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. For properly measuring the shredded carrots, should the carrots be packed more densely into the measuring cups, or just placed into them?

    1. I usually just place them in the measuring cup– I do not pack.

  2. Sally, you have done it again! Thank you for this recipe!

  3. I made 12 muffins instead of a loaf & it turned out AMAZING! I also made the frosting, and I highly recommend it! So delicious! My husband was hesitant because they had carrots in them, but after he tried them he said they were the best muffins he’s ever had!!! And he doesn’t just say stuff like that if he doesn’t mean it haha! So so good!

    1. I am excited to bake this. I am planning to package mini loaves with frosting in clear bags. What can I do to make the frosting not stick to the bag? Thank you for your advice.

  4. Hi Sally, I have tried your super moist carrot cake recipe and it was delicious! For the cream cheese frosting, is there a way to make it thicker without having to add confectioners’ sugar? Since adding more sugar will make the frosting too sweet. Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Karen, The best way to thicken the frosting is to either add more sugar or decrease the amount of butter/cream cheese. If you do this you can add a bit more salt to offset the sweetness. If you are trying to pipe the frosting you can also fill your piping bag and place the entire bag into the refrigerator to firm it up before piping onto your cake.

  5. Hi Sally, I made your banana bread recipe and my dad loved it! Now my mom is requesting carrot loaf!
    Can I make this with olive oil (the oil we keep in the house) instead of canola, vegetable or coconut oil?

    1. Hi Kandace, olive oil should be OK in this recipe. Use the same amount. (1/2 cup)

  6. Hi Sally,
    I loved this bread, thought it was wonderfully spiced, and was searching for a similar apple loaf but could not find one that suited my taste anywhere else. Do you think I could sub out the carrot in this recipe for shredded apple?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi A, We haven’t tested it with this exact recipe but it should work. Or try this Greek Yogurt Apple Blueberry Bread and you can leave out the blueberries if you wish. You can also make these Glazed Apple Crumb Muffins in a loaf pan. Let us know what you try!

  7. Victoria O'Neill says:

    Hi, Sally,
    I just discovered your website while I looking for baking inspiration and WOW, did I find it! I love your recipes and your helpfulness to people like me. It will really cheer me up to make cakes and bakes to give to family, friends and neighbours while I ride out the Virus lockdown! Thank you!
    Victoria in Leeds

  8. Kelley Gaustad says:

    I made this and loved it!I did increase all the spice amounts and added,allspice and cloves for a bit of spice /carrot cake!This recipe is a keeper with just the right amount for a few people!Cinnamon in the frosting..the BOMB! THANK YOU!!!

  9. If I add walnuts, should I lightly roast them first?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Debbie, You don’t need to but you can for extra flavor!

  10. Hi Sally! How should I adapt this recipe for a 8½ x 4¼-inch loaf pan? Thanks a lot 🙂

    1. Hi Joanne I’m just seeing your comment/question now so my apologies on the delay responding to you. That would require some adjustments, so the best bet (and most successful!) would be to fill your loaf pan 2/3 full, then use any extra batter for a few muffins on the side. See recipe notes for muffins. Since the loaf will be smaller, the bake time will be a little shorter. Keep a close eye on it.

  11. Thank you for this great recipe Sally! I have added poppy and pumpkin seeds and it is amazing. I will definitely bake it again, and I will try yoghurt instead of apple sauce next time . Thank you x

  12. Hi this looks like a good recipe to try. Was wondering if I could use frozen carrots . We had a ton of them in the garden this year. Thanks.

    1. Hi Donna, I’m just seeing your comment/question now so my apologies on the delay responding to you. Let the frozen carrots thaw and bring to room temperature before using. It would be helpful to blot dry if they seem pretty wet.

  13. Sally, I just want to thank you for all your amazing recipes and super helpful tips! I have learned so much about baking from you & make one of your many recipes at least once a week! I make this recipe (as muffins) and my husband brought some to his work and told me that one of his coworkers said my baked goods are better than the ones he gets from “Harrisburg’s Best” bakery (according to our local magazine haha). And it’s thanks to your blog! So thank you! 🙂

  14. Hi Sally! Quick question: Could i double the recipe and bake it in a casserole dish? A bit stumped there.
    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ava, You can bake this as written (no need to double) in an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time, but use a toothpick to test.

