Classic Carrot Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting

5 from 15 votes
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A delicious yet easy classic carrot cake recipe with cream cheese frosting. This afternoon tea classic is a sweet, lightly spiced, carrot walnut cake with a tangy cream cheese frosting!

Carrot Cake with frosting and edible flowers and a cut slice

It’s true that I love to experiment with new recipes and tropical ingredients, but sometimes there is nothing better than breaking out a delicious tried and trusted recipe like this classic carrot cake recipe. This cake is moist and spiced with a velvety, tangy cream cheese frosting that is to die for. There’s only a slight twist on this one and that is the use of cinnamon and ginger in place of some of the more traditional spices like cinnamon and nutmeg – but even that can be adjusted.

Carrot cake with frosting and edible flowers in a serving place and a slice of the cake in a small plate on the side

I don’t know what it is about cream cheese frosting, but it’s definitely in my top three choices – tangy but sweet and super creamy. What’s not to love? Cream cheese frosting for carrot cake is possibly one of the best combinations ever.

When it comes to carrot cake, there are tons of variations that have appeared over the years, with extra fruits like pineapple, changes in the frosting,  and various ways to change the texture and consistency. This carrot cake is light but super moist, with freshly grated carrots noticeable without being chunky within the batter.

A close up of a slice of carrot cake with frosting

Luckily, for those who like to play around with recipes, I’ve also included several ways you can adapt this recipe to your liking. For example, I’ve added golden raisins and walnuts to my batter because I love the extra chunky bits – but I know that is a hard pass for many, so you can, of course, omit these. Check out my recipe notes section for all of my top tips!

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Ingredients and notes

While no carrot cake can boast of being 5 ingredients or less or anything crazy like that, most items needed for this recipe are often already in many people’s kitchens. Plus, they’re all easy to get a hold of!

The carrot walnut cake

Carrot Cake Ingredients
  • The Sugar: Brown sugar is key to a carrot cake packed with delicious flavor and wonderful moistness. I’ve tried many versions mixing granulated with brown sugar using just granulated white, etc. But this sugar with this amount has always led to the most flavorful, moist version.
  • Oil: Use any mild-flavored oil. This is needed for a tender, moist, soft cake. I have previously tried to reduce the oil content and use some unsweetened apple sauce. It does work, but it can affect the flavor, so I prefer to stick to a neutral oil or only omit a little oil for applesauce.
  • The carrots: I love to shred mine at home, freshly grated – for the best consistency and flavor. You can purchase pre-grated carrots, but I have found that they can be a little dry. I’ve added 1.5 cups to this recipe so as not to overwhelm you, but you could increase this to two cups if preferred.
  • The flour: I use all-purpose flour for this recipe. If you’re gluten-free, you can use a GF flour blend – though you may need to add a little extra moisture to the cake, so it doesn’t end up dry. Each flour will react differently regarding moisture levels.
  • The Spices: Ginger powder, and cinnamon. You could also add nutmeg for more added flavor. I also use vanilla extract.
  • Eggs: used for stability – I use Clarence Court Burford Browns for all my baking.
  • Baking soda & Powder: For lift.
  • Golden Raisins & Walnuts: If you’re anti “chunk” in your cakes feel free to omit these. You can also swap the walnuts for pecans.
  • Salt

The cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Ingredients
  • Cream Cheese: Use a block of cream cheese as tubs can be too soft and lead to runny icing. You could also use homemade cream cheese, as long as it’s ‘block’ consistency.
  • Butter: Feel free to use homemade unsalted butter or store-bought.
  • Powdered sugar: (confectioners sugar)
  • Optional: You could also add a little vanilla extract and/or a pinch of salt to offset the sweetness if preferred. Alternatively, you can add the zest of half an orange for extra bright, fresh flavor.

The step-by-step instructions

Start by grating the carrots. You may need more/less than I mentioned – enough for 1.5 cups of grated carrot.

Crated carrots in a small dish and a grater next to it

Then, in a large bowl, mix the eggs and sugar. Whisk them until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Gradually add the oil into the mix and whisk after each addition.

