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A whole carrot cake with cream cheese frosting sprinkled with pale green freeze-dried pistachios and two slices removed.

Incredibly Moist Carrot Cake (best carrot cake recipe ever)

Carrot cake lovers hold on to your hats. This is a seriously tender, moist, and balanced carrot cake made 100% from scratch — perfectly spiced, with the warm toasted crunch of walnuts (or pecans) in delicious harmony with a tangy cream cheese frosting (that has an extra vanilla bean kick).

For us, this is carrot cake nirvana.  I’ve been making this recipe for years now and it’s the kind of cake people ask for the recipe.  It’s a really simple carrot cake to make and one of our favorites for Easter and Mother’s Day celebrations.  For anyone who may be new to baking, I’ve included step-by-step recipe photos for you below.

This is Hands Down the Best Carrot Cake Ever (Easter Bunny Approved)

If you’re here because you’re looking for a carrot cake recipe that tastes as good as grandma’s (or the one at Whole Foods), you’ve found it. You know the ones I’m talking about —  those perfect little rectangles of carrot cake goodness in the dessert section at Whole Foods. Forget every other cake they sell, the carrot cake is by far the one and only to ever buy in my opinion.

Use this recipe to make carrot cake cupcakes or mini carrot cake loaves (which make great gifts). This also happens to be one of the best make-ahead cakes. It freezes incredibly well and it’s impossible to tell it was ever frozen after it’s thawed which means you can pull out a slice for an easy dessert anytime you’re having a sweet tooth. This is the only carrot cake recipe we make switching up the addins depending on our mood.

You Can See by the Photos Below, this Carrot Cake is Super Moist + Tender

Incredibly Moist + Easy Carrot Cake Ingredients 

This carrot cake uses all-natural ingredients some of which can be switched up to suit your own tastes. For this post, I’ve used a combination of purple carrots and orange carrots, so the crumb is laced with strands of deep purple carrot and overall a bit darker in color but tastes exactly the same. Toasted walnuts or pecans give it just the right amount of nuttiness that works in perfect contrast to the cream cheese frosting. And if you’re a no-raisin-in-my-carrot-cake kinda person just leave them out or substitute with canned pineapple tidbits. I don’t always add raisins but when I do, I prefer to use golden raisins (which have proved difficult to find here in Italy). No matter what you add or subtract as far as the nuts or raisins go, this is a super delicious carrot cake that holds its own.

CAKE INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (160g)
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil) (118g)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (83g)
  • 1 1/2 cups natural cane sugar (or white sugar) (300g)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (240g)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda (8g)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (8g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (2g)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature (200g)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract (20g)
  • 3 cups grated purple or orange carrots (400g)
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts (100g)
  • up to 2/3 cup golden or regular raisins (optional) (50-100g)

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound (16oz) cream cheese, room temperature (453g)
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup powdered sugar (130g) *I use slightly less than 1 cup as seen in step-by-step photos
  • 1/4 cup whole milk (60g)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (14g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (optional but recommended) 
  • lemon zest to taste (from fresh lemon) 
  • pinch of salt

*I use 00 flour when I’m in Italy, and the weight of different flours varies based on the humidity content and absorption potential of the flour you’re working with. Just be sure to use the ‘scoop and level’ method to measure your flour into measuring cups and spoons and the recipe works perfectly every time.

How to Make the Best Carrot Cake w/Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

