My Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe.

Simple and moist two-layer carrot cake with pecans and cream cheese frosting.

Sally's Baking Addiction | Simple and moist two-layer carrot cake with pecans and cream cheese frosting!

Apple pie is my favorite dessert. This you already know. Coming in a very, very close second are other classic non-chocolate (I know) desserts like pineapple upside-down cake, oatmeal raisin cookies, key lime pie, and carrot cake. But in reality, they’re all my favorite. I can have, like, 10 favorites right? I know you understand the difficulty choosing a favorite dessert. Fellow bakeaholics, you just get me.

Today’s focus is carrot cake. Or should I say this weekend’s focus was carrot cake. In between a much needed wine tasting girls day (Chaddsford Winery if you’re in the Philly area– go to their wine & fondue tasting!) and a visit to NJ to see my friend’s new baby girl, I spent time in the kitchen perfecting this two layer beauty.

My Favorite Carrot Cake! Sally's Baking Addiction | Simple and moist two-layer carrot cake with pecans and cream cheese frosting.

 I get my love for this cake from my dad. Our birthdays are 1 day apart and every year we have carrot cake instead of traditional birthday cake. Speaking of, I’m going to be 30 in about 2 months…


I can’t process that. Let’s change the subject.

I’ve been making this super-moist carrot cake for years and it wasn’t until this weekend that I decided to turn it into an even taller, even greater two layer phenomenon. Today’s layered carrot cake cake is, you guessed it, just as moist as my original. It’s loaded with that comforting spice flavor we all know and love. It’s soft, yet dense. Tender, yet mighty. Bursting with shredded carrots, toasted pecans, and luscious cream cheese frosting. It’s a total classic and spring isn’t complete without it.

Carrot Cake | Pecans

There are two greats when it comes to carrot cake: (1) Flavor and (2) Moisture. Let me go over each with you so you know what makes this carrot cake my favorite. Time for…

Food Science // Nerd Alert !

My carrot cake is a soft and dense cake whose flavor comes from brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and carrots. Brown sugar is key. I’ve come across a lot of carrot cake recipes that are sweetened with mostly granulated sugar. To me, that doesn’t do much for the cake at all besides sweeten it. Brown sugar not only sweetens the cake– it gives so much flavor and moisture. More bang for your buck, right? Ginger is a recent addition to my carrot cakes. I enjoyed a carrot cake a year or two ago that had a hint of ginger flavor and ever since then, I’ve loved the little ginger “zing!” in my homemade carrot cakes.

I add a little applesauce to enhance the warm flavors of brown sugar and cinnamon. Fresh and flavorful Diamond of California pecans round the whole cake out, making every bite of this sensational classic bursting with not only flavor, but texture as well. Plus, they’re the perfect decor! For a little extra jazz, I recommend toasting them. Yum. Soft cake, toasted pecans, smooooooth cream cheese frosting. Sometimes I add raisins to the cake– I’ll note that in the recipe below. Also in the notes is my suggestion for adding pineapple. I know a lot of you love that.

As far as moisture goes? This cake has a lot of it! I couldn’t eat carrot cake any other way. I prefer to use oil. When preparing cakes without other strong flavors such as yellow cake or vanilla cake, I like to use butter. But for cakes like chocolate and carrot cake that have so much flavor from other ingredients, I find flavorless oil is the right choice when it comes to fat. To prevent the cake from being too moist and tasting oily, I add some applesauce (also for flavor!). And the carrots. So much moisture there! Make sure you are using freshly grated carrots, not the pre-grated carrots from the store. Those are usually very dry in comparison. You’ll need about 4 large carrots for this recipe. And when you grate them, you’ll notice how wet they are. That is PRIME moisture for your baked cake.

My Favorite Carrot Cake! Sally's Baking Addiction | Simple and moist two-layer carrot cake with pecans and cream cheese frosting.

The frosting? Well, that’s easy. It’s the same cream cheese frosting recipe I use for just about everything from red velvet cake to lemon cake. It’s like smooth, silky spreadable cheesecake. And there’s a ton of it on this cake.

One of the BEST parts about carrot cake is that it gets better and better over the hours, even after a day or two. The flavors have a chance to mingle, the moisture prevails, and the cream cheese frosting sets into the layers. This is the kind of moist cake crumb that sticks to the bottom of your fork as you take each bite.

And the slice that you never, ever want to end!

Carrot Cake Recipe from | Simple, moist, packed with flavor!

Wine, fondue, friends, babies, and my favorite carrot cake. Weekends don’t get much better than that right now. Happy spring baking!

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make. 

My Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe

Simple and moist two-layer carrot cake with pecans and cream cheese frosting. Carrot cake's flavors develop after a day or two, making this the perfect make-ahead recipe.



  • 3 cups (390g) Diamond of California chopped pecans or pecan pieces (1 cup for cake, 2 cups for garnish)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (300g) packed light or dark brown sugar (I prefer dark)
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (133g) smooth unsweetened applesauce1
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (312g) all-purpose flour (measured correctly)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups (260g) grated carrots (about 4 large)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces (450g) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature2
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups (480g) confectioners' sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons (30-45ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F (149°C) degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spread the chopped pecans on the sheet and toast for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  2. Turn the oven up to 350°F (177°C). Spray two 9-inch cake pans* with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla together until combined and no brown sugar lumps remain. Set aside. In another large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold the ingredients together until just combined. Then, fold in the carrots and 1 cup of the toasted pecans. The rest of the pecans are used in step 6.
  4. Pour/spoon the batter evenly into the two cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack.
  5. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tablespoons of cream. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1 more Tablespoon cream if needed to thin out. Beat on high for 2 full minutes. Taste the frosting and add a pinch of salt if it is too sweet.
  6. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Decorate the sides of the cake with the remaining toasted pecans. Slice and serve.
  7. Cover extras up tightly and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Unfrosted cake remains fresh covered tightly at room temperature for 3-4 days. Store frosted cake in the refrigerator for up to 7 days and allow to come to room temperature before serving.
  8. Make ahead tip: Prepare cakes and frosting 1 day in advance. Keep cakes at room temperature, covered tightly. Refrigerate prepared frosting in an airtight container until ready to use. Frosted or unfrosted cakes may be frozen up to 2 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature if desired before serving.

Recipe Notes:

  1. Instead of applesauce, use 3/4 cup crushed pineapple.
  2. Use brick-style cream cheese. Not cream cheese spread.
  3. If you'd like to make a 3 layer cake, pour the batter evenly into 3 pans and bake for around 20-24 minutes, give or take.

If you'd like to add raisins or coconut, reduce the pecans (or leave them out) to 1/2 cup. Then, add 1 cup of raisins or shredded coconut. Or you can leave the cake plain without any add-ins. Stick to around 1 - 1.5 cups total add-ins.

Try this recipe as cupcakes! You'll get around 2 dozen cupcakes. 18 minutes bake time at 350°F (177°C).

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

Try my favorite Pineapple Upside-Down Cake next!

My absolute favorite Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe! Super-moist and loaded with flavor.

I’m working with Diamond of California to bring you this recipe.

Simple and moist two-layer carrot cake with pecans and cream cheese frosting! I love this recipe!


  1. Hello!

    Thanks a lot for your recipes, I’ve made your delicious cake once already, this second time without frosting, in respect to storing it, I’ve tried to find your notes with this respect and I just cannot find them, (I recall I saw them before but I just can’t find them haha), I know frosted cakes (w/dairy products) must be stored in the fridge, but I’m not sure if this one okay to be at room temp since it has eggs lets say, I would appreciate a lot your advice, right now it has plastic wrap in the sliced area to avoid loosing moist and in a room where the temp is between 15-20 degrees approx. Thank you so much in advance, 

  2. I made this for Easter too! Everyone loved it! It was so good just like every other recipe of yours that I’ve made! Thanks Sally! You should come to Michigan if you tour again! 

  3. This cake is insanely delicious exactly as written, and the cream cheese frosting is the best I’ve ever had! Definitely a keeper, will be making this again!

  4. I made these as cupcakes as you suggested (425 for 5 minutes and 350 for 18 minutes) and they were absolutely perfect!  The most moist carrot cake I’ve ever had, for sure!  Thanks for another excellent recipe. 🙂

  5. Hi Sally, would I be able to halve this recipe?

  6. Hi there!  Made this cake as shown in 2 9″ rounds. Was fantastic. I’m wondering if I can make it as a half sheet cake? If so, to feed 40 would I do 2 layers of 9×13 or one 12×18? Can I simply double this recipe? 

    • I’d make two batters instead of doubling. Working with less batter at a time reduces the risk of overmixing. And it’s just easier to work with less! Then pour into the 12×18 pan and use any extra for cupcakes. I’m unsure how long the cake will take, but the cupcakes will take about 20 minutes.

  7. What about 6 inch cake? I have 3 pans but im just not sure how much the batter rises. Im assuming id have some left over batter for cupcakes.. just wondering if you have a tip!! 

