Classic Carrot Cake

a slice of classic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

When you find the perfect carrot cake recipe hold onto it for dear life. If it’s moist and delicious, with just the right amount of spice, and it’s paved with a thick tangy cream cheese frosting, make copies of the recipe and lock them up. You’ll never want to be without this classic spring dessert.

Removing a slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Good news: I’ve found the perfect carrot cake

I’ve done all the work for you, just grab a fork and dig in. (Ok, you have to bake it first, but it’s a one bowl breeze!)

  • it’s got the classic carrot cake essentials, with no unnecessary frills, aka coconut and raisins (although add them in if you must.)
  • we’ll make it in one bowl.
  • it bakes in a homey 2 layers, not three (I know you don’t have that third cake pan.)
  • it turns out moist, with a rich satisfying color and the perfect texture.
  • the best cream cheese frosting that can be made with cold cream cheese ~ whaaaat? Yup. It takes all of 2 minutes to make.


a slice of carrot cake, with cream cheese frosting

ingredients to pick up at the grocery store

  • carrots ~ you’ll want to grate them fresh, don’t buy them pre shredded.
  • pecans ~ you can substitute walnuts.
  • cream cheese ~ brick style, not whipped.

toasted pecans

from the pantry staples

  • eggs
  • sugar
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • vegetable oil
  • flour
  • baking soda and salt
  • cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves (if you don’t stock nutmeg and cloves, you’re missing out on some great flavor.)
  • butter
  • vanilla extract

folding in nuts and shredded carrots to cake batter

The one bowl carrot cake method ~ it’s so easy!

Carrot cake used to be a all afternoon affair, but not anymore.

  1. Whisk the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and spices in a (big) bowl.
  2. Whisk in the baking soda, then fold in the flour.
  3. Fold in the carrots and nuts.

Carrot cake batter, ready to bake

the secret to my 2 minute cream cheese frosting

I think the magic of carrot cake lies in the unbeatable combo of the spiced cake with the tangy cream cheese frosting. It’s the perfect storm of flavors and textures. In my humble opinion, the perfect cream cheese frosting should be tangy, and firm, not soft and fluffy. Personally I like it best chilled, straight from the refrigerator.

the secret: I make my frosting by throwing all the ingredients into my food processor and processing until smooth and creamy. You might need to scrape down the machine once or twice, but it will only take a minute or two of processing. You’ll have smooth, lump free frosting, even when you start with cold ingredients.

cream cheese frosting in a bowl

this is the carrot cake of your dreams ~ pinky swear

We all have a memory of the perfect carrot cake. It doesn’t contain apricots, like Costco’s 4 pound monster, it’s not Martha’s towering 3 tiered version, Alton’s unsatisfying single layer or Ina’s pineapple and raisin stuffed cake. Claire Saffitz makes hers with fresh ginger and browned butter. Uh uh, not us. But that’s ok, this one is even better! This cake is pure yum without any extra bells and whistles to detract from that iconic memory.

We dispense with the piped orange carrots and the crust of crushed nuts in favor of a clean cream cheese frosting canvas. It won’t look like you bought it from a bakery, (or Costco) but it will look like you made it, from scratch. And that’s the whole point.

Removing a slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

how to make carrot cake ahead

Carrot cake is ideal for making ahead because the layers are so moist. Simply let them cool completely after baking, then wrap each layer in plastic wrap, then in foil. It can be left on the counter or in the fridge for a day or two. Add the frosting after thawing the cake.

Note: the nuts can be toasted ahead, and the carrots can be grated ahead, just keep the carrots in an airtight zip lock bag in the fridge.

how to freeze carrot cake

Wrap the cooled layers as above, and freeze for up to 6 months. Add the frosting after thawing the cake.

how to reduce the calories in carrot cake

Sorry, but the only way to reduce the calories in this cake is to cut a smaller slice. The oil, sugar, cream cheese and butter are all pretty much essential to the experience.

how to make carrot cake gluten free

Check out my gluten free carrot cake recipe.

how to store this cake

Because of the cream cheese frosting this cake is best stored in the refrigerator. If you prefer your cake at room temperature, take it out of the fridge an hour before serving.

a slice of classic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
5 from 19 votes

Carrot Cake

The perfect carrot cake with just the right amount of spice, and a thick layer of cream cheese frosting ~ hold on to this recipe!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield 16 servings
Calories 696kcal
Author Sue Moran


for the cake

  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (355 ml)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (420 grams)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (250 grams)
  • 3 cups grated carrot (300 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped (190 grams)

for the cream cheese frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese (226 grams)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (85 grams)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar (525 grams)


