Jump to RecipeJump to VideoLeave a ReviewPin Recipe

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.

Moist, perfectly spiced, and finished with a fluffy cream cheese frosting, this easy carrot cake recipe is truly the best! It’s made from scratch in one bowl, with simple pantry ingredients, and comes together in minutes. Add pineapple, coconut, raisins, and chopped nuts if you like, or leave them out if you don’t. Make it as a single layer sheet cake, or stack the layers for a tall, impressive treat. The carrot cake is a perfect dessert for special holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, or a birthday, and also quick enough for your regular Sunday supper!

Close up side shot of an easy carrot cake recipe on a plate with a bite taken out

The Best Carrot Cake Recipe

Seriously…if you’re looking for an easy carrot cake recipe to make at home, you have come to the right place. You don’t need any fancy ingredients or any special baking skills. The foolproof recipe is made from scratch and yields a moist, tender crumb every time. Best of all, there’s no need to worry about stacking layers, crooked cakes, or evenly icing the sides. This sheet cake has the perfect cake-to-frosting ratio, and is sweet…but not too sweet. I love it so much that I even make it for myself on Mother’s Day!

Overhead shot of a wooden table with two plates of homemade carrot cake

What does carrot cake taste like?

If the sound of a carrot cake makes you think of a salad, then think again! You cannot actually taste the carrots in this recipe. Instead, carrot cake is a type of spice cake, prominently flavored with warm notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and vanilla. The carrots add a touch of sweetness and help to keep the carrot cake moist. You’ll also love the rich, creamy, and fluffy cream cheese frosting on top!

While carrot cake is ultimately a spice cake, it gets its unique flavor and texture from the extra mix-ins that you won’t find in just any spice cake — such as grated carrots, nuts, pineapple, coconut, or raisins.

Adding pecans to a mixing bowl

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for an easy carrot cake recipe. As always, specific measurements and complete step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • All-purpose flour: the base of the cake batter.
  • Granulated sugar: to sweeten the cake. You can replace some of the white sugar with brown sugar if you like a touch of molasses flavor; however, the cake is so moist on its own, I didn’t want to use exclusively brown sugar (which adds more moisture to the batter).
  • Baking soda: the leavening agent that helps the cake rise.
  • Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves: warm spices that give the carrot cake its classic flavor.
  • Salt: to balance the sweetness and enhance the other flavors in the cake.
  • Canola or vegetable oil: keeps the cake extra moist!
  • Large eggs: give the cake structure.
  • Grated carrots: the cake’s namesake! You can’t actually taste the carrots in the cake; however, they add a touch of sweetness and keep the cake very moist. Use carrots that you grate by hand — not a bag of pre-grated matchstick carrots.
  • Vanilla extract: for warm flavor.
  • Crushed pineapple, chopped pecans or walnuts, shredded coconut, and raisins: optional mix-ins that you can add to the batter (or to the top of the cake) for more texture. I typically keep it simple by stirring in a few nuts, but nothing else.
  • Butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and milk: come together to create an easy cream cheese frosting.
Cream cheese frosting in a mixing bowl.

How to Make Carrot Cake Easy Recipe

With this easy carrot cake recipe, you have the choice of either baking the batter in a single 9 x 13-inch baking dish (shown here), or dividing the batter between two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans to stack in layers. Either way, that decadent cream cheese frosting will be the perfect finishing touch!

  1. Whisk Together Dry Ingredients. In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
  2. Add Oil and Eggs. With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer or with a handheld electric mixer, beat in the oil and eggs, one at a time.
  3. Stir in Carrots and Vanilla Extract. Add the carrots, vanilla, and pineapple or nuts if you’re adding those optional ingredients. Mix until the wet ingredients are well incorporated with the dry ingredients.
  4. Bake the Carrot Cake. Transfer the batter to a 9 x 13-inch pan and bake in a 350°F oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely, and then it’s time for the cream cheese frosting!
  5. Make the Frosting. To prepare the cream cheese frosting, simply cream together the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar and milk, mixing until completely blended and smooth.
  6. Frost the Cake. Spread the frosting on a cool cake. Garnish with chopped nuts, slice, and serve!
Plate of homemade carrot cake on a plate

Make Ahead

This cake just seems to get better as it sits, so it’s a really nice option to prepare in advance. Make and frost the cake one day ahead of when you plan to serve it.

