Carrot cake is delectable. Spongy with a moist crumb and bursting with flavors from carrots and spices. One bite and even the fussiest of dessert lovers become a convert overnight. We recommend topping it with an easy, scrumptious, and homemade buttercream frosting that amplifies the spicy and sweet flavors of the cake.
Some say cream cheese frosting is the way to go.
Sure! This is a great and classic combination. But you don’t have to stick to this frosting every time you bake a carrot cake. Go ahead and experiment with other ways to decorate a cake.
What is Cream Cheese Frosting?
This is a delicious, simple, and easy-to-make frosting. The thick frosting involves quality cream cheese, super fine (confectioners) sugar, milk, vanilla, or other flavorings that you prefer.
If you want a thick frosting to cover your cake, use solid cream cheese. The spreadable variety results in a runny consistency and works more as a glaze.
Why is Carrot Cake Decorated with Cream Cheese Frosting?
This traditional cake and frosting combination is a popular choice among home bakers for a reason. The tangy and smooth frosting is easy to make and perfectly complements the spice flavor of carrot cake.
While this is a go-to combo, much like strawberries and cream or macaroni and cheese, don’t let it stop you from using other frosting techniques.
How To Make Frosting for Carrot Cake Without Cream Cheese
It's pretty standard to cover carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting. But you can experiment with other types of frostings and toppings.
Vanilla buttercream frosting is an excellent sub for cream cheese. If you want to add flavors to your buttercream, make sure they enhance the taste of your carrot cake.
How To Make Flavored Buttercream Frosting?
You can create different flavors for buttercream. Add fruit purees, extracts, nut and sweet spice powders, herbal tea mixes, or fruit syrups to the butter while whipping it.
Need to crush nuts for a recipe? Check out our helpful article on the Best Blender for Nuts and Seeds.
If you don’t have a blender or food processor, read: What Is The Best Substitute If I Don’t Have A Food Processor?
Can You Decorate a Carrot Cake Without Buttercream?
Bored of both cream cheese and buttercream frosting?
Other options work well with the sweet and spicy elements of a carrot cake.
- Plain or flavored glaze
- Whipped cream frosting
- Lemon or orange curd
- Sweetened pie fillings
- White chocolate ganache
If you’re baking this cake for a special occasion, you can go the extra mile and use white or orange-colored fondant. After coating the cake with buttercream frosting, cover it with rolled or poured fondant.
Cake toppers made with molded chocolate are another way to transform your simple cake into something gourmet.
What Does This Carrot Cake Taste Like?
This carrot cake recipe makes a dense yet moist and rich crumb. You taste the delicious and subtle tang of the aromatic spices. If you want the deeper and intense flavor from the brown sugar, sweet spices, and nuts, make ahead and store in the fridge.
The cake layers soak in the buttercream frosting and other toppings to create a far more delicate and tender crumb.
How To Make Moist Carrot Cake
A carrot cake isn’t really worth your time and effort if it doesn’t have that moist and soft bite. To give your cake that extra moisture and tender crumb, don’t skimp on these ingredients.
Freshly shredded carrot is the hero ingredient of this cake and provides the necessary wetness. Avoid packaged shredded carrots, as you’ll end up with a dry and hard product.
Use a food processor to shred your carrots!
Granulated sugar is good enough when that’s all you have in the pantry. But brown sugar provides that deep flavor and moist feel.
Besides sugar, you need fat to make your cake tender and velvety. You can use butter, but oil (neutral tasting) works better as this cake gets its intense flavors from other ingredients.
With the addition of oil and brown sugar, chances are your cake could get too soft to hold its structure.
Applesauce and mashed banana prevent this from happening. Besides, they help you cut down on the amount of sugar that goes into the cake and enhance the flavor.
Tips To Make the Best Carrot Cake
- Line your cake pans with parchment to prevent the cake from sticking to the pan and breaking up.
- Make ahead to allow the flavors to mingle and intensify.
- Use freshly shredded carrots to ensure the cake remains moist after baking.
- Weigh the ingredients properly and don’t over mix the batter.
- Cool the cake well before frosting. Chill the cake in between frosting to ensure a clean and attractive coating.
What Carrot Cake Mix-Ins and Optional Ingredients Can You Use?
It's common practice to use nuts like pecans and walnuts in carrot cakes both as cake ingredients and cake toppers. Omit these if you have a nut allergy.
You can add or omit according to your preference:
- Golden raisins
- Crushed pineapple
- Shredded coconut
- Mashed banana
You won’t be losing out on flavor or texture.
Tip: Ensure cake additions don’t exceed 1½ cups in this recipe.
Carrot cakes usually contain some sweet and savory spices like:
- Pumpkin spice
You can play around with flavors by mixing up the spices you prefer.
Can I Sub Eggs in Carrot Cake?
Are you vegan or allergic to eggs?
You're in luck! Many substitute ingredients can mimic eggs.
