Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

As you can tell from the picture, that trifle doesn’t exactly look like a cake. This was one of those “when life gives you lemons you make lemonade” situations. I was planning to make this carrot cake recipe for Thanksgiving dessert, to go along with the pumpkin pies that my great aunt was planning on bringing. As luck(?) would have it, for the first time in three years, I had cakes fall apart when turning them out of the pan. Of course it would happen the night before Thanksgiving, when I didn’t have the extra ingredients or the extra time to re-make or the cake. So, a trifle it was! The cake was meant to be a three-layer cake with sweet cream cheese frosting between each layer and on top of the cake. So I recreated the cake in trifle form. I looked on the bright side – it took less time to assemble than the finishing decorative touches on a cake would have 😉 The good news? This cake was absolutely out-of-this-world. In the stratosphere of most amazing carrot cakes ever.

My aunt always makes the pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, but my mom asked if I would make an additional dessert, and of course I said yes. I automatically eliminated anything with pumpkin or any type of pie. It took me awhile to do some thinking and then carrot cake finally dawned on me. I absolutely adore carrot cake and thought that it would make a great finish to Thanksgiving dinner. I sat down with my stack of cookbooks to see if a recipe jumped out at me. I narrowed it down to four different ones and chose this one for two primary reasons: #1 – It’s a Dorie Greenspan recipe. And all of the recipes I have tried from her are, without fail, fabulous. And #2 – It was the only recipe with lots of “stuff” in the cake (“stuff” would be defined as nuts, raisins and coconut). I like my carrot cake chunky and hearty. The only change I made was to add cloves, nutmeg and allspice to the cinnamon in the original recipe since I wanted to punch up the spice factor a bit.

I highly, highly recommend this cake. I love carrot cake and this one probably ranks in the top two that I have ever eaten (the other being while on vacation in the Outer Banks). Hope everyone in the U.S. had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and a relaxing weekend!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 10 servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 to 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes


For the Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup raisins
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs

For the Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound (3¾ cups) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


1. Position the racks in the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour three 9x2-inch round cake pans. Put two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut and raisins.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one, and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix in the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the three baking pans.

4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean; the cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

5. To make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract until well-combined.

6. To assemble, stack the layers, spreading a generous amount of frosting between layers and then cover the top and sides. Garnish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

*Note 1: If you like a substantial layer of frosting between layers, I would probably use 1.5 times the quantities in the frosting recipe. Too much frosting is always much better than not enough :)

*Note 2: Covered, the cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.


126 Responses to “Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting”

Comment Pages 1 2
  1. Honey on November 29, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Wow this looks amazingly delicious! I must try this recipe. What an eye pleaser on thanksgiving. LOVE IT and your Blog!


  2. Cherine on November 29, 2010 at 3:17 am

    What a great idea to make a trifle. Looks really good…


  3. the blissful baker on November 29, 2010 at 3:55 am

    i LOVE carrot cake, but i never thought to make it for thanksgiving dessert, what a great idea! i really like that you turned it into a trifle, it looks lovely!


  4. Silvia on November 29, 2010 at 4:42 am

    Sometimes little accidents can end up having the best results, this idea is great, I’ll have to copy it, thanks so much.


  5. Paula on November 29, 2010 at 5:14 am

    Oh!!! It’s beautiful, and it seems to be delicious!!
    At home, mum and me make some carrot muffins, but with the Betty Croker Mix, so it hasn’t worth.
    We wanted to make something homemade (is the correct word???) and with the cheese frosting, like we eat in restaurants and cafés, so I’ll save this recipe. Perhaps we can try it when I go home this Christmas 😉
    Thank you!!!


  6. Estela @ Weekly Bite on November 29, 2010 at 7:46 am

    I think all cakes should be made this way! I love all the layers!

    Carrot cake is my favorite by the way :)


  7. briarrose on November 29, 2010 at 8:47 am

    The cake may not have turned out, but I love the trifle you made it out of it. It looks lovely. Kind of a neat twist on the the usual there. 😉


  8. Sherry on November 29, 2010 at 9:08 am

    I made a carrot cake last weekend the night before a bake sale it was supposed to go to. I turned it out of my bundt pan, and a ring of cake was still stuck on the bottom! I gently pried it out and laid it on top the rest of the cake. With a smattering of frosting over top, no one ever found out!


    • Michelle on November 29th, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      Oooh I wonder if it’s a carrot cake thing 😉


    • farolwon on February 3rd, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      did you spray the pan with “bakers joy” or a baking spray with flour?
      no cake sticks to the pan when you use it.


