Carrot Cake Loaf (Quick Bread)

Adapted from carrot cake and pumpkin bread, this supremely moist carrot cake loaf is even more wildly delicious than it looks. It’s dense, yet ultra soft and flavored with brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Serve plain or spruce it up with walnuts, raisins, pecans, and/or top with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. No matter how you serve it, this quick bread will become a staple in your kitchen. 1 loaf disappears FAST!

carrot cake bread with cream cheese frosting

Unless you keep oodles of baking ingredients on hand, you may be having a hard time finding canned pumpkin right now. And if you’re craving fall flavors– and don’t want to make homemade pumpkin puree– why not turn to pumpkin’s equally spiced and readily available cousin? This is carrot cake turned into a carrot cake loaf and you have total control over its sweetness and dessertyness.

Why yes, dessertyness is a new word we’ll explore today.


Is it Cake? Is it Bread?

Both.

As pictured, this carrot cake loaf is basically carrot cake in a loaf pan. If you skip the frosting and reduce the sugar, you have a lightly sweetened carrot quick bread. I tested this batter with all different amounts of brown sugar. 1 cup (200g) of packed brown sugar produced a sweet cake-like loaf. 3/4 cup or 2/3 cup produced a lightly sweetened loaf. Any less than that produced a bland loaf. Feel free to use anywhere between 2/3 – 1 cup depending on the flavor and level of dessertyness (ha!) that you want.

Also, feel free to substitute the brown sugar with white granulated sugar or coconut sugar. But keep in mind the loaf won’t be as tender and moist.

slices of carrot cake loaf

This Carrot Cake Loaf Is:

  • Wonderfully spiced and flavorful
  • Stick-to-the-back-of-your-fork moist
  • Sweetened with brown sugar
  • Easy to make– from mixing bowl to oven in minutes
  • Excellent plain or with cinnamon cream cheese on top

Most of its flavor comes from cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, brown sugar, and carrots. Ginger adds a tasty zing, but isn’t overpowering at all. Like my favorite apple cinnamon bread and banana bread, the crumb is dense but still super soft.

Plus, you can create plenty of variations from this recipe. Leave it plain or add raisins, chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, etc. Turn the loaf into carrot cake muffins or even add a cinnamon swirl & topping like we do with this cinnamon swirl quick bread. The streusel topping from orange cranberry bread would taste awesome on this loaf too. I always appreciate basic & multipurpose recipes like this!


Overview: How to Make Carrot Cake Loaf

You need 2 mixing bowls: 1 for the dry ingredients including flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices and another mixing bowl for the wet ingredients including oil, brown sugar, applesauce/yogurt (either work), eggs, vanilla, and carrots. Combine everything together and pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake time is about 1 hour, give or take.

shredded carrots on wood cutting board

Success Tip: When baking with carrots, my #1 tip is to shred whole carrots at home. Do not use packaged pre-shredded carrots because they are hard and dry. When you shred them, you’ll notice how wet they are– that’s essential moisture for your carrot loaf!

carrot bread batter

cinnamon cream cheese frosting

Optional Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

I LIVE FOR toppings on my baked goods. Cinnamon swirl? Totally. Streusel? Yes, please. Glaze? Absolutely.

Keeping this in mind, trust me when I say that this bread tastes phenomenal without an accessory on top. But if cream cheese frosting fits, we’re definitely wearing it. You need block cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Add a little vanilla and cinnamon and you have a whole new level of flavor to complement your spiced carrot loaf.

You will not regret this.

carrot cake quick bread

carrot cake slice

Recipes with Carrots

Carrots are an underrated baking ingredient. They add natural sweetness, extra moisture, and taste wonderful with fall’s favorite spices. Why not bake with carrots more often?! Here’s a list of my favorite recipes using carrots.

  1. Carrot Cake: This is the golden standard for carrot cakes. It’s equally spiced, moist, and soft as today’s quick bread.
  2. Super Moist Carrot Cake: This is my go-to simple one layer carrot cake. It tastes a little denser than today’s carrot cake loaf.
  3. Pineapple Carrot Cake: This cake includes pineapple, a flavorful pairing with carrot. It’s slightly denser than today’s carrot cake loaf.
  4. Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes: These cupcakes include shredded coconut and coconut extract. They taste cakier than today’s quick bread.
  5. Harvest Spice Bread: Equally dense, yet soft. This bread is sort of like carrot cake, pumpkin bread, and apple bread all in one. One of my favorites!
  6. Cheesecake Swirl Carrot Bundt Cake: This big bundt cake is denser than today’s recipe. Fresh orange zest adds a pop of flavor and that cream cheese swirl is out of this world.