Mixing eggs and sugar and oil with an electric whisker

Once you obtain a homogeneous mixture, add the grated carrots, walnuts, raisins, and vanilla extract. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger powder, and salt. Then add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.

Mixing dry and wet ingredients when making carrot cake

Preheat the oven to 170ºC/338ºF (fan-assisted) and grease a 20cm/8″ round tin. Alternatively, you can use a square tin of 17 to 20 cm / 6.6″ to 7.8″; bigger baking tins will result in a thinner cake.

Pour the cake batter into the greased tin. You can also use a layer of parchment paper to line the cake pan.

Cake batter in a round baking tin

Bake for about 30 minutes until the top turns golden brown and is cooked through. You can check with a wooden skewer if the cake has cooked through – it should come out clean.

Baked carrot cake in a round baking tin

Allow the cake to cool down completely on a wire rack.

Carrot cake cooling on a cooling rack

Meanwhile, prepare the cream cheese frosting. I do this while the cake is baking and allow it to chill until ready to frost.

Beat the butter until it’s fluffy and light. Then add the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Beat until it’s all well incorporated and you achieve a creamy texture.

Steps for making cream cheese frosting

Place the frosting in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you spread it on the cake.

Frosted carrot cake and a spoon with frosting on top of it

Once the cake has cooled down and the frosting has chilled, you can proceed with decorating the cake. First, spread the frosting over the cake. You can go for a fluffy messy look or for a more smooth look. Then add your favorite toppings (optionally). I love adding edible flowers and some chopped walnuts.

Frosted carrot cake and some edible flowers on and around it

How to store

Any leftover carrot cake can be stored covered in the fridge for up to five days. I love to allow it to come to room temperature before serving.

I sometimes purposely make this a day in advance as I love how the flavors develop, and the frosting begins to seep into the cake for a super moist and delicious treat.

Some people leave leftovers at room temperature for 1-2 days, but as it’s got lots of dairy in – I err on the side of caution.

Can you freeze carrot cake? You sure can. Freeze the cakes before they are frosted, and they will be okay in the freezer for between 2-3 months. Allow it to thaw and then frost before serving.

To freeze, double wrap it tightly in some plastic wrap, eco-wrap, aluminim foil or an airtight freezer-safe bag, to maintain texture and avoid freezer burn.

A close up of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and edible flowers

Recipe tips and variations

  • When measuring out the flour, it’s best to spoon it into your cup and level off rather than pack it into the measuring cup. Otherwise, measure the ingredients for accuracy.
  • One of the main things many people have issues with is how to make cream cheese frosting with the correct consistency. Always use block cheese (not tub!) and feel free to chill the frosting in the fridge to help it thicken up before piping/spreading. 
  • You can use a food processor to chop the carrots into a crumb consistency. This will distribute evenly throughout the batter for lighter results. I’ve tried both ways and prefer the grated chunkier bits but feel free to experiment.
  • To make carrot cake cupcakes. Just fill the liners 2/3 of the way and bake (180ºC/350ºF) for 18-20 minutes, then use a toothpick inserted to the middle, to make sure they’re cooked through (it should come out dry or slightly crumbly but not wet) and cook for longer if needed.
  • Rather than making a layer cake, you can also make a sheet cake with the cream cheese frosting topping. 
  • For a nut-free version, omit the nuts.
  • Feel free to omit the raisins too. You could also swap these with some dried apricots or chopped pineapple – just be aware not to add too much additional moisture into the batter.
  • For a lighter frosting, you can make an orange icing with a combination of a little orange juice, zest, and powdered sugar until you achieve the correct consistency.
  • Feel free to add some shredded coconut for added texture. Around ¼ cup will work well – be aware that coconut soaks up moisture, so too much will dry out the cake.
A slice of carrot cake in a plate with a fork

More cake recipes

If you give this easy carrot cake recipe a try, then let me know your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to tag me in your recreations @AlphaFoodie.