  9. Keeley on November 29, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Great idea! You’re so resourceful. I would’ve freaked out, but the trifle actually looks more festive than an iced cake! Plus, people can scoop out the exact amount they want to eat.


  10. T on November 29, 2010 at 10:09 am

    too delicious. reminds me of my swirl-together’s when lazy…


  11. Doughmesstic on November 29, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Genius! I love your idea – and now I have to purchase a trifle dish to have on hand for when I have the same problem! So SMART!


  12. Irina@PastryPal on November 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Nice save! That was some quick thinking. I probably would have mushed it together somehow, but your idea is way more clever. And I can tell that it does look really, really delish.


  13. Maria on November 29, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I like it better in trifle form anyways:)


  14. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels on November 29, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Wow, by just looking at your gorgeous trifle, you would have never of known that it was meant to be a layered cake. I LOVE that you made it into a trifle, it looks sooooo good. Carrot cake is one of my absolute favorites and yours looks insanely delicious. I’m so making this trifle as soon as possible.


  15. marla {family fresh cooking} on November 29, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I too like lots of “stuff” in my carrot cake. This looks great & I am loving the layered trifle thing you got going on. Extra frosting is never a bad thing :) xo


  16. Belinda @zomppa on November 29, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Looks way too amazing!!


  17. Tina from PA on November 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    What a cute story! I love how you don’t sweat it you just shift gears! Great save and looks divine.I’ve ask you this before but, I’ll ask again ……. Would you have a recipe to share for mini ladylocks? I have one that’s o.k. but ,always looking to improve.


    • Michelle on November 29th, 2010 at 6:51 pm

      Hi Tina, I haven’t ventured into homemade ladylocks yet, although a friend of my mom’s keeps asking if I can make some. One of these days I’ll tackle them :)


      • Tina from PA on November 29th, 2010 at 10:08 pm

        I’ll be waiting! Ilive in northeast Pa now and these people don’t have a clue what they are up here,when I do make the recipe I have they all go crazy for them.I also want to try to make Italian peaches too, have you ever made them?That will really knock their socks off!Hey ,you can take the girl out of Pittsburgh,but ,you cann’t take the cookies out of the Pittsburgh girl!


        • Michelle on December 1st, 2010 at 8:51 am

          I’ve actually never heard of Italian peaches, fill me in! :)


      • Katie on December 14th, 2015 at 7:01 pm

        Hi Michelle!! I found this comment after searching your site for “ladylocks”. Also from PGH originally, I live in MD now and I’ve been on a mission to make these. I tried 3, yes 3, dough recipes this weekend and only 1 was remotely acceptable. And that’s pushing it. So have you tackled them yet, and if not, do you have a recipe by chance that you trust? Thanks!


        • Michelle on December 18th, 2015 at 8:46 pm

          Hi Katie, I have not tackled lady locks yet, eeek!


  18. Sommer J on November 29, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Looks amazing still! I’d love to try this carrot cake recipe. Have heard nothing but raves about Dorie Greenspan.

    I, too, love a chunky carrot cake!


  19. annie on November 29, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I love that you took a negative and turned it into a positive like that. I had a lemon cake fall apart a few weeks ago and I swear it felt like the end of the world. I will have yo rember this if it ever happens again. Btw the trifle looks fabulous!


  20. Tracy on November 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    What a wonderful way to salvage those cakes! I would not have been at all disappointed to have been served this lovely dessert!!


  21. Liz on November 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Great idea for a stuck cake…that happens to me way too often! Looks gorgeous as a trifle!


  22. azélias kitchen on November 29, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    You know some of my near-disasters turned out to be great successes! Out of desperation comes brilliance and you’ve certainly achieved that! well done :-)


  23. Paula on November 29, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    This is the first time I’ve seen a carrot cake trifle but I have a feeling it won’t be the last. What a fantastic idea!


  24. Hecmi on November 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    I’m really sorry to say this, but I’m glad the cake broke 😉 this is a great idea, and it looks beautiful!!


  25. Katrina on November 29, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    This looks sooooo good! I like how you strayed away from the traditional cake look. Love it!


  26. Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen on November 29, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    What a way to save a cake! It looks super tasty, but I’m a sucker for anything with cream cheese frosting :)


  27. Ann on November 29, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Delicious! What a great idea. It looks fabulous. Great way to shift gears!


  28. Amy on November 29, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    This sounds absolutely heavenly! I love that you went for a non-conventional Thanksgiving dessert! Beautiful presentation in the trifle dish!


  29. Leslie on November 29, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    I love the deconstructed carrot cake!!!


