My All-Time Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe

I have made my share of different carrot cake recipes over the years, but none can hold a candle to this one; it is the gold standard as far as I’m concerned. The cake is subtly spiced, super moist, and packed with tons of extras like pineapple, coconut, raisins, and pecans. Last but not least, it’s filled and frosted with my all-time favorite cream cheese frosting. It’s a winner on every level and the best carrot cake recipe you’ll ever try, guaranteed. Make it for Easter, Thanksgiving, or anytime you need a special cake!

Carrot cake on a cake pedestal, showing the inside of the cake.

Carrot cake is, in my mind, one of the most absolutely underrated cakes out there. Most people love chocolate or yellow cake, while others go nuts over white or red velvet. It’s understandable, they’re delicious… but my gosh, carrot cake is just SO GOOD.

I’ve always been a fan of carrot cake, but on a weekend trip to the Outer Banks back when my husband and I were dating, we ate at the Outer Banks Brewing Station and for dessert had the most enormous, most delicious piece of carrot cake to ever grace my plate. I’ve been officially obsessed from that moment on.

While carrot cake is typically served for spring occasions like Easter and Mother’s Day, I argue that it deserves a permanent place on any dessert rotation for family dinners, holidays, birthdays, or special occasions.

Let’s dive in!

Ingredients for carrot cake prepped and labeled.

How to prep the carrots

Since this is a carrot cake, let’s take a moment to discuss how to prepare the star of the recipe – the carrots!

We are using peeled, grated carrots and since we need 3 cups of grated carrot, you’ll need about 6 medium carrots to get that yield. Of course, the size of the carrots will play in role in how many you ultimately use, but a general rule of thumb:

2 medium carrots = 1 cup grated carrots.

In order to grate the carrots, use the large holes on a standard box grater. You could also use a shredding disc for a food processor and follow the instructions in the manual for shredding carrots.

Important Note: Do NOT use store-bought shredded/grated carrots. While a shortcut is tempting, these are drier and harder than freshly shredded carrots; they will not impart the necessary moisture into the cake and will result in a less-than-desirable texture.

Step-by-step photos of mixing together batter for carrot cake.

Making carrot cake from scratch

Making carrot cake is super simple (you only need two bowls, a whisk, and spatula – no mixer required!), and now that we’ve got the carrots out of the way, let’s walk through the next steps!

  1. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk wet ingredients + sugars together in a large bowl, ensuring everything is thoroughly combined.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and fold together with a spatula.
  4. Fold in those add-ins! Stir in the carrots, pineapple, coconut, raisins, and pecans.
  5. Divide between the cake pans and bake.
  6. Make the cream cheese frosting, then assemble the cake! All done!

Carrot cake batter in three round cake pans.

Carrot cake FAQ

Answering some of the most common carrot cake questions:

Is carrot cake better with oil or butter?

This cake is made exclusively with oil, which is a key ingredient in keeping it nice and moist. For that reason, I do not recommend substituting butter in this particular cake. You can use canola oil, but I do not recommend using olive oil or other strong-tasting oils.

Can you adjust the seasonings?

Yes, absolutely! I only use cinnamon in this cake, so it’s subtly spiced, which I feel pairs wonderfully with the other ingredients, but you can decrease the amount if you’d like. You can also increase the amount or add in other warm spices like ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

Can you omit any of the add-ins like pineapple, coconut, raisins, and pecans?

Yes, you can. I strongly advise keeping the pineapple because it does add moisture, but it’s not absolutely necessary. You can omit any of the add-ins in the cake without making any other adjustments to the batter, but the cake may bake more quickly so start checking for doneness sooner.

Can this recipe be converted to cupcakes, a sheet cake, or other size cake pans?

Yes, all of these will work:

  • 8-inch round pans: Prepare as directed below but bake for 27 to 35 minutes.
  • 9×13-inch pan: Bake in a greased 9×13-inch pan until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
  • Bundt pan: Generously grease a 10 to 12-cup Bundt pan and bake for 60 to 75 minutes.
  • Cupcakes: Fill standard muffin cups two-thirds full and bake for 20 to 22 minutes.

What type of frosting should be used?

Cream cheese frosting, of course!! It’s the go-to standard for all carrot cakes, however, if you are really averse to it, here are a few other options:

How to decorate and serve carrot cake?

The beauty of carrot cake is that there is so much substance to the cake that it lends itself to a very minimalist or rustic decorating vibe. I don’t typically do any piping on a carrot cake, but instead will use one of these ideas:

  • Do a “spiral” design on the top of the cake with chopped pecans pressed into the sides (shown in these photos).
  • Flip that and do a spiral or ribbed design on the sides and press chopped pecans around the top outer edge.
  • You can also save some frosting and tint it orange and green and pipe little carrots on the top of the cake.

Fully assembled carrot cake with spiral icing design on top and pecans pressed into sides.