Classic Carrot cake with walnuts and tangy cream cheese frosting

5 from 15 votes
By: Samira
A delicious yet easy classic carrot cake recipe with cream cheese frosting. This afternoon tea classic is a sweet, lightly spiced, carrot walnut cake with a tangy cream cheese frosting!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 12

Ingredients 
 

FOR THE CAKE

  • 1.5 cups carrots grated
  • 3 eggs I used Clarence Court Burford Browns
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil canola or sunflower
  • ¼ cup raisins optional
  • ½ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger powder
  • tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda bicarbonate of soda

FOR THE FROSTING

  • 5.3 ounces cream cheese room temperature
  • 3.5 ounces powdered sugar sifted
  • 1.8 ounces butter room temperature

Decorations (optional)

  • edible flowers
  • chopped walnuts

Instructions 

  • Grate the carrots. You may need more/less than I mention – enough for 1.5 cups of grated carrot.
  • In a large bowl, mix the eggs and sugar. Whisk them until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Gradually add the oil into the mix and whisk after each addition.
  • Once you obtain a homogeneous mixture, add the grated carrots, walnuts, raisins, and vanilla extract. Mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger powder, and salt. Then add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix well.
  • Preheat the oven to 170ºC/338ºF (fan-assisted) and grease a 20cm/8″ round tin. Alternatively, you can use a square tin of 17 to 20 cm / 6.6″ to 7.8″; bigger baking tins will result in a thinner cake.
  • Pour the cake mixture into the greased tin. You can also use a layer of parchment paper to line the cake pans too.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes until the top turns golden brown and it’s cooked through. You can check with a wooden skewer if the cake has cooked through – it should come out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool down completely on a wire rack.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the cream cheese frosting. I do this while the cake is baking and allow it to chill until ready to frost.
  • Beat the butter until it’s fluffy and light. Then add the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Beat until it’s all well incorporated and you achieve a creamy texture.
  • Place the frosting in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you spread it on the cake.
  • Once the cake has cooled down and the frosting has chilled, you can proceed with decorating the cake. First spread the frosting over the cake. You can go for a fluffy messy look or for a more smooth look. Then add your favorite toppings (optionally). I love adding edible flowers and some chopped walnuts.

How To Store:

  • Any leftover carrot cake can be stored covered in the fridge for up to five days. I love to allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
    I sometimes purposely make this a day in advance as I love how the flavors develop, and the frosting begins to seep into the cake for a super moist and delicious treat.
    You can also freeze the unfrosted cakes for between 2-3 months. Simply double wrap it tightly in some plastic wrap, eco-wrap, aluminum foil, or an airtight freezer-safe bag, to maintain texture and avoid freezer burn. Allow it to thaw overnight then frost before serving.

Video

Notes

  • The Sugar: Brown sugar is key to a carrot cake packed with delicious flavor and wonderful moistness. I’ve tried many versions mixing granulated with brown sugar using just granulated white, etc. But this sugar with this amount has always led to the most flavorful, moist version.
  • Oil: Use any mild-flavored oil. This is needed for a tender, moist, soft cake. I have previously tried to reduce the oil content and use some unsweetened apple sauce. It does work, but it can affect the flavor, so I prefer to stick to a neutral oil or only omit a little oil for applesauce.
  • The flour: I use all-purpose flour for this recipe. If you’re gluten-free, you can use a GF flour blend – though you may need to add a little extra moisture to the cake, so it doesn’t end up dry. Each flour will react differently regarding moisture levels.
  • The Spices: Ginger powder, cinnamon. You could also add nutmeg for more added flavor. I also use vanilla extract.
  • Golden Raisins & Walnuts: If you’re anti ‘chunk’ in your cakes feel free to omit these. you can also swap the walnuts for pecans.