Here are all of my recipes with carrots.

Print
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slices of carrot cake loaf

Carrot Cake Loaf (Quick Bread)

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 4 hours (includes cooling)
  • Yield: 1 loaf
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This carrot cake loaf is dense, yet ultra soft and flavored with brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Serve plain or spruce it up with walnuts, raisins, pecans, and/or top with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.


Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (188gall-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil, canola oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar* (see note)
  • 1/3 cup (80g) unsweetened applesauce or yogurt, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (200g) peeled and shredded carrots* (about 3 large carrots)
  • optional add-in: 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, raisins, or dried cranberries

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (Optional)

  • 4 ounces (114g) block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons (30gunsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. See notes for muffins or mini loaves.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, brown sugar, applesauce, vanilla, and carrots together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently whisk until *just* combined. Fold in the nuts/add-in. Batter will be semi-thick.
  3. Spread the batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55 – 65 minutes. (I like to loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil halfway through to prevent heavy browning on top.) Baking times vary so keep an eye on yours. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out *mostly* clean with zero raw batter. Remove the bread from the oven.
  4. Cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack before removing and frosting.
  5. Optional Frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese in a medium bowl on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy. Beat in the butter until combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt (I usually add a little less than 1/8 teaspoon), then beat on low speed until smooth and creamy. Taste. Add more cinnamon and/or salt if desired. Frost cooled bread, slice, and serve.
  6. Storing without frosting: Cover and store leftover bread at room temperature for up to 3-4 days or in the refrigerator for up to about 10 days. Storing with frosting: Cover and store leftover bread in the refrigerator for up to about 1 week.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: Loaf freezes best without frosting. Freeze baked & cooled loaf for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. If desired, bring to room temperature and frost before serving. To learn more details about how to freeze quick breads, see my post called Make-Ahead Baking.
  2. Brown Sugar: I tested this batter with different amounts of brown sugar. 1 cup (200g) of packed brown sugar produced a sweet cake-like loaf. 3/4 cup or 2/3 cup produced a lightly sweetened loaf. Any less than that produced a bland loaf. Feel free to use anywhere between 2/3 – 1 cup depending on the flavor you want. You can substitute with white granulated sugar or coconut sugar, though the loaf won’t be as moist or flavorful. I don’t recommend liquid sweeteners.
  3. Applesauce/Yogurt: You can use either. If you don’t have either, use the same amount of mashed banana, crushed pineapple, or sour cream.
  4. Carrot: Don’t use pre-shredded carrots found in the produce aisle. They’re on the dry side. Rather, freshly grate 3 large carrots to yield approximately 1 and 1/2 cups of moist carrot shreds. Instead of carrots, you can use shredded apple or even shredded zucchini.
  5. Muffins: Prepare this batter as directed in step 2 and follow the baking instructions for morning glory muffins (steps 1 and 3). Makes about 14 muffins.
  6. Mini Loaves: Grease a mini loaf pan. Prepare batter as directed in step 2. Spoon batter evenly into greased cups, filling to the top. Bake at 350°F (177°C). Bake time and yield depend on the size of your mini loaf pan.

160 Comments

  1. This recipe looks amazing! Can I use whole wheat flour to make it healthier?
    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Meg! You can, but the bread will taste a little heavier.

    2. I find whole wheat creates a denser, heartier muffin/bread etc. (not light and fluffy like regular cake) with a noticeable bran flavour if you haven’t got strong flavours like chocolate, spices to mask it. Personally I love WW for those properties, and I think you can get away with it in carrot cake which is moister to start with. But I agree 50/50 flour or white whole wheat or sieve whole wheat flour of it’s bran (what I have to do where choice is limites) or I assume whole wheat pastry flour is your best sub for plain flour in terms of no one will notice the difference 🙂

  2. I”m a little confused as to how to bake mini loaves? It says to fill it up to the top of the cups? How many mini loaves will this make? Thanks! 🙂

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Colleen, There is a huge variety of sizes of mini loaf pans. Bake time and yield will depend on the size of your mini loaf pan.

