It has come to my attention that I don’t have a cake recipe on here yet. I wouldn’t say that cake is my favorite dessert, and I definitely wouldn’t choose it over a pastry or an ice cream. I think I’ve probably had one too many store-bought overly-sweet and slightly dry cakes. But I needed to make something for Thanksgiving, and if there’s one cake I like, it’s a carrot cake. So, here it is, my first cake feature and I promise, it’s a good one.
This carrot cake is moist, beautifully spiced, and packed with flavor, while still being just slightly sweet. The cream cheese frosting brings everything together and perfectly balances everything out. But the best thing about this carrot cake is that it is so easy to make. You literally just mix your ingredients together and then bake! The hardest part of the entire recipe is probably grating your carrots.
Here’s a tip: Use fresh carrots and grate them yourself. Pre-grated carrots are usually drier, and the moisture from grating fresh carrots helps to keep your cake moist.
At first, I tried using a box grater for the carrots, and it was doable but a little tricky. I then discovered that our food processor has an attachment for grating ingredients, which made things so much easier. The box grater will definitely work, and you’ll get an amazing cake either way, but if you have a shortcut like a food processor, definitely use it to cut down your prep time.
I used a cream cheese frosting here but feel free to swap it out with a frosting of your choice. I also added minimal decorations (I’m not super skilled at that yet!) but feel free to go crazy with your piping. I happened to have some leftover fondant from a previous project lying around so I just went ahead and made some tiny carrots to go on top.
Last note: I used a mixture of chopped pecans and chopped walnuts. You can use whatever nut you want but I think pecans and walnuts go perfectly here, both in the cake and on top of your frosting. You can fold the nuts into your frosting, place them on top of your cake, or stick them to the sides (like I did). If needed, you can make this cake nut-free, just omit them from the recipe.
Another tip: Make the cakes ahead of time. Carrot cake actually gets better with time, as the flavors start to mingle and deepen. Make the cakes themselves the day before, then make the frosting and assemble the day of!
This is an amazing cake recipe to make this holiday season, as it makes more than enough to share with your family and friends. It’s so good, we’ve been eating it at all times of day, including breakfast! Store your leftover cake in the fridge for up to 5 days (or even longer in some cases).
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cake:
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cups cake flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
- 3 cups grated carrots
- 1 cup nuts, chopped
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
For the frosting:
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
- 1 box powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Make the cake:
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix well.
- Add the rest of the cake ingredients and combine.
- Pour the mixture into your prepared cake pans. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Cakes should be a deep golden brown color. If you stick a cake tester or toothpick into the center it should come out clean.
- Let cakes cool for a couple of minutes and then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely.
Make the frosting:
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat your cream cheese and butter together until smooth.
- Add the vanilla extract and half of your powdered sugar. Mix well. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix again, until everything is well incorporated and your frosting is smooth.
- If using nuts, you can fold it into your frosting here or wait to use it on top of your actual cake.
Assemble your cake:
- Once both layers of cake are completely cool, place one on top of a cake stand or wherever you plan to display it.
- Spread about 1/4 of your frosting on top of the first layer. Place your second layer on top.
- Spread the rest of your frosting onto the sides and top of your cake, completely covering everything. If you want, you can place some of your frosting in a piping bag to decorate your cake. You can also put chopped nuts on top or on the sides.
- Leave your cake out or place it in the refrigerator if you're worried about the frosting melting.