  • When measuring out the flour, it’s best to spoon it into your cup and level off rather than pack it into the measuring cup. Otherwise, measure the ingredients for accuracy.
  • One of the main things many people have issues with is how to make cream cheese frosting with the correct consistency. Always use block cheese ( not tub!) and feel free to chill the frosting in the fridge to help it thicken up before piping/spreading. 
  • You can use a food processor to chop the carrots into a crumb consistency. This will distribute evenly throughout the batter for lighter results. I’ve tried both ways and prefer the grated chunkier bits but feel free to experiment.
  • To make carrot cake cupcakes. Just fill the liners 2/3 of the way and bake ( 350f/180c for 18-20 minutes, then use a toothpick inserted to the middle, to make sure they’re cooked through ( it should come out dry or slightly crumbly but not wet) and cook for longer if needed.
  • Rather than making a layer cake, you can also make a sheet cake with the cream cheese frosting topping. 
  • For a nut-free version, omit the nuts.
  • Feel free to omit the raisins too. You could also swap these with some dried apricot or chopped pineapple – just be aware not to add too much additional moisture into the batter.
  • For a lighter frosting, you can make an orange icing with a combination of a little orange juice, zest, and powdered sugar until you achieve the correct consistency.
  • Feel free to add some shredded coconut for added texture. Around ¼ cup will work well – be aware that coconut soaks up moisture, so too much will cause dry out the cake.
 
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: European
Freezer friendly: 3 Months
Shelf life: 5 Days

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice, Calories: 405kcal, Carbohydrates: 42g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Cholesterol: 64mg, Sodium: 274mg, Potassium: 171mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 27g, Vitamin A: 3007IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 72mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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11 Comments

    1. Hi Abir,
      Please note that the edible flowers are completely optional and you can use other toppings for the decoration of the cake. As to where to find them – depending on where you are based, there might be an organic farm from where you can purchase them. Maybe you can search online for one. Here in the UK, I usually get them from Maddocks Farm.

  1. looks so good, can’t wait to try it! I’ve got some questions though..
    1. can I use flax egg or chia egg instead of egg, & if yes, what’s the ratio to that ? or maybe you have another replacement for the egg for this rec..
    2. for the veg oil, can I use olive oil ?
    3. why do we need butter for the frosting? cream cheese doesn’t work alone ? if it’s that important, can I use low fat or vegan butter ?
    4. ginger powder is only for extra ginger flavor? can I skip this one if I don’t like ginger ?
    5. if I want to add grinded carrots on top of the frosting as decoration, do I have to cook them ? I know you can eat them raw, but what do you think suits this recipe best, & all the textures when eating ?
    thank you in advance, and thank you for all the great recipes & tips! you really are a pro
    p.s. as I was reading the recipe & writing this, it felt like I was smelling the cake…

    1. Hi Chloe,
      Thank you for your comment.
      1. Flax egg or chia egg can easily substitute eggs when the original recipe calls for 1-2 eggs. If the recipe calls for more eggs, you still use flax/chia eggs but you might have to make further adjustments.
      2. It’s best to use neutral oils (sunflower or canola). Olive oil has a more pronounced flavor which might not be appreciated within cakes and sweet bakes.
      3. Butter in the frosting makes it sturdy and pipe-able.
      4. Yes, you can skip the ginger powder.
      5. Regarding the carrots for the decoration – it’s up to personal preference. Maybe freshly grated carrots will be more flavourful.
      I hope this helps and you give the recipe a try 🙂

  2. I just made this cake and it’s amazing!
    I used fine cane sugar because I’m in the Netherlands and brown sugar is not a thing here apparently.. It turned out nice but I felt that the sugar doesn’t mixed so well. I tried to find out what brown sugar is but I found different answers. Do you know if it’s the same as muscovado sugar? And if yes, the dark brown or light brown version?

    Loving this site by the way, I’m learning so much!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Fay.
      Muscovado sugar is a type of cane sugar that’s partially processed. And to make things more confusing – it can be either light or darker depending on much it has been processed (how much molasses has been removed). 🙂
      I would recommend using regular white sugar if you can’t find brown sugar because, as you have noticed, the cane sugar crystals are more coarse and they don’t mix into the batter as uniformly as brown sugar or white sugar would. I hope this helps.

  3. 5 stars
    Made this cake yesterday and it came out SO delicious! Love that this recipe has so many carrots and just right amounts of nuts and raisins.
    I was wondering if it’s possible to add less sugar, will it rise?
    I also added some grated ginger and more spice:)

    1. Thank you for your comment, Almira.
      You could reduce the sugar a bit (not more than 1/3 of the amount) and the cake should still come out great. Keep in mind that sugar keeps the cake moist, so be careful not to over-bake it – check a few minutes earlier if it’s ready. I hope this helps. 🙂