Make-ahead, storage, and freezing tips

Carrot cake is a wonderful candidate for making ahead, so it’s a perfect choice when you don’t want to be baking and frosting a cake at the last minute!

  • Storage: Leftover cake should be stored in an airtight container (or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap) in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Make-Ahead: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and wrapped in plastic wrap up to 2 days before frosting and assembling. The entire cake can be assembled and refrigerated for up to 1 day before serving.
  • Freezing Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and placed into a freezer zip-top resealable bag and frozen for up to 3 months before thawing in the refrigerator overnight and proceeding with the recipe. The entire cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and frozen for up to 1 month; thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

If you like carrot cake, you’ll love these:

Slice of carrot cake on its side on a plate.

Carrot Cake Recipe

I highly, highly recommend this cake for any dessert-worthy occasion. Made completely from scratch and incredibly versatile, meaning that you can create the exact carrot cake that you will love. Make it and enjoy it sometime soon!

If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️

Carrot Cake Recipe

Servings 16 servings
Prep 45 minutes
Cook 28 minutes
Total 1 hour 15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Michelle

This is truly the best carrot cake recipe - it's made completely from scratch, is supremely moist, and packed full of carrots, pineapple, coconut, pecans and raisins. Filled and frosted with a simple cream cheese frosting, this cake is an absolute winner on every level.

Ingredients:

For the Carrot Cake

  • cups
    all-purpose flour
  • teaspoons
    baking powder
  • 1
    teaspoon
    baking soda
  • ½
    teaspoon
    salt
  • 2
    teaspoons
    ground cinnamon
  • 4
    eggs
  • cups
    granulated sugar
  • ½
    cup
    light brown sugar
  • cups
    vegetable oil
  • 2
    teaspoons
    vanilla extract
  • 3
    cups
    peeled grated carrots
  • 8
    ounce
    can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1
    cup
    finely chopped pecans
  • 1
    cup
    raisins
  • ½
    cup
    sweetened shredded coconut

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1
    cup
    unsalted butter
    (at room temperature)
  • 4
    cups
    powdered sugar
  • 2
    teaspoons
    vanilla extract
  • ½
    teaspoon
    salt
  • 16
    ounces
    cream cheese
    (chilled and cut into 16 pieces)

To Garnish

  • Chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Make the Carrot Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with a round of parchment, grease the parchment, then flour the pans and tap out the excess. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined and there are no lumps of brown sugar. Add the flour mixture and, with a rubber spatula, gently stir until mostly combined. Add the carrots, pineapple, pecans, raisins and coconut and fold together until thoroughly combined.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with clean, 22 to 28 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
  5. Make the Cream Cheese Frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt on low speed until smooth, then mix for an additional 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.

  6. Increase the speed to medium-low and add the cream cheese one piece at a time and mix until smooth, then mix for an additional 2 minutes.

  7. Assemble the Carrot Cake: Place one cake layer on a serving platter and spread with 1 cup of the cream cheese frosting. Top with a second cake layer and again spread with 1 cup of the cream cheese frosting. Place the final cake layer on top, top-side-down (so the bottom of the cake is actually facing up), then frost the top and sides with the remaining cream cheese frosting and garnish the sides with chopped pecans, if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. The cake can be made up to 1 day in advance and leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Recipe Notes:

  • Equipment: Three 9-inch round cake pans / Box grater
  • Vegetable Oil: Do not use butter in place of vegetable oil, but you can use canola oil or another neutral-flavored oil.
  • Add-in Substitutions: You can omit the coconut, pecans and/or the raisins in the cake without making any other adjustments to the batter, but the cake may bake more quickly so start checking for doneness sooner.
  • 8-inch round pans: Prepare as directed but bake for 27 to 35 minutes.
  • 9x13-inch pan: Bake in a greased 9x13-inch pan until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
  • Bundt pan: Generously grease a 10 to 12-cup Bundt pan and bake for 60 to 75 minutes.
  • Cupcakes: Fill standard muffin cups two-thirds full and bake for 20 to 22 minutes.
  • Storage: Leftover cake should be stored in an airtight container (or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap) in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Make-Ahead: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and wrapped in plastic wrap up to 2 days before frosting and assembling. The entire cake can be assembled and refrigerated for up to 1 day before serving.
  • Freezing Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and placed into a freezer zip-top resealable bag, and frozen for up to 3 months before thawing in the refrigerator overnight and proceeding with the recipe. The entire cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and frozen for up to 1 month; thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Nutritional values are based on one serving

Nutrition:

Calories: 787kcal
Fat: 49g
Saturated fat: 31g
Cholesterol: 103mg
Sodium: 352mg
Potassium: 326mg
Carbohydrates: 86g
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 61g
Protein: 6g
Vitamin A: 4815%
Vitamin C: 3%
Calcium: 80%
Iron: 2%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Photography by Dee Frances