This carrot cake recipe is simple to make, just be sure to gently combine the ingredients together when mixing in the “dries” with the “wets” so you don’t over-activate the gluten and end up with a dense or tough crumb. And always use the “scoop + level” method for measuring the flour.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/176°C + Prep the cake pans. Heat the oven and butter or spray two 8-inch (or 9-inch) aluminum cake pans. Lightly flour the pans making sure to cover the inside well. Tap out any remaining flour. Line the bottoms of the cake pans with parchment paper and set them aside until ready to fill. 
  2. Cream the butter & the oil. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, gently cream the butter with the oil until mostly combined. Add the applesauce and the sugar and beat until well combined. 
  3. Prepare the dry ingredients. Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt to a medium bowl and whisk well to combine, set aside
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and add vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture alternating with the eggs, beating just until combined after each addition. Turn off the mixer. 
  5. Fold the nuts & raisins (if using) into the batter. With the mixer off, add the carrots and gently fold them into the batter using a rubber spatula until well incorporated. Next, add the walnuts (or pecans) and raisins (if using) and gently fold them into the batter. Do not over-mix the cake batter which will result in a dense, tough cake crumb.
  6. Portion the cake batter. Split the cake batter evenly between two cake pans.
  7. Bake the cakes. Bake the cakes for 40-45 minutes for 8-inch pans (or 30-35 minutes for 9-inch pans), or until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean. 
  8. Cool the cakes. Remove the cakes from the oven and place them onto a cooling rack for 10 minutes to slightly cool. Invert the cakes onto a cooling rack, remove them from the pans, and cool to room temperature. When cakes are completely cooled, they may be frosted. 
  9. Prepare the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting. Blend all of the frosting ingredients together until well combined. Frost the cakes and Enjoy!

Incredibly Moist and Easy Carrot Cake recipe step-by-step photos

Incredibly Moist and Easy Carrot Cake tips + tricks + FAQ’s

  • Why use a scale versus measuring cups and spoons?  Using a scale to measure ingredients produces more consistently reliable results versus measuring cups. Plus, it makes measuring ingredients quicker and there’s less mess to clean up.
  • Why are room temperature ingredients important in baking?  Room temperature ingredients like eggs, butter, milk, and other dairy ingredients when combined form an emulsion that traps air inside of a mixture. This trapped air expands and rises during the baking process, which ultimately produces fluffier and more tender baked goods. Room temperature ingredients = tender cake crumb and moist cupcakes.
  • Why do you need to gently incorporate the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients?   Stirring the dry and wet ingredients in cake batter too much or too aggressively can activate the gluten in the flour too much. This can ruin your otherwise perfect cake crumb by making it dense.  If the wet and dry ingredients are incorporated gently and just until it’s all well combined (and no more), you’ll end up with a lighter crumb allowing your cake to be very moist and spongy.
  • Can I make a carrot cake ahead and freeze it? Yes, you can freeze carrot cake. In fact, this cake freezes extremely well and tastes just as great when thawed in the fridge overnight or left at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour as it does the day you baked it. Carrot cake is a great make-ahead dessert for get-togethers or dinner parties. You can even frost the cake (or cupcakes) with the cream cheese frosting before freezing. Freeze slices (or whole carrot cake) wrapped in sustainable cling film and then placed into an airtight container for up to 3 months. Carrot cake may even be stored longer if it’s done with care and stored properly. 
  • Where does carrot cake come from? According to most food scholars, it’s believed that carrot cake is derived from Medieval carrot puddings made in Europe when sweeteners and sugar were scarce. The carrot provides a bit of neutral sweetness to baked goods and it was plentiful which is why it had a resurgence in popularity during WWII when sugar and other rations were scarce.  

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A whole carrot cake with cream cheese frosting sprinkled with pale green freeze-dried pistachios and two slices removed.

The Ultimate (Super Tender) Carrot Cake Recipe


  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: one 8 inch double layer cake 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This is a seriously tender, moist, and balanced carrot cake made 100% from scratch — perfectly spiced, with the warm toasted crunch of walnuts (or pecans) in delicious harmony with a tangy cream cheese frosting (that has an extra vanilla bean kick).

For us, this is carrot cake nirvana.  I’ve been making this recipe for years now and it’s the kind of cake people ask for the recipe.  It’s a really simple carrot cake to make and one of our favorites for Easter and Mother’s Day celebrations.  For anyone who may be new to baking, I’ve included step-by-step recipe photos for you below.