  8. Hey sally, I’m baking this cake later on but I’d like to use cake flour instead. How can I convert the measurements? Please & thank you so much

  9. Hey Sally!
    Is it possible to bake the layer and freeze it? So i only make the frosting when needed?
    Thx in advance

    • Yep. Cakes can be frozen up to 2 months, with or without frosting. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before frosting/serving.

  10. Hi, Sally! Thank you for sharing this. I was wondering why the 2 cups of carrots is the same despite doubling your “Super Moist Carrot Cake” recipe? 

    • Hi Riviera! This is not a doubled recipe of my single layer cake. The layers in this cake are much thinner and the recipe is maybe about 1.5x the single layer cake. (Though not quite!) I add the same amount of carrots because I added applesauce and more nuts. The batter had enough in it. Same carrot taste though. 🙂

  11. Hi! Thank you so much for sharing! This cake looks fabulous! I’ll make it as soon as possible) 
    But now I need a perfect frosting recipe and yours looks just like this! But which cream cheese did you use? Salty one or something like a mascarpone?? And which one is better to use in the funfetti cake? 

  12. Hi, Is there an alternative to the eggs in the recipe?

  13. Hello! Can you use coconut oil instead for this carrot cake recipe?

    • I’ve never tested with cake with melted coconut oil, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t be alright. Just make sure all of the other wet ingredients (especially the eggs) are room temperature. Not cold.

  14. Hi I don’t have applesauce or any other fruit purée what can I use instead?

  15. Wonderful as cupcakes! I made these cakes for my mom’s birthday and they were a hit. I sprinkled them with some chopped up pecans and they looked like they came from a bakery. I followed the make ahead tips and everything turned out great. Thank you, Sally, this one’s a keeper!

  16. can i use cake flour instead?

  17. I made this cake today. I’ve followed the directions for the frosting exactly. It’s so runny there is no way it will stay on a cake. I’ve added an extra 1.5 cups of icing sugar and it’s fine now but what could I have done wrong?

    • Lisa, do you live outside the US? Because the thickness and density of cream cheese is different. It’s much more solid here, which produces a thicker and sturdier frosting.

  18. Hi Sally, Love your recipes. I am dying to try this Carrot cake, but I need to leave out the nuts (somebody has an allergy), Do I need to replace them with something? Thanks in advance. Lindsey

  19. Made it for Father’s Day (wrong season I know don’t judge). Really good. So much flavor!!! 

  20. Hi Sally.

    Just wanted to say I made this cake for my boss for her 55th birthday today and she loved it. I made two batches (adding the zest of an orange to each) and baked them in slice tins and then pretty much finished them off as you did. I had enough mixture left over to make 12 muffins which will go to work with my daughter tonight (if she doesn’t keep on eating them that is!). Thank you for a wonderful recipe. It was delicious and so easy to make.

  21. I made this last year for my dad’s birthday and one year later making it again for the same reason. He said it was the best he’s ever eaten! Seriously, every recipe of yours I make and share turns out wonderfully and now my friends, family and coworkers think I am a baking god. You’re the best, thanks for sharing!

  22. This is hands down the most delicious carrot cake I’ve ever had!!!! Super moist and just the right amount of spice and sweet…PERFECT! Will definitely be making this again…& again & again lol my new favorite cake

  23. Wow i am really loving this… 🙂

  24. Hi Sally! I’ve made several of your recipes (all excellent results!) and I love the addition of heavy cream to your frostings because when whipped, it adds a beautiful light/fluffy quality with rich flavor. I’m looking to make this cake for my birthday but I love a citrusy cream cheese frosting. I typically add some fresh orange or lemon juice but I’m concerned how that might interact with the cream.  Would zest be better? Thank you!!

    • Sounds delicious. I would simply use the zest. Though a couple teaspoons of the juice won’t be much of an issue. You can always add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract as well.

  25. I’m a huge carrot cake lover so I tried this recipe this weekend and it was a failure. The cake was not moist at all and I followed all of the instructions. The batter was really thick. I can’t accept defeat so I will try making this cake again before I go to the store and buy one.

  26. Hi Sally,

    I once baked a carrot cake and after a few minutes in the oven the cake sank at the centre.
    Have never understood why?But been thinking it could be because of alot of moisture in the grated carrots.Is it true?
    Do I have to squeeze the carrots to get rid of excess moisture?

  27. Do you not provide a ‘PRINT’ button or did I just miss it? I just recently found you and was trying to print out the peach cobbler recipe and ran into the carrot cake recipe which also sounds delicious. Do I just copy and paste – no ‘PRINT’ button?
    I’m looking forward to trying some of your recipes.

  28. Sally – thank you so much! You have saved our office potluck! I was given a recipe by a coworker that honestly, made the worst carrot cake I’ve ever seen. It was oily, dense, and looked like it rose maybe half an inch in the oven.

