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!
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
- Carrot Cake: This is the golden standard for carrot cakes. It’s equally spiced, moist, and soft as today’s quick bread.
- 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.
- Pineapple Carrot Cake: This cake includes pineapple, a flavorful pairing with carrot. It’s slightly denser than today’s carrot cake loaf.
- Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes: These cupcakes include shredded coconut and coconut extract. They taste cakier than today’s quick bread.
- 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!
- 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.
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.
- 1 and 1/2 cups (188g) all-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 (30g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. See notes for muffins or mini loaves.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack before removing and frosting.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Applesauce/Yogurt: You can use either. If you don’t have either, use the same amount of mashed banana, crushed pineapple, or sour cream.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.