

    • — Cassandra on January 20, 2024
    • Reply
  • Would like to know how many cups are equivalent to 1 pound of carrots?

    • — Rosangela Rosado-Carmona on December 23, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Rosangela, I’d guesstimate it would be about 4 to 5 cups.

      • — Jenn on December 27, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,

    I’ve made many of your recipes and they have all been amazing!! This cake was delicious, even though I left out the currants and pecans/walnuts since my husband is not a fan of either. I was wondering if you had any suggestions to bring the spice flavor of the cake down a little bit?

    • — Anon on December 13, 2023
    • Reply
    • Glad you’ve enjoyed the recipes! You could mellow the flavor here but cutting back just a touch on all the spices.

      • — Jenn on December 15, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen. Every one of your recipes that I have tried has been WONDERFUL! I have a question regarding this recipe … is it possible to replace some or all of the oil with applesauce? Thank you 🙂

    • — Diana on November 18, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, Diana! I think you can get away with replacing half of the oil with applesauce, but wouldn’t use any more than that, or I’d be concerned the cake would be too dense. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • Easy to assemble! Great flavour,! This cake is a keeper!

    • — Catherine V. on November 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • Our first ever attempt at carrot cake and the results are amazing.Wouldn’t change a thing except maybe purchase a 9×13 metal cake pan instead of using glass.Makes more than enough for the two of us so going make some friends.Really appreciate the tested recipes particularly when it comes to baking where accurate measurements are required for success.Thanks for another great recipe Jenn.

    • — lowandslow on October 19, 2023
    • Reply
  • Love this cake!

    • — Nataliya on October 15, 2023
    • Reply
  • Haven’t tasted it yet, but not sure what I did wrong. The cake batter didn’t rise much and my frosting is a bit runny. I measured to the letter using the metric conversions. Any ideas?

    • — Tonya on September 24, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Tonya, sorry that you had a problem with the cake! Regarding it not rising very much, did you use a 9 x 13“ pan? Was your baking soda very old or expired? And regarding the frosting, you can thicken it up by adding a bit more confectioners’ sugar.

      • — Jenn on September 25, 2023
      • Reply
  • Love all of your recipes. Question on the carrot cake – is it better to have a metal pan vs a glass pan? And second, if I decide to make a layer cake do I need to flour the pan prior to filling it so I can remove the cake easily?

    • — Ann Luree DORAZIO on September 13, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Ann, Yes metal cake pans are definitely preferable to glass, and it’s also a good idea to flour the round pans. Hope that helps and so glad you enjoy the recipes!

      • — Jenn on September 13, 2023
      • Reply
  • Just made the Classic carrot cake into muffins, it is delicious. We left it in the oven for 30 minutes. My whole family wants us to make more 🙂

    • — Diane on August 7, 2023
    • Reply
  • If I use the round pans for a layer cake, how long do those bake, and still at the same temp as the sheet? Thanks!

    • — Sara on July 14, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Sara, I’d use two 9-inch round cake pans. The oven temp should remain the same. I’d guesstimate they should take 30 to 35 minutes, but keep an eye on them. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 14, 2023
      • Reply
  • I made this and everyone loved it. I also realized afterward that I inadvertently omitted the 1 1/2 cups of white sugar and it was fine. (I think most desserts are too sweet anyhow.) I would also reduce the sugar from 3 to 2 cup in the frosting next time

    • — Reid J. Thaler on May 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • Thank You, Jenn!

    Stefanie

    • — Stefanie on April 20, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn-
    Which food processor do you recommend? My daughter has a small apartment but I wanted to get her a good food processor that is worth the storage space. The reviews on the smaller models seem mixed. I have a standard sized Cuisinart which I love, but I’m debating the size and quality/productivity needed for this and other recipes.

    • — Stefanie on April 19, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Stefanie, I highly recommend this one from Cuisinart. It has a 14-cup capacity, which I think is ideal, but you could get away with an 11-cup bowl if need be (I wouldn’t go any smaller). Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on April 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • I tested this cake, as well as 3 others, back to back. This is a very good carrot cake, but it wasn’t the favourite. It’s moist, but not as light as the cake that came in first, and the flavour wasn’t as good. The crumb is nice and even and the cake slices cleanly. I used 8″ round pans which yielded deep layers that were level after cooling and didn’t require trimming before assembling the cake.

    • — Sadie on April 11, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made this for Easter as a 9-inch layer cake, and it was wildly popular. Everyone thought it was less oily than a typical carrot cake (good thing!) and that the icing was light and fluffy. I had to bake the cake 2 days in advance and frost it the day of serving, and that worked brilliantly. The cake was still incredibly moist.

    • — Laura on April 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • I make your recipe for carrot cake for my sister’s birthday every year! It’s her absolute favorite. Could I make this as cupcakes instead?

    • — Kate on April 5, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad your sister likes it! Yes, you can definitely make these into cupcakes.

      • — Jenn on April 5, 2023
      • Reply
  • It looks like a great recipe. I especially like the cream cheese frosting.

    • — Alan on April 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • My son requested carrot cake for his birthday with no nuts or currants. I’m sure yours will be excellent based on the glowing reviews. There are only 4 of us; what size pan do you recommend for making HALF the recipe? Also, how long do you recommend cooling in the pan? I want to frost entire cake. Thanks so much for answering questions! Your recipes are always delicious.

    • — Rebecca on April 4, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Rebecca, if you’d like to halve the cake, I’d bake it in an 8 x 8-inch pan. The bake time may be slightly different so keep a close eye on it. And I’d let the cake cool to room temperature before frosting it. Hope that helps, and that your son enjoys!

      • — Jenn on April 4, 2023
      • Reply
  • I can’t wait to try this! Would leaving out the currents and nuts change any of the recipe? Several family members don’t like either. Thank you!

    • — Samantha on April 1, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Samantha, you can omit both the currants and nuts without any other modifications. Hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on April 3, 2023
      • Reply
      • Jenn my leadership class is having a happy hour style graduation party. Will the 9×13 cake serve 20 people? There will also be cookies served. How large would the pieces be for 20 people?
        Barbara

        • — Barbara Barnholtz on April 22, 2023
        • Reply
        • Yes, the cake will serve between 18 & 24 depending on how you cut the cake.

          • — Jenn on April 23, 2023
          • Reply
  • Carrot cake is my husband’s favorite and this recipe didn’t disappoint.
    Any tips for baking this at high altitude?
    Love your recipes!

    • — Meghan Z. on March 10, 2023
    • Reply
    • Meghan, Glad it was a hit! I don’t have experience baking at high altitudes so, unfortunately, I don’t have any wisdom to share – I’m sorry! You may find these tips helpful though.

      • — Jenn on March 13, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I love all the recipes of yours I’ve tried so far! I want to make this carrot cake but do not like currents or raisins. Can I just leave them out?
    Thank you,
    Sally

    • — Sally on March 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! Yes, it’s fine to leave currants/raisins out. Enjoy the cake. 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 2, 2023
      • Reply
  • One of my favorite recipes! I made cupcakes and tried one set with a cupcake liner and one set without- I prefer the cupcake liner. They were cleaner and much more presentable vs the oil/flour method. No issues with baking all the way through.

    Thank you!

    • — Jamie, OH on February 10, 2023
    • Reply

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