    I just took your recipe out of the oven and I can already tell how much better it’s going to be. Fluffy, moist, rose like a dream! A million times thank you!

  29. Hey Sally,

    I just wanted you to know that I made this cake for a friend’s party and I have actually received calls from other guest just to tell that it was the best cake they have ever tasted.
    I have been asked to make it again.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe, it was so delicious so moist. I even halved the recipe for a smaller cake too and it was PERFECT.

  30. Hi,I would like to know what
    would be the temperature for 2 8×8 pans and for how long?, thanks

  31. Pretty good, especially with the cream cheese frosting. Better as cake than cupcakes. Our house smelled really good while it was baking!

  32. Sally, I am so glad to have come across your website! Thank you for making such great tasting recipes available. I have already tried some of my favourite cakes and they were devoured in no time! Unfortunately, some family members cannot eat dairy products, have you any cake recipes without these products?

    • Helga, this carrot cake is dairy free if you skip the cream cheese icing!  It uses vegetable oil instead of butter and there’s no milk in the batter.  There are eggs in it, though;  if you have any relatives with egg allergies you may need to check a vegan baking site for dessert ideas.

  33. I have heard that applesauce can be substituted for oil in baking and I’d like to use your recipe for muffins. Also would like to use while wheat flour. Please let me know how to modify it.

  34. I have easily used a thousand recipes from the internet over the last 15 years, and this is the first time that I have been compelled to leave a review/comment.

    This cake is absolutely perfect.
    That said, it also completely failed. I’ll explain. I’m needing to make the 12″ bottom tier of a wedding cake this Friday in carrot cake. I was having a lousy time finding one that works well. Strong but fluffy and will rise in a 12″ round pan. I’ve tried five recipes. Five fails. I attempted this one two nights ago, in the traditional method of carefully using my measuring cups and spoons. It didn’t rise much, it was thick, heavy, and chewy, and a total fail. Again. HOWEVER, I decided to give it another try and use my scale, like I know that I should. And last night, it resulted in the most amazingly perfect, evenly baked, ideally spiced, heaven of a carrot cake. Because I love science and I’m always curious, after I measured out the ingredients in grams, I scooped them into measuring cups to see if they would match, and almost none did. It’s been incredibly humid here in Iowa lately. My flour and sugars were especially off measurement. Measuring the ingredients by weight resulted in the perfect recipe. That digital kitchen scale was the best $10 I’ve spent in my kitchen. This recipe has a permanent home in my collection. And your website is now bookmarked on all of my devices. Thank you so much for not only the great recipe, but also the wonderfully well written and enjoyable site. I’m truly looking forward to wandering through your pages. Cheers.

    • If anyone is curious, I used one full recipe, per layer in a 12″ straight sided round pan, grease/floured and parchment in the bottom. NO heating core, but wet terrycloth heat strips around it. Baked at 335 for ~45 minutes, until digital probe read 209 degrees. I wish I could post a picture, the top was perfectly flat, and it rose beautifully, almost 2 full inches.

  35. Yummy carrot cake… favorite too… 🙂

  36. I absolutely love this cake, i’m actually hoping to convert it into cupcakes for my upcoming bridal shower. Any helpful tips or hints?

  37. Dear Sally! Thank you so much for your wonderful recipe!!!!! The instructions are so clear and easy to follow as well~ I made muffins with frosting and decorated with pistcahio according to your recipe and they simply taste perfect!!!! Everyone loves it! 😀
    You helped me feel more confident and enjoy baking! 

  38. I would like to make a 12 inch layer carrot cake (big crowd!) Would I double the recipe for each layer or just do one and one half?  How long would I bake it? Also, your other recipe -using yogurt- can that be made into a layer cake?  Thanks so much. Can’t wait to try it.

    • I would do 1.5x the recipe for a 12 inch layer cake. I’m unsure about the bake time for this size, but keep your eye on it and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  39. Thank you so much for this recipe! I made it for my wedding on the 8th October and served it as 2 separate squares! Everyone loved it and now I have friends who are asking for me to make it for them!
    My hubby and I didn’t even get to taste it because when we came back the next day from our night away we found that the kids had finished it for breakfast! The icing is to die for, still got some in the fridge and I go and have a teaspoon of it after supper for my pudding!

  40. OMG I ate so many carrot cakes in my life from all over the world but this one! I LOVE IT, BEST OF THE BEST! Amazing taste and so moist. All my friends loved it and told me to bake more of exactly the same! Amazing job! Opening business in future this is gonna be for sure one of the best recipes in my bakery!

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