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Decorative picture of cut carrot cake pieces on a wire rack
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5 from 4 votes

Easy Carrot Cake Recipe

This recipe is easy to make, perfectly spiced, super moist, and topped with the creamiest cream cheese frosting. It's the perfect make-ahead cake, a crowd-pleaser, and perfectly suitable for novice home bakers as well.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: carrot cake, carrot cake recipe, easy carrot cake
Servings: 15 servings
Calories: 613kcal

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups pecans, chopped - divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups oil
  • 1 ¼ cups packed light or dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated carrots

Frosting

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes. Then remove from the oven and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to combine. Set aside.
  • In another large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, brown sugar, sugar, and vanilla to combine. Then add the dry ingredients and whisk just until combined. Add grated carrots and 1 cup (110g) of toasted pecans and fold into the batter. Set aside.
  • Line a 9x13 inch (23x33cm) baking pan with parchment paper with an overhang around the sides. Spray a bit of non-stick spray underneath the paper that it sticks to the pan. Fill the cake batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cover the cake loosely with foil after 20-30 minutes to prevent heavy browning, if necessary. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes. Then lift it out of the pan and transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  • In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, mix the butter on medium-high speed until soft and creamy, for about 2 minutes. Then add the cream cheese and mix until soft, combined, and no lumps remain, for about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until creamy, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Spread the frosting on top of the cooled cake and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup (110g) of toasted pecans. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Video

Notes

Expert tips
  • Don't skip the parchment paper in the pan. It makes sure that your cake comes out easily and beautifully. Since it's a moist and sticky cake, you wouldn't be able to remove the cake from the pan as a whole.
  • Grate the carrots for the cake at home and don't use pre-grated carrots from the store. Pre-grated carrots are too hard and dry, and therefore, the cake wouldn't have the desired texture. 
  • Although you can serve the cake as soon as you assembled it, I recommend making it one day ahead, storing it in the fridge overnight, and serve it the next day. You will be surprised how much better it tastes the next day.

Substitutions
  • Pecans - you can substitute them for walnuts or skip entirely.
  • Flour - use plain all-purpose flour. If you are on a gluten-free diet, substitute gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour. I recommend using a gluten-free blend that contains xanthan gum. Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour works great. Substitute 1:1.
  • Spices - this recipe contains cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. You can substitute these spices for 3 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.
  • Oil - use vegetable or canola oil. You can also use strong-flavored oil such as olive or coconut but keep in mind that it will alter the taste of the cake. If you want to cut down on oil, substitute ½ cup (145g) of apple sauce in place for ½ cup (120ml) of oil.
  • Sugar - to recreate the deep flavor and amazingly moist texture of this carrot cake recipe, I suggest using brown and white sugar, as stated. I used dark brown sugar but light brown sugar works as well. If you go just for brown or white sugar, the texture and taste will be slightly different.
  • Cream cheese - either brick-style or spreadable cream cheese work for the carrot cake frosting. If using brick-style, make sure it's at room temperature and softened. Otherwise, you will end up with lumps in your frosting. Spreadable cream cheese can be used straight out of the fridge.

Variations
  • Try this recipe with pineapple by simply folding 8oz (227g) of chopped pineapple along with the carrots and the pecans into the cake. You can use fresh pineapple and chop it into ½-inch (0.5cm) pieces or use canned, drained pineapple chunks.
  • To make a carrot and banana cake, substitute ⅔ cup (160ml) of oil for ⅔ cup (156g) of mashed bananas. Also, chop 2 large bananas and chop them into ½-inch (0.5cm) pieces and fold together with the carrots and pecans into the batter.
  • Make a two or three-layered cake by baking the cake batter in two 9-inch (23cm) cake pans or three 8-inch (20cm) cake pans. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the pan size, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Don't overbake.
  • You can make a carrot bundt cake by baking the batter in a 10.5-inch (10-12 cups) bundt pan. Grease the bundt pan and bake for 60-70 minutes. Check with a toothpick.
  • To make a cake loaf, divide the recipe in half and bake in a 9x5x3-inch (23x13x8cm) loaf pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • If you want to bake muffins, try my carrot muffins recipe with streusel topping.
  • You could replace or reduce the pecans and add 1 cup (100g) of shredded coconut, or 1 cup (160g) of raisins, or a combination of different add-ins. Don't add more than 1 ½ cup of add-ins in total.

More questions?
Make this recipe perfect every time. So be sure to check the full post above. I included easy step-by-step photo instructions and a video to make it easy for you to replicate this recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 613kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 243mg | Potassium: 268mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 43g | Vitamin A: 4748IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 84mg | Iron: 2mg