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 sallysbakingaddiction.com | 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

Yield: serves 12

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours (includes cooling)

Print 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.

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 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

Directions:

  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.

Additional 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).

© 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!
   

282 Responses to “My Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe.”

  1. #
    161
    Adrianposted March 31, 2016 at 7:37 am

    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, 

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on March 31st, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      Unfrosted, this cake is fine at room temperature for a couple stays. Keep it covered tightly.

      Reply

  2. #
    162
    Nickiposted March 31, 2016 at 9:18 am

    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! 

    Reply

  3. #
    163
    Toniposted April 1, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    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!

    Reply

  4. #
    164
    Amyposted April 2, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    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. 🙂

    Reply

  5. #
    165
    Shikha Sashiposted April 7, 2016 at 1:36 am

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

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on April 7th, 2016 at 11:48 am

      Yep, it can be halved for a single layer if you’d like.

      Reply

  6. #
    166
    Shelley Rposted April 12, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    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? 
    Thanks! 

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on April 13th, 2016 at 9:54 am

      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.

      Reply

  7. #
    167
    kellyposted April 13, 2016 at 9:43 am

    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!! 

    Reply

  8. #
    168
    stephanyposted April 25, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    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

    Reply

  9. #
    169
    Cakeloverposted April 28, 2016 at 12:50 pm

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

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on April 28th, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      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.

      Reply

  10. #
    170
    Riviera Dresdenposted May 1, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    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? 

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on May 3rd, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      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. 🙂

      Reply

  11. #
    171
    Polinaposted May 8, 2016 at 12:33 am

    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? 

    Reply

  12. #
    172
    Leelaposted May 12, 2016 at 8:16 pm

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

    Reply

  13. #
    173
    Hannahposted May 14, 2016 at 2:10 pm

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

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on May 15th, 2016 at 7:18 am

      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.

      Reply

  14. #
    174
    Donnaposted May 29, 2016 at 4:46 am

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

    Reply

  15. #
    175
    Pamposted June 3, 2016 at 9:23 am

    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!

    Reply

  16. #
    176
    sofiaposted June 8, 2016 at 6:38 am

    can i use cake flour instead?

    Reply

  17. #
    177
    Lisa Lposted June 11, 2016 at 12:24 am

    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?

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on June 11th, 2016 at 9:00 am

      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.

      Reply

      • Lisa Lreplied on June 11th, 2016 at 11:44 am

        Canada, eh? We went over the border yesterday….I should have scooped some!

  18. #
    178
    Lindseyposted June 14, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    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

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on June 15th, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      You can simply leave them out 🙂

      Reply

  19. #
    179
    Liz Felderposted June 19, 2016 at 9:37 pm

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

    Reply

  20. #
    180
    Judyposted June 20, 2016 at 12:44 am

    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.

    Reply

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