  3. Would I the possible to leave out the carrots? And just do pumpkin purée instead?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      I suggest following the recipe for Pumpkin Bread instead.

  4. I don’t have cream cheese on hand for the frosting. I know you said it tastes great without; but do you recommend any other glaze/topping that would pair well with this?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Colleen, How about drizzling vanilla icing over the top?

  5. Hi Sally… do you think I could add 1/2 cup pumpkin puree. I have a little leftover from another recipe. Love your recipe.
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Dee! You can use 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree to replace the applesauce.

  6. Can I leave out the ginger or make a substitution? Pumpkin pie spice?

    1. You can use pumpkin pie spice instead or replace with cinnamon. (Pumpkin pie spice does contain ginger, though, if you are trying to avoid that flavor!)

  7. Made this today and was going to share it but it’s too good so I will have to make another 🙂
    So moist and the flavor divine. I copied the recipe exactly

  8. Sally
    This looks so so good! In the frosting recipe could mascarpone cheese be used rather than cream chesse?? with all the same meausrements?
    thank you!
    Michele

    1. Absolutely! All the same ingredients– just a 1:1 swap for mascarpone.

  9. Hi Sally! I love this recipe idea, though I don’t have nutmeg, is there a substitute for that, or should I just leave it out?

    1. Hi Claire! Feel free to skip the nutmeg or replace with more ground ginger or cinnamon.

    2. I find allspice or all spice (a spice in it’s own right despite the name) works as a sub for nutmeg imo. It has a similar flavour to cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (but milder than cloves) 🙂

  10. That carrot cake is fantastic. My mom who normally just takes a bite ate the whole slice. My siblings loved it too. This is really a great no fantastic recipe thank you!!!! Definitely needs to made again and again. Another 5 star recipe from Sally’s baking addiction.

  11. I subbed homemade apple butter for apple sauce and it was delicious. The cinnamon cream cheese is a must as well!

  12. I made this recipe this morning and it is so good! I didn’t change anything except I only needed two large carrots to get 1 1/2 Cups. Also, the cake was done in 50 minutes. It’s perfectly moist and delicious! I also love the icing, which is certainly not optional in my book! Thanks for another great recipe, Sally.

  13. This carrot cake loaf was delicious! So simple to make and the cinnamon cream cheese frosting complemented the loaf perfectly. For anyone wondering – I excluded the optional add-ins and divided the recipe evenly into three Wilton mini loaf pans (5.75″ X 3″ X 2.13″). They took about 35 minutes to bake in my oven at 350F. Thanks for another great recipe, Sally!

  14. Sally, this was great! My mom gives it 5 stars and my dad thought it was great and he doesn’t even like carrot cake (so he says)! The cinnamon cream cheese frosting takes it to the next level and the “hardest” part of the prep was grating the carrots. I’ve got that covered for these kinds of results!! Thank you for the loaf surprise.

  15. I made this loaf yesteday and it turned ou perfectly delicious! I used crushed pineapple in place of yogurt because it was available. Thanks SBA!

  16. I made this Thursday and my home smelled so good! I used my mini loaf pans and it made 3 loaves. They are 3in X 5in and I filled them all equally. My little local store doesn’t carry walnuts or pecans, so I made it without. I also used applesauce as I have a limited supply of pumpkin. I serve them Friday to a friend who came over for tea and she loved it! She took one of the loaves home to her husband…and my husband ate the other one!

  17. Made this today, turned out great. My husband is diabetic so I used Splenda and it was great. Also used unsweetened applesauce. Love your Webpage.

  18. Hi Sally. I’m new to your site and I think it’s great. I’ve already made tour cinnamon swirl coffee cake. If I want to make the carrot cake above and substitute canned pumpkin which I just found in the store (!) what measurement would I use?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joan, You can use 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree to replace the applesauce. Or if you are looking for an all pumpkin bread you can follow the recipe for The Best Pumpkin Bread.

  19. I’m not much of a baker but qtime has given me time to develop at least minimal skills and I find your recipes thoughtful and complete so thank you for that. I have the apple version of this in the oven now. I was a little concerned about the amount of liquid the grated apple produced so I poured some of it off. Anyway it smells wonderful.