For each large egg (around 3-4 tablespoons of liquid), sub with:
- ¼ cup of condensed milk (reduce the amount of sugar by ¼ cup)
- ¼ cup of plain yogurt
- ¼ cup of mashed banana
- 3 tablespoons of chickpea water (aquafaba)
- 1 tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water
- ¼ cup of unsweetened applesauce
- ¼ cup of pureed silken tofu
- 1 tablespoon vinegar combined with 1 teaspoon of baking powder
If allergies are common in your household, you need to read: Garlic Allergy Ultimate Step By Step Guide: Everything You Need To Know!
What Tools Do I Need to Make Carrot Cake and Frosting?
Although carrot cake and frosting use everyday pantry ingredients, these tools will make it easier to perfect them.
- Kitchenaid Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer
- Baking Scale
- Box Grater or Food Processor
- Metal Cake Pans (preferably light-colored)
- Parchment Paper and Cooking Spray
- Piping Bags and Tips
- Silicone/Rubber Spatulas
- Cake Leveler
- Serrated Knife or Cake Slicer
- Offset Spatulas
- Oven Thermometer
- Food Coloring Gel
- Icing Scrapers
Do you know how to use a Kitchenaid mixer for cake?
You can learn all about it in our article here. (Plus, a recipe for funfetti cake with chocolate frosting — yum!)
Moist Carrot Cake
This carrot cake with buttercream frosting makes every day a special occasion.
Carrot Cake Recipe
Serves: One 9-inch or two 6-inch cakes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25-35 minutes
- 1½ cup all-purpose flour, leveled
- 1½ cup (3 large) carrots, shredded
- ¾ cup packed dark or light brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup neutral oil
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce/yogurt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon allspice/pumpkin spice (optional)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans, divided (optional)
- ¼ cup golden raisins (optional)
- ¼ cup canned crushed orange/pineapple (optional)
- 1Preheat the oven to 300°F (160°C). Add pecans or walnuts to a baking tray and roast them for 8-10 minutes. Remove and cool for 10-15 minutes.
- 2Preheat the oven to 350°F (170°C). In the meantime, grease two 6-inch round pans (or one 9-inch round pan) with butter. Dust lightly with flour or line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
- 3Sift all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice (optional) in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine.
- 4In another bowl, add the eggs and beat lightly. Now add both the sugars and cream them for a minute with a hand mixer. Add the applesauce, oil, vanilla extract, and crushed orange (optional), beat on medium speed for one to two minutes until smooth.
- 5Fold in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Use a silicone spatula to gently mix the batter until combined.
- 6Add the shredded carrots and additions like raisins (if using) and nuts. Mix gently until combined. Be careful not to overmix the batter.
- 7Divide the carrot cake batter equally into the 6-inch pans (or pour into the 9-inch pan). Bake the two cakes in the middle and lower rack for 30-35 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking.
- 8Insert a toothpick in the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Or gently press the top of the cake. If it springs back to touch, the cake has finished baking.
- 9Cool the cake pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes before turning them out.
- 10Cool the cakes completely before you cover them with frosting.
How To Make Buttercream Frosting for Carrot Cake?
This vanilla-flavored frosting is both quick to make and delicious.
Buttercream Frosting Recipe
- 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3½-4 cups powdered sugar
- ½ tablespoon milk
- 1Add the butter, icing sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt to a large glass bowl. If you’re using a stand mixer, add all the ingredients to the stand mixer bowl.
- 2Beat the buttercream ingredients on low for one minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat for four to five minutes until the frosting turns smooth and spreadable. Frequently scrape the sides of the bowl to get a smooth texture.
- 3Add more sugar (one tablespoon at a time) if the frosting is runny or more milk (one teaspoon at a time) if the frosting is too thick.
How To Add Frosting to The Cake
- 1After the cakes have cooled down, slice the tops and scrape the sides to get a flat top and even appearance. Use a serrated knife for this.
- 2Cut the cakes into halves, if desired, to make taller layers
- 3Add a little buttercream to the turntable and place the first layer. Cover with frosting and place the next layer on top. Frost all the layers.
- 4Add a crumb coat on the top and sides of the layered cake. This doesn’t have to be perfect. Chill the cake in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
- 5Remove and cover the top and sides with a thick layer of frosting. Repeat this process a couple of times to ensure you thoroughly coat the cake.
- 6Use icing scrapers or combs to remove excess frosting. Rotate the turntable and use smooth motions to ensure a clean coat.
- 7Pipe designs with buttercream or decorate the cake with molded chocolate shapes if preferred.
How To Store Carrot Cake with Buttercream Frosting?
You can store cakes with buttercream frosting at room temperature for one to two days in cold weather. If you have used fruit and cream-based fillings, or live in a warm place, don’t forget to refrigerate the cake. This prevents the cake from spoiling.
Can You Make Carrot Cake and Frosting Ahead of Time?
Absolutely, you can make the cake and frosting ahead of when you'll need it and store it in the fridge. This helps ripen the carrot cake and bring out the flavors.
Place the cake in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out or absorbing other food flavors. For sliced cakes, wrap slices individually and store in airtight containers. The cake stores well for five days in the fridge and two to three months in the freezer.
If you’re interested in baking other cakes, check out our mandarin cake recipe.