Ingredients

Scale

CAKE INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (160g)
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil) (118g)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (83g)
  • 1 1/2 cups natural cane sugar (or white sugar) (300g)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (240g)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda (8g)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (8g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (2g)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature (200g)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract (20g)
  • 3 cups grated purple or orange carrots (400g)
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts (100g)
  • up to 2/3 cup golden or regular raisins (optional) (50-100g)

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound (16oz) cream cheese, room temperature (453g)
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup powdered sugar (130g) *I use slightly less than 1 cup as seen in step-by-step photos
  • 1/4 cup whole milk (60g)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (14g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (optional but recommended)
  • lemon zest to taste (from fresh lemon)
  • pinch of salt

*I use 00 flour when I’m in Italy, and the weight of different flours varies based on the humidity content and absorption potential of the flour you’re working with. Just be sure to use the ‘scoop and level’ method to measure your flour into measuring cups and spoons and the recipe works perfectly every time.


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/176°C + Prep the cake pans. Heat the oven and butter or spray two 8-inch (or 9-inch) aluminum cake pans. Lightly flour the pans making sure to cover the inside well. Tap out any remaining flour. Line the bottoms of the cake pans with parchment paper and set them aside until ready to fill. 
  2. Cream the butter + the oil. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, gently cream the butter with the oil until mostly combined. Add the applesauce and the sugar and beat until well combined. 
  3. Prepare the dry ingredients. Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt to a medium bowl and whisk well to combine, set aside
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and add vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture alternating with the eggs, beating just until combined after each addition. Turn off the mixer. 
  5. Fold the nuts & raisins (if using) into the batter. With the mixer off, add the carrots and gently fold them into the batter using a rubber spatula until well incorporated. Next, add the walnuts (or pecans) and raisins (if using) and gently fold them into the batter. Do not over-mix the cake batter which will result in a dense, tough cake crumb.
  6. Portion the cake batter. Split the cake batter evenly between two cake pans.
  7. Bake the cakes. Bake the cakes for 40-45 minutes for 8-inch pans (or 30-35 minutes for 9-inch pans), or until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean. 
  8. Cool the cakes. Remove the cakes from the oven and place them onto a cooling rack for 10 minutes to slightly cool. Invert the cakes onto a cooling rack, remove them from the pans, and cool to room temperature. When cakes are completely cooled, they may be frosted. 
  9. Prepare the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting. Blend all of the frosting ingredients together until well combined. Frost the cakes and Enjoy!

Notes

  • Why use a scale versus measuring cups and spoons?  Using a scale to measure ingredients produces more consistently reliable results than measuring cups. Plus, it makes measuring ingredients quicker and there’s less mess to clean up.
  • Why are room temperature ingredients important in baking?  Room temperature ingredients like eggs, butter, milk, and other dairy ingredients when combined form an emulsion that traps air inside of a mixture. This trapped air expands and rises during the baking process, which ultimately produces fluffier and more tender baked goods. Room temperature ingredients = tender cake crumb and moist cupcakes.
  • Why do you need to gently incorporate the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients?   Stirring the dry and wet ingredients in cake batter too much or too aggressively can activate the gluten in the flour too much. This can ruin your otherwise perfect cake crumb by making it dense.  If the wet and dry ingredients are incorporated gently and just until it’s all well combined (and no more), you’ll end up with a lighter crumb allowing your cake to be very moist and spongy.
  • Can I make a carrot cake ahead and freeze it? Yes, you can freeze carrot cake. In fact, this cake freezes extremely well and tastes just as great when thawed in the fridge overnight or left at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour as it does the day you baked it. Carrot cake is a great make-ahead dessert for get-togethers or dinner parties. You can even frost the cake (or cupcakes) with the cream cheese frosting before freezing. Freeze slices (or whole carrot cake) wrapped in sustainable cling film and then placed into an airtight container for up to 3 months. Carrot cake may even be stored longer if it’s done with care and stored properly. 
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Cakes + Tortes
  • Method: Oven Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice

Keywords: carrot cake with raisins, carrot cake without raisins, purple carrot cake recipe, best carrot cake recipe, carrot cake recipe from scratch, best carrot cake ever, cream cheese frosting, carrot cake from scratch, purple carrot recipe, icing for carrot cake, carrot cake loaf, carrot cake muffins,

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One Comment

  1. Made this delicious Carrot Cake for an early Easter gathering. It was a really big hit. Super moist & so easy to make. Would highly recommend to try this!!!

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