Nothing says springtime like an old fashioned, delicious, super moist, homemade carrot cake with carrot cake frosting. I'm proud to share this recipe that I truly believe is the BEST classic carrot cake and carrot cake frosting recipe ever!
Homemade Super Moist Carrot Cake
I made this classic cake for an art class luncheon (but this is great for any occasion including birthday cake), and I'm happy to say that it was a hit! One person kept asking me — in amazement — how I got the cake to be so moist. (Don't you hate dry cake? There are few things worse in this world!)
This classic carrot cake comes together pretty quickly, so it's simple to make. I think the hardest part is grating the carrots, which I did in the food processor. You can always buy the pre-shredded carrots, too, to save time.
Carrot cake isn't overly sweet, which is one reason that I've always liked it. It's one of my favorites in addition, of course, to my Italian rum cake. The cream cheese frosting definitely brings a creamy sweeter note to each bit, so it's an integral part of the cake, I think.
Best served with a cold glass of milk, some coffee (decaf if it's a late-night snack), or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yes, please!!
Key Ingredients for The Cake
- All-Purpose Flour: Instead of using store-bought cake flour, I like to build my own and control the leavening ingredients. So, it's best to use all-purpose here as the foundation.
- Whole Wheat Flour: This gives the cake a nutty flavor and that spice cake color we are looking for — slightly brown.
- Baking Soda: This is the key rising agent for the cake. Helps it rise and be fluffy with a nice crumb.
- Salt: Necessary to combat the sweetness of the carrot cake.
- Cinnamon: You can't have a spice cake without spices! Cinnamon is a key ingredient in this cake and gives it a warm flavor. My carrot cake recipe calls for 1 tablespoon, but you can use one and a half teaspoons if you want a lighter-colored cake.
- Nutmeg: Another key ingredient for spice cakes. Pairs well with the cinnamon, vanilla, and cream cheese frosting!
- Eggs: In total, you'll use four large eggs — yolks and whites. This helps the cake rise and gives it a rich flavor.
- Vegetable Oil: A key ingredient for ensuring your cake is incredibly moist and doesn't dry out!
- Vanilla Extract: Opt for pure over imitation. It yields the best vanilla flavor and color!
- Sugar: You'll stick with regular white, granulated sugar for this recipe so the cake doesn't turn too brown and the sweetness doesn't compete with the super sweet cream cheese icing.
- Carrots: You can't have carrot cake without carrots! My recipe calls for 4 cups total of shredded raw carrots. You can buy the pre-shredded bag of carrot slices, but I recommend shredding it yourself with a grater. This yields the most sweet carrot flavor, as well as the most moisture and best texture for the cake. No one like biting into a hard carrot stick when eating cake!
- Walnuts: In total, you'll use ¾ cup crushed walnuts. This is key because you don't want big pieces throughout the cake; just small pieces that yield a lot of nutty flavor.
Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream cheese: One 8-oz. bar softened at room temperature. Crucial for avoiding lumpy frosting!
- Butter: One cup, aka two sticks, also softened to room temperature for the same reason. No lumps!
- Powdered Sugar: No frosting is complete without it! You'll use 1 pound total. Even though that sounds like a lot, it's really not. You'll be shocked to see how quickly is incorporates with the other ingredients!
- Vanilla Extract: Opt for pure over imitation. It yields the best vanilla flavor!
- Salt: Just half of a teaspoon helps mellow out the sweetness.
How To Make
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a bundt pan.
- Combine all dry ingredients — all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg — in small bowl and set aside.
- Combine wet ingredients — eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla — in a large bowl and mix on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes until well combined, scraping down sides of the bowl to ensure there are no lumps.
- Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix only until just combined while scraping down sides of the bowl intermittently.
- Stir in carrots and nuts, folding in gently with a spatula.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 70-80 minutes. (this is assuming you're using a 9-inch springform pan); less time if you divide batter into 2 pans.
- Star to test the cake for doneness at 65 minutes by inserting cake tester in center.
- In the meantime, combine all frosting ingredients in mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until creamy. (Butter must be room temperature or your frosting will be lumpy.)
- Allow frosting to rest at room temperature while the cake layers cool completely on a wire rack.
How To Assemble
- Once the cake is completely cool, begin frosting the cake. It is crucial that you wait until they are cooled entirely and not the slightest bit hot, or else the frosting will thin out and run.
- Gently slice the cake in half using a serrated knife, cutting in a slow sawing motion. You'll (hopefully) end up with two even cake layers.