  30. Tessa on November 29, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    I’ve been there before with broken pieces of a cake out of a pan, but I love the way you turned it around. The trifle looks gorgeous, and I’m certain I would have gone that way over any pie offered!


  31. Brian @ A Thought For Food on November 29, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Ok… pass me a spoon and let me dig in! Carrot Cake (along with rice pudding and cheesecake) is one of my favorite desserts! Can never get enough.


  32. carri on November 29, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    I sooooo miss cream cheese!


  33. Katie on November 30, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Wow looks delicious. Great idea – makes me want to dig right in


  34. Rosalie on November 30, 2010 at 7:34 am

    I had a similar incident happen to me once. I used Cool Whip instead of frosting. Everyone loved it. I call it my Dump Cake.


  35. Maggy@ThreeManyCooks on November 30, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Michelle, I think we can call this a “happy accident” – looks delicious! And it’s pretty too.


  36. holly on November 30, 2010 at 9:35 am

    I need to try this, I love lots of “stuff” in my carrot cake also. And the trifle looks so festive!!


  37. Sharlene on November 30, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Wonderful idea to turn it into a trifle! I agree that every recipe Dorie touches seems to turn to gold for me. Sounds like you had a great holiday!


  38. Cookin' Canuck on November 30, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I am a big carrot cake fan. In fact, that was the flavor we had for our wedding cake. I think the trifle is a brilliant solution to a cake that’s not cooperating!


  39. Natalia - a side of simple on November 30, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    There is no such thing as too much icing. ever. :)


  40. Nuts about Food on December 1, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Oh my, that looks absolutely amazing!! I love this idea and it looks even moister and richer than a cake would have been. Accidents in the kitchen are actually often a good thing.


  41. grace on December 1, 2010 at 6:07 am

    truth be told, i think this is superior to your intended cake. the frosting-to-cake ratio is much better. :)


  42. foodlvr on December 1, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    This looks amazing. Whether it be cake or trifle. What an ingenious way of using up the cake.


  43. Lauren on December 2, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Now this is a prime example of how a kitchen mishap can end up yielding a fantastic result! Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts, and I love the idea of presenting it as a trifle :)


  44. Cindy on December 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    That is such a wonderful idea. A friend gave me a Pampered Chef trifle bowl for my birthday and I have been searching for ideas. I never thought of something so easy to do as just a cake with icing layers and maybe through in a filling also. Thanks so much. This is my first time on your blog and I will definately be back to read more. I found you when I was searching for icing recipes for my Christmas cookies. I love the detail that you provided. Thanks so much.


    • Michelle on December 6th, 2010 at 11:36 pm

      Hi Cindy, welcome to the site! I hope you’ll enjoy the recipes!


  45. Legomyego on December 7, 2010 at 1:53 am

    I have 2 questions that may sound ridiculous (sorry!):
    -Can this be made into a cupcake recipe? I ask because I love how carrot cake is so moist and I don’t want that to be lost if it’s in cupcake form.
    -Is the coconut critical? I hate to say it but I’m not a huge coconut fan.


    • Michelle on December 10th, 2010 at 1:55 pm

      No questions are ridiculous! As far as cupcakes, I can’t give you a good answer because I haven’t tried it. You could give it a shot! Then report back :)

      No you can leave the coconut out if you don’t like it; it’s not critical.


  46. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction on December 8, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I love the look of that trifle! I have tons of cream cheese icing left over from my brother’s wedding last weekend, so I might have to make something similar this week :)


  47. Jen @ How To: Simplify on December 12, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Oh man…I want some of this right now! Wow, it looks amazing!


  48. Cherissa on December 21, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Michelle! Help! First, let me say that I just stumbled on your website and am SO thrilled that I did!! I’m beyond excited to start trying your recipes!… Now, for the help I need… On Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law challenged me to a “carrot cake bake off”! I, of course, excepted this challenge and then proceeded to talk all kinds of trash! I mean who does he think he is?!?…I am the baker in this family! LOL! Buuut… I’ve never made a carrot cake??! YIKES! I’m going to use your recipe of course! Any tips to ensure I will be victorious? :)


  49. Kati at on December 27, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I just made this cake (not as a trifle) for a holiday/birthday dessert… it was incredible. I omitted the nuts (since the birthday person wasn’t a fan), but it still came out so well. It did crack, too, as I turned it out, but it didn’t matter at all. That’s what frosting is for, right? Thanks for sharing a great recipe!


  50. Diane Pham-Le on December 31, 2010 at 1:12 am

    I tried this recipe today and thought it was good. The only thing I’d change is the amount of ground cloves. I found 1tsp to be overpowering. Next time I might just put 1/4 or 1/8 tsp.


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