Bake the cake ahead of time, cool, and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze the unfrosted cake for up to 2 months.

Make the frosting in advance and store it in the refrigerator overnight. The frosting will need to sit at room temperature to soften slightly before you spread it on the cake.

Side shot of a stack of three slices of easy carrot cake recipe

Storage

  • Keep the cake covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil in the refrigerator. I like to bring it to room temperature for about 30-60 minutes before slicing and serving, but that is optional.
  • While it’s best within 1-2 days of baking, you can safely store the leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Sealed in an airtight container, slices of frosted carrot cake will keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Side shot of the best carrot cake recipe on a plate

Recipe Variations

  • Carrot Cake with butter instead of oil: A fat is necessary to keep cakes moist and tender. While butter is sometimes used as the fat in mild cakes (like yellow, white or pound cakes), a flavorless oil like canola or vegetable oil is best for carrot cakes. The carrot cake gets its flavor from the other ingredients — like the carrots and spices. That said, if you prefer to use butter instead of oil, you can substitute with an equal amount of melted butter in this recipe.
  • Instead of baking the cake in a single 9 x 13-inch pan, you can make a layer cake by dividing the batter between two 9-inch or 8-inch round cake pans. Stack the layers on top of each other, with frosting in between. If making a layer cake, I recommend doubling the amount of frosting, since you’ll need extra frosting for the sides and in between the caker layers (and there’s nothing worse than running out of icing)!
  • For a very impressive 4-layer cake, double all of the ingredients and divide the batter between 4 round cake pans.
  • Small Carrot Cake Recipe: Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake this cake in an 8-inch square pan. You’ll need to decrease the baking time by a few minutes, too.
  • Carrot Cake Cupcakes: Use the batter to prepare about 24 cupcakes. Bake standard-size cupcakes at 350°F for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • If you love the stronger flavor of toasted nuts, you can toast the pecans or walnuts in a dry skillet on the stovetop just until fragrant. Let them cool completely, and then use in the recipe as instructed.
  • Keep it really easy by using 2 jars of store-bought cream cheese frosting for a shortcut!
Close overhead shot of a slice of carrot cake on a plate

Tips for an Easy Carrot Cake Recipe

  • Grease or spray the pan really well with non-stick spray so that the cake doesn’t stick. I like to use a baking spray with flour in it. If making a layer cake, grease the pans and line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper.
  • Always use freshly grated carrots that you grate yourself at home with a box grater. These will be very wet, which is a great way to keep your carrot cake moist. Do not use packaged pre-shredded carrots from the grocery store.
  • Use full-fat block-style cream cheese for the frosting. The cream cheese frosting will be thin and runny if you substitute with low fat cream cheese or cream cheese spread from a tub.
  • Optional Mix-Ins: My family prefers the cake batter to be smooth, without the addition of pineapple, nuts, or coconut, so I typically omit those extra ingredients (or just use a handful of chopped pecans). If you prefer, you can certainly add in chopped walnuts or pecans, an 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple (drained), a cup of raisins, or a handful of shredded coconut.
  • Sift the confectioners sugar to avoid any lumps in your frosting.
  • Garnish the cake with chopped pecans or sprinkle with shredded coconut.
Close up shot of a blue and white plate with a slice of the best easy carrot cake recipe

More Cake Recipes to Try

Close up side shot of an easy carrot cake recipe on a plate with a bite taken out

Easy One-Bowl Carrot Cake Recipe

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total: 3 hours 5 minutes
Servings 12 – 16 slices
Calories 505.3 kcal
Moist, perfectly spiced, and finished with a fluffy cream cheese frosting, this easy carrot cake recipe is truly the best!

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional mix-ins: 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, 1 cup raisins, handful of shredded coconut, or 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

  • ½ cup salted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces full-fat block-style cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
  • Approximately 2 tablespoons milk (more or less, depending on desired consistency)
  • ½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

Instructions

FOR THE CAKE:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Add the oil and eggs, one at a time. Beat with an electric mixer until completely combined. Add carrots and vanilla extract; mix well. If using, fold in nuts, raisins, coconut, or drained pineapple.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Set on a wire rack to cool completely.

