This simple carrot cake recipe 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!
Classic Carrot Cake Recipe
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. Sometimes a simple carrot cake is just better, don’t you think? That’s why I love old fashioned carrot cake best.
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. Trust me!
I love this easy carrot cake 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.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Carrot Cake Recipe
- Comes together in under an hour
- Restaurant-quality results
- Full of flavor
- Perfect for dessert or brunch
- Uses simple ingredients
Key Ingredients to Make Old Fashioned Carrot Cake
Another great thing is that 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 give 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. 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 CLOVES: 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 an old fashioned 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.
How to Make Simple Carrot Cake
RECIPE PREP: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans and set aside.
COMBINE THE INGREDIENTS: Add the eggs, sugar, oil, milk, and vanilla to a large bowl and combine.
Mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Fold in the grated carrots and chopped nuts. Next, pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
BAKE: Bake your classic carrot cake recipe for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then place them on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
MAKE THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING: While your simple carrot cake bakes and cools, make your homemade cream cheese frosting.
Place the cream cheese and butter into a large bowl. Beat until smooth with a hand mixer or a stand mixer that has been fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and continue to mix on low until combined. Increase the speed to medium-high until your frosting is light and fluffy — it should take about 3-5 minutes.
You want your old fashioned carrot cake frosting to be soft and not runny. If you’re not happy with the consistency, play around by adding more powdered sugar and/or milk.
ASSEMBLE YOUR EASY CARROT CAKE: Place a layer of cream cheese frosting between the two cakes, then frost the top and sides. Garnish with extra chopped nuts and more frosting as shown in the pictures. Enjoy!
A Note on Classic 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 half of frosting. Meaning, make 1 full recipe and a half of a recipe.
Pro Tips For Making Easy Carrot Cake Cream Cheese Frosting
- It is imperative that you use block-style cream cheese. The spreadable kind in the containers will not work.
- Use full fat. Reduced fat varieties will not work.
- Both those rules must be followed or the frosting will be thin and runny. Or, you’ll have to add so much powdered sugar to stiffen it up that you will lose that lovely tangy flavor.
How to Make the Best Old Fashioned Carrot Cake Ever
- 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 baking spray with flour, grease and flour them yourself, or line your pans with parchment paper.
Most old fashioned carrot cake recipes are topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting. You’ll only need a few ingredients to make it yourself: block-style cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, butter, and vanilla! It comes together so easily with a hand or stand mixer and is simply delicious.
First, remember to grate your carrots yourself instead of using the pre-packaged stuff. It really makes a difference! You should also follow the mixing instructions carefully — some steps involve mixing until well combined, while others require you to gently fold the batter. Small things like this go a long way to creating a moist and fluffy cake!
I like to use a box grater myself. Opt for the small shredding side for the best results.
If you don’t want to use cream cheese frosting, you could also create one with ricotta cheese and Greek yogurt. Mix one cup of ricotta with one cup of yogurt to create two cups of frosting.
More Cake Recipes to Try
Simple Carrot Cake
- 4 large eggs
- 1½ cups (300g) packed brown sugar
- 1¼ cups (295ml) netural oil (vegetable, canola, avocado)
- ½ cup (120 ml) milk or buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2½ 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
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour 2 nine inch baking pans; set aside.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Store cake in the refrigerator.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Nutrition Facts: Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the information shown is just an estimate.