Easy Classic Carrot Cake

  • A classic Carrot Cake recipe that has a mild spice and a delicious cream cheese frosting. It’s easy to make, has a nice moist crumb, and can be made ahead!

    I love this carrot cake recipe because it is so easy to make. No mixer required just a bowl and either a 9×13 baking pan or 2 round cake pans. If you are in need of a few other easy desserts try my Chewy Rice Krispie Treats, No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, or Lemon Blueberry Poke Cake.

    Top down view of slice of carrot cake on a white plate.

    I decided to make a classic carrot cake recipe for those of you who don’t care for pineapple or coconut in your carrot cake.

    And for those of you who don’t like carrot cake at all, you really need to try this cake. I promise it doesn’t taste like carrots!

    Two pictures of cake ingredients.

    Ingredient list

    Another great thing is this cake doesn’t require any weird or hard to find ingredients! You may even have everything you need to make this cake right now.

    • All-purpose flour– I haven’t tested with any other flour.
    • Brown sugar– This adds a lovely flavor and also helps keep the cake moist.
    • Oil– Helps keep the cake moist. You can use any neutral oil you like. And if you like coconut feel free to use coconut oil instead.
    • Eggs– Eggs help bind everything together and gives the cake structure and richness.
    • Vanilla– Gives the cake a lovely flavor. If you have homemade vanilla, even better!
    • Baking powder and Baking soda– You need to use both leavening agents in cakes because in order to get enough height with just baking powder you would need to use a lot which would give a weird aftertaste to the cake. Using baking soda allows us to use less baking powder.
    • Salt– Controls the leaving agents and also adds flavor, yes even in baked goods! Salt is important in both sweet and savory dishes.
    • Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Clove– This is the trio of spices I preferred when I was testing carrot cakes. It is mildly spiced and not overpowering.
    • Carrots– It can’t be a carrot cake without carrots now can it!
    • Pecans or walnuts– They add a nice soft crunch as well as flavor to the cake. However, if you have a nut allergy or simply don’t like nuts in your cake feel free to leave them out.
    Top down view of carrot cake batter in a bowl and then in round baking pans ready for the oven.
    Carrot cake on a cake stand decorated with chopped pecans and baby's breath.

    Carrot Cake Frosting

    The best frosting for carrot cake is a classic cream cheese frosting. It pairs beautifully with carrot cake. It’s smooth, tangy, and rich. The recipe I am giving will make enough to generously frost a 9×13 or to make a semi-naked double layer cake as you see in these pictures.

    If you would like more coverage on your layered cake make a batch and a 1/2 of frosting. So make 1 full recipe and a half of a recipe.

    A large slice of cake being removed to be served.

    A few tips about cream cheese frosting:

    • It is imperative that you use the block style cream cheese. The spreadable kind in the containers will not work.
    • Use full fat. Reduce fat will not work.
    • Both those rules must be followed or the frosting will be thin and runny. Or you will have to add so much powdered sugar to stiffen it up that you will lose that lovely tangy flavor.
    A large slice of cake on a white plate.

    Tips for success:

    • Shred your own carrots! This is a must! Those pre-shredded carrots you can buy from the store are too dry, too thick, too hard, and too long. Shredding your own carrots provides moisture to the cake something pre-shredded cannot.
    • If you use nuts take the extra step to toast them before you start making the cake. It adds so much more flavor.
    • Be sure to properly prepare your baking pans so your cake doesn’t stick. You can do this in several ways. Use the baking spray with flour, grease and flour them yourself, or line your pans with parchment paper.

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    5 from 4 votes
    A large slice of cake being removed to be served.
    Easy Classic Carrot Cake
    Prep Time
    25 mins
    Cook Time
    30 mins
    Total Time
    55 mins
     

    A classic Carrot Cake recipe that has a mild spice and a delicious cream cheese frosting. It's easy to make, has a nice moist crumb, and can be made ahead!

    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: carrot cake recipe, simple carrot cake recipe
    Servings: 12
    Calories: 798 kcal
    Author: Malinda Linnebur
    Ingredients
    Carrot Cake
    • 4 large eggs
    • cups (300g) packed brown sugar
    • cups (295ml) netural oil (vegetable, canola, avocado)
    • ½ cup (120 ml) milk or buttermilk
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • cups (350g) all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
    • ¼ teaspoon clove
    • 3 cups (355g) freshly grated carrots
    • 1 cup (110g) toasted and chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
    Cream Cheese Frosting
    • 8 ounces (225g) block style cream cheese, room temperature
    • ½ cup (113g) butter, room temperature
    • 4 cups (400g) confectioners' sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    Instructions
    Carrot Cake
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour 2 nine inch baking pans; set aside.

    2. In a large bowl combine the eggs, sugar, oil, milk, and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Fold in the grated carrots and chopped nuts.

    3. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

    Cream Cheese Frosting
    1. In a large bowl beat the cream cheese and butter with a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until smooth. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat on low speed until combined then medium-high until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). Frosting should be soft and not runny. Add more powdered sugar if too runny, a pinch of salt if too sweet, and a little milk if too stiff.

    2. Store cake in the refrigerator.

    Recipe Notes
    1. Make-Ahead: I actually prefer the taste of this cake made the day before. The flavors seem to meld together and the frosting seeps a little into the cake making it extra good! 
    2. Freezer-Friendly: Cool cakes completely and cover well with plastic wrap. Freezer for up to 3 months. You can also freeze a frosted cake. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw completely before decorating. 
    3. To bake in a 9×13: Grease and flour pan before pouring in the batter. Bake for 40-45 minutes or utnil a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
    4. A note about the frosting: This makes enough for a 9×13 or a semi-naked cake as pictured in the post. If you prefer more coverage on your cake make 1 full frosting recipe + 1/2 of a frosting recipe. 
    5. Nutrition Facts: Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the information shown is just an estimate.
    Nutrition Facts
    Easy Classic Carrot Cake
    Amount Per Serving (1 slice)
    Calories 798 Calories from Fat 234
    % Daily Value*
    Fat 26g40%
    Saturated Fat 9g56%
    Cholesterol 79mg26%
    Sodium 469mg20%
    Potassium 522mg15%
    Carbohydrates 92g31%
    Fiber 4g17%
    Sugar 68g76%
    Protein 14g28%
    Vitamin C 4mg5%
    Calcium 192mg19%
    Iron 4mg22%
    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the information shown is just an estimate.
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