This carrot cake is moist, tender cake layers packed with finely grated carrots and flavored with vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and iced with sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting. No pineapple, raisins, or nuts here! Just a classic carrot cake recipe everyone will love!
Ingredients for Classic Carrot Cake
- Granulated sugar: For sweetness.
- Brown sugar: Adds a slight molasses flavor.
- Vegetable oil: You can also use canola oil or another neutral baking oil.
- Eggs: Large eggs, room temperature.
- Milk: Room temperature.
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla extract adds a subtle vanilla flavor to the cake.
- All-purpose flour: Regular all-purpose flour.
- Baking soda: A leavening agent that helps the cake rise.
- Baking powder: Another leavening agent to create lift in the cake layers.
- Cinnamon: Ground cinnamon helps give the cake that classic spice cake flavor.
- Nutmeg: Another warm spice that gives carrot cake a great flavor.
- Salt: To enhance the flavors.
- Carrots: Finely grated carrots are a must. If the carrots are shredded too thick, they will not bake through and will cause a chunky and crunchy carrot cake.
Cream cheese frosting
- Unsalted butter: Room temperature. You can also use half salted and half unsalted and omit additional salt.
- Cream cheese: Room temperature.
- Powdered sugar: No need to sift unless it is very lumpy.
- Vanilla extract: You can use vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.
- Salt: A bit of salt balances the sweetness of the icing.
How to Make Carrot Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare round cake pans with cooking spray and parchment circles.
- In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract and mix together until well combined.
- Add in all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
- Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients combine with the wet ingredients. Do not overmix the batter.
- Fold the finely grated carrots into the batter using a spatula.
- Divide the batter evenly among cake pans. Use a kitchen scale to keep the layers even.
- Bake the cake layers for 30 to 35 minutes.
- Remove the cakes from the oven. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, remove, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream together room temperature salted butter and cream cheese.
- Add the powdered sugar in two parts and mix on the lowest speed after each part is added until fully combined.
- Add in vanilla extract and salt.
- Turn the speed up to medium/high and whip until light and fluffy.
- (Optional) Switch to a paddle attachment and mix for 3-5 minutes to remove air bubbles and make a smooth frosting.
Carrot Cake Recipe Tips
Bake perfect cake layers
Check out my baking tips blog post on 10 Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes for simple tips and tricks to bake the best cakes! For this one though, stick with the 350 degree F oven temperature!
Use finely grated carrots for the best texture
The best way to get perfectly grated carrots without a ton of mess or hassle is to use a food processor. Do not use the shredding disc though! You will be using the chopping feature of your food processor. If you have a high powered blender, then you can use that as well. Peel and cut the carrots into 1 inch chunks. Add the carrot chunks to the food processor and pulse until you have very finely chopped carrots. You can also use the smallest grate on a box grater and do it by hand. However you do it, the goal is to get teeny tiny carrot shreds! Measure the carrots after they are grated!
Assembling the carrot cake
Carrot cake lovers
Storing and serving
The carrot cake should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days! Be sure to cover any exposed cake with plastic wrap to prevent the cake from drying out. The cake is best enjoyed at room temperature, so remove it from the refrigerator about 1 hour before serving!
Classic Carrot Cake
- 3 7" round cake pans
- Stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment for electric hand mixer
Carrot Cake Layers
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs room temperature
- ¾ cup milk room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 cups carrots finely shredded
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 8 oz. cream cheese room temperature
- 7 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare cake pans using cooking spray and parchment circles.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract. Using an electric hand mixer or whisk, mix together until fully combined.
- Add all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix together on low speed until the dry ingredients are combined with the wet.
- Gently fold in the finely shredded carrots until they are well-dispersed throughout the batter.
- Divide batter evenly between your cake pans (see equipment for sizes). Use a kitchen scale to ensure that the batter is equally divided.
- Bake cakes for approximately 30-35 minutes in the oven until the cakes spring back when gently touched or toothpick comes out clean. *Please note that baking times may be different for different size pans.
- Remove cake pans from the oven and allow the cakes to cool for approximately 20 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Level cake layers using a serrated knife so that the layers are flat.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add room temperature butter and cream cheese. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
- Add half the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add remaining half of the powdered sugar.
- Add vanilla extract and salt.
- Turn the mixer on high speed and whip for 3-5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Assembling the Carrot Cake
- Place one cake layer on a cake board or plate. Add desired amount of frosting to the top of the layer and spread evenly. Continue to repeat this process until the layers are stacked.
- Spread a very thin layer of frosting all over the cake (crumb coat). Chill your cake for 30 minutes until the cream cheese frosting is slightly firm to the touch.
- Frost and decorate the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting. For this design, add a thick layer of frosting and smooth with a cake scraper. Gently press a small offset spatula into the icing and pull up slowly while spinning your turn table. Create a swirl on the top as well. Decorate the top edge of the cake with chopped pecans.