Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

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. Hi Sally, was a little short on carrots but had Carrot Baby food substituted for lack of carrots and applesauce. Turned out excellent. Thanks for the wonderful recipe

  2. Did you use measuring cups or a scale to measure your ingredients?

  3. I’m going to transport this about 20 miles. Do I need to change anything to make it in a 9 x 13 glass pan? Thank you.

  4. I’m from Philly but now live in Mass. It’s so funny how living in a different area changes the way you cook and eat. I’ve had carrot cake before and was underwhelmed when I’d had some here. After a year of no carrot cake for me I decided to attempt baking my own and boy did this pay off! It literally tasted like home!! I just loved it. My only issue is I’m allergic to cinnamon so I might not have that “warmth” that I hear connamon brings to everything. Is there anything you recommend as a substitute? I sometimes use nutmeg or just omit it from the recipe.

  5. hi sally, could I substitute the applesauce with Greek yoghurt ? 

  6. Hi Sally, I have  made this cake twice and it was a huge hit.  Super moist and everyone loved it.  Someone requested I make the cake without the carrots and nuts to have more of  a ginger/gingersnap taste.  What are your thoughts?  Any recommendations?  I am sold on using oil over butter in cakes with so many flavors going on.  Thanks very much for any advice/insight you can provide.  I truly love every single recipe of yours I have tried (which is MANY!).

  7. Hi Sally, Thank you so much; that looks PERFECT!

  8. Hi! I’m going to be trying your recipe but I’m doing it in a high altitude city (8000 ft). Do you have any advice or changes I should make so that I get a nice moist cake?

  9. Hi sally! Can I make this recipe in two 9×9 pans for a sheet cake? 

  10. Sally I have never left comments because I always make recipes exactly as they are and think there is little to say. Instead this was truly a wonderful carrot cake and I had to say so. LOVE the spices. Have already made it twice for the holidays. Well done! I think the addition of applesauce is fantastic, and the cloves.

  11. Hi Sally,

    I want to make this for a birthday party but have been asked to not put in any nuts. Would it still taste great without the nuts? 

  12. Also, I want to make a two layered but want it to be super moist, should I follow this recipe or your other super moist carrot cake recipe and double up the recipe? 

  13. Made this cake for my husband’s 59th birthday. It looked beautiful and tasted fabulous! Will be making the Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake for my birthday.

  14. I rarely make comments but I made this recipe a couple of days ago, and it was not only delicious, but all the tips were so helpful. I learned how to soften brown sugar and I learned how to make a cake that looks and tastes like a bake shop. I’m so happy to have happened upon this recipe first!

    Thank you!

  15. Amazing recipe. In fact, I find myself looking for your recipes specifically when I want to bake. I used pineapple in place of applesauce and love the flavor. Thank you

  16. I live in Cambodia and can’t get applesauce or canned pineapple…Can I just leave it out or add more oil?

  17. Hey Sally! My mom requested a carrot cake for her birthday. I’m wondering can I leave out any add-ins? We’re not really a coconut/pecan/raisin family. 🙂 Thanks!

  18. Can you sub walnuts for pecans? I think yes but want to be sure before I attempt this masterpiece. Thanks!

  19. Hi Sally! I am planning to bake this cake today, but I don’t have ground cloves, what can you suggest? 

  20. Hi Sally, 

    I have been making carrot cake for years with different recipes, but your recipe is AMAZING!!  Thank you for another fantastic recipe.

  21. Hi Sally, this is the third time making your delicious carrot cake. The first time it came out perfect. The second and third were not so great. They are browning to fast and when I take them out to cool the bottom of the cakes smell burned. What should i do??

    • Hi Sharon– are you changing anything in the recipe from the first time you prepared the cake? I can’t imagine what could be different now. Are you baking in a convection oven? Try lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees. Lower temperature and a slightly longer bake time could help.

  22. Hi Sally!
    What do you think the bake time would be for three 8-inch rounds? Still the 20-24 minutes you recommended for dividing into 3

  23. Hi Sally! I can’t wait to make this recipe for my mom’s birthday, she LOOOOVES carrot cake. But we live in the mountains (~7000 feet)…how would you suggest I alter the recipe for high altitude? Thanks!

  24. Any thoughts on which gluten free flour would be best?


  25. Hi Sally,

    Made a smaller version of this recipe and it was amazingly delicious! I did not add the cloves or the ginger – for I am not a fan of these – and I did use baby carrots and boil them down and then pulsated them with my hand mixer. – but followed everything else! I have a question for you – I am going to make this again but in a larger pan – a 12 x 15 x 3… how many batches of this do you think I’ll need to make? Can I double the recipe and then make several batches to fill up the pan halfway to 3/4 full? Will that work? Any ideas and suggestions would be great. I’ll be making this cake today or tomorrow.

  26. I was hoping to use this recipe for mini cupcakes – what would you recommend for cook time? 

  27. Would freshly steamed, puréed, apples suffice for the unsweetened apple sauce? Many thanks.

    • Yes, that would just be homemade applesauce!

      • Thank you Sally. I’m Irish, living in Ireland, and have never seen an unsweetened apple sauce product here, that’s why I asked. Good to know that it’s just the same as a homemade purée.

  28. Hi Sally,

    instead of a two layer cake, do you think I could make 3/4 the recipe and bake it as one layer?
    Or will it turn out too dense or have difficulty baking all the way through?

  29. Hi Sally,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! Very moist and delicious. I added some ground flax meal (about 1/4 cup) and reduced the flour by the same amount. Also, I replaced half of the vegetable oil with roasted walnut oil. I made the 24 cupcakes for kids (college students) to take bake. I love the addition of the clove powder, ginger powder, nutmeg powder to add some spice. The amounts are just right not overpowering.! They turned out perfect. Also thanks for the measuring tips. 🙂 Excellent recipe

  30. Hi Sally!
    Thank you for the recipe. I made the cake two days ago and it’s absolutely lovely.
    However, something looked wrong about the sugar measurements for the frosting so I halved it and it was still almost too sweet. Are you sure your gram measurements are correct?

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