- To frost the cake, first smear a small dollop of frosting in the center of a cake board or cake stand. Then, place the first layer with its exposed side facing up onto the cake stand. The icing acts as a glue to hold the cake in place while you ice it.
- Place a fair amount of icing in the middle of the cake layer. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, frost the cake from the inside out, in gentle pushing motions until you reach the edge of the cake.
- Place the second layer on top and frost the cake with a thin crumb coat. (I like the look and ease of a naked cake, which essentially means you don't place any frosting on top of the crumb coat so that the cake layers are visible from the outside.
- Frost the top of the cake more heavily, like a traditional icing. Then, pipe remaining frosting in cute swirls to give it a pleasing look. if you like, you can garnish with some thinly shredded carrot and nuts.
- Revel at your beautiful creation, and enjoy!
Storage and Serving
- To Store: This cake is best served at room temperature, and it will not dry out as long as it's kept in a cake stand with a lid or a container large enough to enclose it. If it has been sliced, place plastic wrap on the expose sides to create a seal that locks out any air from getting to the cake. If refrigerated, it can harden a bit but it will soften nicely once it comes to room temperature (and I recommend waiting until the cake is at room temperature; otherwise, it can be a bit dense or heavy).
- To Freeze: You can totally freeze this cake by the slice so that you have some at your disposal whenever the craving strikes! Just wrap securely in freezer-safe plastic wrap and place in an airtight, freezer-safe container or plastic bag. Allow it to thaw to room temperature before enjoying.
More Recipes To Try
If you loved my best ever homemade carrot cake, you've got to try these other cake recipes:
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The Best Classic Carrot Cake and Frosting
- 9 inch springform cake pan, bundt pan, two 9 x 3-inch cake pans, or a 9 x 13 inch pan.
For the Carrot Cake
- 2 cups (250 g) all purpose flour
- ¾ cup (90 g) white whole wheat flour see NOTE 1
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon For a lighter colored cake, use 1.5 teaspoons
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ¼ cups (272.5 g) vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cups (450 g) sugar
- 4 cups (512 g) shredded raw carrots
- ¾ cup (87.75 g) crushed walnuts
For the Carrot Cake Frosting (see NOTE 2-3)
- 8 ounces (226.8 g) cream cheese
- 1 cup (227 g) butter , must be room temperature
- 1 pound (453.59 g) powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
To Make and Bake the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan (other options include a bundt pan, 9 x 13 inch pan, or two 9-inch cake pan (for 9-inch cake pans, those with 3-inch tall sides will allow cake to rise higher than 2-inch tall sides)
- Combine all dry ingredients (except sugar) in small bowl and set aside
- In a large bowl, combine eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla and mix on medium speed for about 3 or 4 minutes until well combined, scraping down sides of the bowl to ensure no lumps remain
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix only until combined while scraping down sides of the bowl intermittently.
- Stir in carrots and nuts.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 70 to 90 minutes if using 9-inch springform pan; for 60 to 80 minutes if using a bundt cake pan. (if you are using another type of cake pan, please see NOTE 1).
- Begin testing cake at 65 minutes by inserting cake tester in center. Cake is finished when the tester comes out dry (there is no batter on the tester)
- Cool cake completely before frosting.
For the Frosting
- In the meantime (while cake is baking), combine all frosting ingredients in mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until creamy
- Butter must be room temperature or your frosting will be lumpy.
- If you'd like to fill the cake as well as frost it, prepare 2 batches of the frosting recipe (ie, double the amount of each ingredient)
To Decorate Cake
- After cake has completely cooled, fill with frosting if desired, frost top and sides, and decorate as desired. We used a star tip to add some swirls on top edges after frosting.
To Store and Serve
- This cake is best served at room temperature, and it will not dry out as long as it's kept in a cake stand with a lid or a container large enough to enclose it.
- If it has been sliced, place plastic wrap on the expose sides to create a seal that locks out any air from getting to the cake.
- If refrigerating the leftover cake If refrigerated, it can harden a bit but it will soften nicely once it comes to room temperature. If you are questioning whether the cream cheese needs refrigerating, you can leave it out overnight provided your kitchen is not too hot. If in doubt, refrigerate it.
- To Freeze: You can totally freeze this cake by the slice so that you have some at your disposal whenever the craving strikes! Just wrap securely in freezer-safe plastic wrap and place in an airtight, freezer-safe container or plastic bag. Allow it to thaw to room temperature before enjoying!
Originally published in 2013; updated instructions and photos in 2021