For the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350F and butter two 8-inch round cake pans, and place a circle of parchment paper at the bottom of each pan.
    prepped pans for carrot cake
  • Spread the pecans out on an ungreased baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Let cool before chopping.
    toasted pecans
  • Peel and grate the carrots. I like to do this with the shredding disk in my food processor.
    grated carrots in a food processor
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract.
    whisking wet ingredients for carrot cake
  • Whisk in the spices. Next, whisk in the salt and the baking soda, making sure to get it well incorporated.
    adding spices to carrot cake batter
  • Add the flour, and fold it in gently.
    folding flour into carrot cake batter
  • Blend the batter just until there are no dry pockets of flour left, but don't over mix the batter.
    carrot cake batter in a bowl
  • Finally, fold in the shredded carrots and toasted pecans.
    folding in nuts and shredded carrots to cake batter
  • Take care to get all the chunky bits evenly incorporated. The batter will be thick.
    Carrot cake batter, ready to bake
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans, and bake for about 35-40 minutes until risen and the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Allow them to cool fully at room temperature before frosting.
    carrot cake batter, divided between two cake pans

For the frosting

  • Add the cream cheese, butter, and salt, and vanilla to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse/process until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Note: you can see I added the cream cheese in one piece, but I recommend breaking it up to make the blending easier and quicker.
    ingredients for cream cheese frosting in a food processor
  • Add the powdered sugar, about 2 cups at a time, processing between each addition until smooth.
  • Once the cake layers are fully cooled, frost with the cream cheese frosting and store any leftovers in the fridge.


Calories: 696kcal | Carbohydrates: 79g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 26g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 399mg | Potassium: 176mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 64g | Vitamin A: 4532IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.


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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Jane from Niagara Falls
    July 22, 2021 at 12:32 pm

    5 stars
    Hi Sue…love your recipes and have told many friends and family about your website. I would love to print this recipe however there are way too many pictures. Anyway to print without them?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      July 22, 2021 at 12:42 pm

      Yes, there’s a button at the top of the print page, it allows you to choose to print with or without pics. Let me know if you don’t see that.

  • Reply
    April 7, 2021 at 2:18 pm

    5 stars
    This is the ultimate carrot cake recipe! Made this for Easter and received raves about it. Perfect

  • Reply
    April 5, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    5 stars
    I just made this yesterday for my family’s Easter dinner. It was PERFECTION and will now be my default, go-to, class carrot cake recipe! Since we’re doing things on a smaller scale these days, we only needed a small amount of cake, so I halved the recipe to make just a single-layer 8-inch cake; it worked perfectly. I also added about 1/3 cup raisins as I do prefer some frills in my carrot cake (winky face). And your food processor frosting method was genius; smooth, silky frosting with no air bubbles!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 5, 2021 at 3:18 pm

      I’m so glad you loved this Megan, it’s definitely our go to carrot cake as well. It’s good to know it can be halved successfully, thanks!

  • Reply
    Yvonne Hodge
    March 27, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    I can’t wait 2 try this recipe ! It looks good !
    Can u tell me how I would use this recipe 2 make
    cupcakes ? Thanks

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      March 27, 2021 at 6:03 pm

      You can just scoop the batter into a cupcake pan, lined with paper wrappers. Depending on size they might take 20 minutes or so to cook.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2021 at 10:08 am

    Wondering if I can substitute regular flour for 1:1 GF flour in this recipe with a decent result? Looked at your GF carrot cake recipe and I’d rather try this one:)

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      March 27, 2021 at 10:27 am

      I haven’t tried, Kim, but GF baking mixes are getting pretty good these days, so I think it’s worth trying.

  • Reply
    Linda Landers-Davis
    March 25, 2021 at 12:07 pm

    5 stars
    Hello from Ocala, Florida. Your recipes are exciting. I can’t wait to try them!

  • Reply
    March 24, 2021 at 10:59 pm

    Hello from Canada. I am vegetarian what can I substitute eggs with? I love pastas, salads,n veggies grilled n sauted. Mexican, Italian food, Chinese n Indian Soups n light low cal desserts.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      March 25, 2021 at 5:42 am

      You might try one of the egg replacements made by Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur Flour, they should be good for baking recipes.

  • Reply
    Mike Blair
    March 24, 2021 at 7:28 pm

    What…no buttermilk,no pineapple.and sometimes raisins….no good !

  • Reply
    March 24, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    This looks delicious! Perfect for Easter dinner.

  • Reply
    March 24, 2021 at 8:31 am

    Can I use butter for the cake recipe? If so how much? What will be the difference of the cake using oil vs butter? Wishing you a fantastic day!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      March 24, 2021 at 9:03 am

      I haven’t tried this, but generally you can substitute melted butter, slightly cooled, for oil in cakes. In this case there is a lot of oil, and butter contains a percentage of water (where oil does not) so I’m not exactly sure about how it will affect the texture of the cake. If you try it, let us know.

  • Reply
    March 24, 2021 at 8:17 am

    I like that this recipe is a good, basic carrot cake. Adding too much to it just seems unnecessary, when it is perfect as is. Question: Could this be done in a 9×13 pan, or is it too much batter? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      March 24, 2021 at 8:31 am

      Thanks Carol, you get what I’m going for! And yes, it could be made in a 9×13. I’m not sure about cooking time, but check at 40 minutes and go from there.

      • Reply
        March 27, 2021 at 2:33 pm

        Sue, can this be made into carrot cake muffins?

        • Reply
          Sue Moran
          March 27, 2021 at 6:06 pm

          Yes, for sure. The cooking time might be a little longer than regular cupcakes because of the loaded batter, so check at about 18-20 minutes.

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