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

  • Once the cake is completely cool, prepare the frosting. Cream together butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until completely blended. Add the milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the frosting reaches the desired consistency. I use about 2 tablespoons of milk total, but you may need slightly less or slightly more.
  • Spread the frosting on top of the cool cake. Garnish with chopped nuts, if desired.

Notes

  • Grease or spray the pan really well with non-stick spray so that the cake doesn’t stick. I like to use a baking spray with flour in it.
  • Always use freshly grated carrots that you grate yourself at home. These will be very wet, which is a great way to keep your carrot cake moist. Do not use packaged pre-shredded carrots from the grocery store.
  • Use full-fat block-style cream cheese for the frosting. The cream cheese frosting will be thin and runny if you substitute with low fat cream cheese or cream cheese spread from a tub.
  • Optional Mix-Ins: My family prefers the cake batter to be smooth, without the addition of pineapple, nuts, or coconut, so I typically omit those extra ingredients (or just use a handful of chopped pecans). If you prefer, you can certainly add in chopped walnuts or pecans, an 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple (drained), a cup of raisins, or a handful of shredded coconut.
  • Sift the confectioners sugar to avoid any lumps in your frosting.
  • Garnish the cake with chopped pecans or sprinkle with shredded coconut.
  • Carrot Cake with butter instead of oil: A fat is necessary to keep cakes moist and tender. While butter is sometimes used as the fat in mild cakes (like yellow, white or pound cakes), a flavorless oil like canola or vegetable oil is best for carrot cakes. The carrot cake gets its flavor from the other ingredients — like the carrots and spices. That said, if you prefer to use butter instead of oil, you can substitute with an equal amount of melted butter in this recipe.
  • Instead of baking the cake in a single 9 x 13-inch pan, you can make a layer cake by dividing the batter between two 9-inch or 8-inch round cake pans. Stack the layers on top of each other, with frosting in between. If making a layer cake, I recommend doubling the amount of frosting, since you’ll need extra frosting for the sides and filling (and there’s nothing worse than running out of icing)!
  • For a very impressive 4-layer cake, double all of the ingredients and divide the batter between 4 round cake pans.
  • Small Carrot Cake Recipe: Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake this cake in an 8-inch square pan. You’ll need to decrease the baking time by a few minutes, too.
  • Carrot Cake Cupcakes: Use the batter to prepare about 24 cupcakes. Bake standard-size cupcakes at 350°F for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • If you love the stronger flavor of toasted nuts, you can toast the pecans or walnuts in a dry skillet on the stovetop just until fragrant. Let them cool completely, and then use in the recipe as instructed.
  • Keep it really easy by using 2 jars of store-bought cream cheese frosting for a shortcut!

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice (1/16 of the cake)Calories: 505.3kcalCarbohydrates: 67.3gProtein: 4.2gFat: 25.5gSaturated Fat: 7.8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4.7gMonounsaturated Fat: 11.2gCholesterol: 77.6mgSodium: 404.4mgPotassium: 62.7mgFiber: 1.3gSugar: 53.4g
Keyword: best carrot cake recipe, carrot cake recipe, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, easy carrot cake recipe
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in July, 2020. The photos were updated in April, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

Square overhead shot of hands serving a chicken pot pie recipe with biscuits
Overhead image of a bowl of chili mac on a dinner table with cornbread
Hands serving a platter of sheet pan sausage and potatoes

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments

  1. I just had to take the time to let you know I love ❤️ ❤️ your receipes. You make it so easy to put together a meal plan with suggestions on what to serve with it. Also the fact that you include making smaller servings, as there is only me and hate to eat the same food for a week. One more point I would like you to know is the fact you use everyday ingredients and not ones that you use once or can’t find. Hope you keep up the good work. Sincerely Judy k

    1. Judy! Thank you SO much! I appreciate your kind words, and it makes me happy to know that the recipes and cooking tips have been helpful. Thanks for taking the time to leave me a note!

    1. Hi, Lisa! Yes, ma’am! It will work well as a layer cake. You can use either 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans. The smaller cakes will bake a bit faster, so I would start checking them around the 30-minute mark. You might want to double the amount of frosting that you make, since you’ll need plenty of extra for the inside layer and for the sides. Hope you enjoy!!