    1. Thank you for the kind note, Cyndi – I love to hear that you’re enjoying my recipes and baking tips. I hope you enjoyed this one, too!

  20. Hi Sally! 2 Qs: 1. Do you see anything wrong with using the food processor to shred the carrots? 2. Do you think there’s a flavor difference with applesauce vs yogurt? If you go yogurt, is Greek okay or too sour?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Allie, If your food processor has a shredding blade then you can use that. There is only a slight flavor difference with applesauce and yogurt, and both add the same moisture. Greek yogurt is fine! Happy baking 🙂

  21. Delicious, easy & moist. You had me at making yourself carrot cake for your own birthday. That’s me too. And today is MY birthday and crazy enough this recipe landed in my inbox just in time to try it. I was skeptical when I read “dense”. This cake-bread loaf is the perfect ratio of everything. Nothing heavy about it. I used an applesauce pouch instead of yogurt. I also doubled frosting. I used one 8oz cream cheese, 4 T butter and the cinnamon does make all the difference in the frosting. Wow!!!! I did spray the pan, dust it with cinnamon sugar and put a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of loaf pan to help cake slide out better later. Tested at 55 min, but needed 60 minutes. When completely cooled, I removed & frosted the entire loaf like a cake. Thank you for helping me sweeten my birthday. This is an absolute KEEPER. Yummm!

    1. What a perfect way to celebrate your birthday, Lori! I hope you had a wonderful day, and thank you for including my recipe in your celebrations!

  22. Hey Sally. My cake is cooling as I write. I never know when or why some recipes require a wax/parchment paper on the bottom. I did not do it this time and am hoping for the best. Would this work with cake flour or is A/P better? Also, I skipped the cinnamon and used orange zest for the frosting instead. I wish I had done both now. We’ll see. Thanks for this!

    1. Hi Chip, I don’t usually bake breads in loaf pans lined with parchment paper, but you certainly can. Don’t use wax paper– always use parchment paper in the oven. Instead of lining with parchment, I simply grease the loaf pan. I prefer nonstick spray. It’s easy and there’s never any sticking. I recommend all-purpose flour for this loaf because cake flour is too light.

  23. Thanks for this Sally. My cake came out great which is an intended double entendre. I’m not sure but I believe my mother only used wax paper on her hundreds of banana breads but must check with my brothers. I’m not sure she knew what parchment paper was. Maybe it was too special to use. (forehead goes to open palm.) Thanks again.

  24. Very delicious, thanks for the recipe

  25. Can’t wait to make this but was wondering if you can substitute any of the wet ingredients with baby food (carrots)? Thank you.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Eileen, We haven’t tested it but you can likely use it in place of the applesauce. Let us know if you try it!

  26. Absolutely delicious! I used yogurt and it came out soft and moist and the carrot cake is not overly sweet either which is wonderful.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      I used just regular plain yogurt 2%, just make sure you leave it out in order for it to reach room temperature 🙂

  27. Made the loaves on Saturday and the frosting yesterday. I gave a few slices to my husband, and said to share one of them with our toddler. I think he gave her two bites, then when she asked for more he said he accidentally ate the rest! Needless to say, it’s a great recipe! Super simple, and just delicious! I debated finishing a loaf before bed, but had to restrain myself. Thank you!

  28. I made this loaf the other night using 3/4 cup brown sugar so it wasn’t overly sweet. It was perfectly sweetened that way, but as far as the overall flavour – I found it to be slightly bland. I like a heavily spiced flavour to my carrot cakes/muffins. What can I add to make it more spiced? Definitely more cinnamon next time – the ginger was perfect though. What about a small pinch of allspice? Or ground cloves? What would you recommend?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stephanie, Yes, with the lower amount of brown sugar you are missing some of the molasses flavor that it adds. You can definitely increase any of the spices and/or add 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves to make up for some of the flavor without making any other changes.

  29. Hi Sally…can I make this carrot loaf with whole wheat flour??

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Monali, You can, but the bread will taste a little heavier. Or try half whole wheat and half all purpose.

  30. Love, Love, Love this recipe. Thank You, Sally, for sharing and bake on!!!

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