  15. Is it possible to use Almond Flour for this recipe?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nancy, we haven’t tried it. Almond flour is very different from all-purpose flour, so it would require additional recipe testing to give you a confident answer. If you do give this recipe a try, let us know how it turns out for you!

  16. Very delicious recipe!!! But my loaf was domed too much and cracked so much, was it because the temperature too high?
    But thanks again for the recipe!

  17. Delicious! Super easy to make and really delicious. Subbed sour cream/coconut milk mixture for yogurt (only because out of yogurt) and cut sugar by 1/4. Baking time was 45 minutes.

  18. I just baked this bread and it came out incredible!! Thank you so much for this recipe!

  19. Hi can I skip the ground ginger and nutmeg? Since I don’t have those… Do I need to substitute it with something else?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chin, you can leave them out, but the spice flavor will not be as pronounced. You could also replace them with more cinnamon, allspice, cloves or even pumpkin spice if you have those on hand. Enjoy!

  20. I’ve made this carrot bread twice and both turned out great! I used 3/4 of the sugar recommended. Thanks for the great recipe!

  21. I made this as muffins w/raisins and topped with a cream cheese drizzle (instead of frosting). Came out just perfect! I *almost* missed the note to read the baking instructions for muffins on the other recipe.

  22. My loaf sunk and I then didn’t have a nice form. Any tips to make sure the lovely rounded middle doesn’t deflate?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hannah, it sounds like your loaf may have been a bit under baked. A few extra minutes should help for next time! Also be sure that your baking soda and baking powder aren’t expired. Thank you for giving this recipe a try!

  23. Are you aware that the recipe itself is covered by adds in desktop?

    1. Hi Lucy, we’ve had a few spam ads sneak through our ad blocks over this past weekend, so what you’re experiencing isn’t usual. My apologies for this– it is certainly frustrating for users and our whole team as well– and a fix request has been placed. Apologies for the inconvenience!

  24. Delicious, simple recipe. I made it with 3/4 cup sugar, and the sweetness was just perfect. Great flavor and texture. Thank you!

  25. This is a classic – will make again with icing next time! I added walnuts and freshly grated nutmeg, and sour cream instead of yogurt. The loaf isn’t too sweet even with the full amount of brown sugar, so it was perfect for breakfast with a cup of tea. Thank you!!!

  26. I don’t have yogurt, applesauce, or sour cream, do I really need it. I noticed other recipes don’t have it. But yours is easier. I am in the middle of a snow storm and can’t shop!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Barbara, you won’t want to leave it out. You can use the same amount of mashed banana or crushed pineapple if you have either of those on hand!

  27. Hi sally! Thank you for this amazing recipe, I made this several times in the past. I am planning to make it again. Could I substitute 1/2 of the oil with more sour cream? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kaylee, I’m so glad to read how much you enjoy this recipe. I wouldn’t replace some of the oil with sour cream. If anything, you could try unsweetened applesauce, pumpkin puree, or mashed banana. Keep in mind that substituting out some oil will affect the texture– the loaf won’t be as moist.

    2. On Sally’s other carrot cake (the layer cake, think’s it’s called her favourite carrot cake), I’ve subbed half the oil with applesauce, yoghurt even mashed banana and I still got a moist cake (nobody could tell the difference). To match that reduction here (with a little maths), you would use 1/3 cup oil and 3/4 cup applesauce. As with all experiments (or trying out a new recipe), I would make a 1 egg recipe – adjust the batter thickness on what the original texture was like (in this case semi thick) so it’s more likely to work. Oh and I’d use my muffin tin so I know cooking time won’t be a factor for how moist/dry the cake is. Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you!!

  28. The frosting and the bread came out perfect and delicious.

  29. This recipe is excellent! I followed all directions but doubled the recipe to make 2 loaves for a local women’s shelter. The loaves looked and tasted amazing. This recipe is definitely a keeper! Doesn’t even need the frosting 🙂

  30. Can I substitute the sugar with coconut sugar? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We haven’t tested it personally, but you can certainly give it a try (taste and texture will be different). Let us know how it turns out for you!

      1. I tried making it, following all the ingredients but substituted brown sugar with coco sugar for the low glycemic index and used 1c AP flour and 1/2c whole wheat flour (because I ran out of AP). It came out crumbly so may need to adjust the liquid ingredients next time maybe or try half brown and half coco. It still tasted good though (just crumbly and much less sweet but still yummy!). Thanks!

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