Finally! Meet my tested and perfected carrot cake recipe. I’ve been working on this carrot cake for a long time, and I’m so happy to report that I’ve finally nailed it.
I was hoping to publish the recipe in time for Valentine’s Day, then Mother’s Day. Here we are, just in time for Father’s Day and your summer birthdays! I hope you have a carrot cake lover in your life, because this cake will make him or her very happy.
This homemade carrot cake would be perfect for any celebratory occasion. It’s exactly what I want my carrot cake to be: delicious and moist, gently spiced with cinnamon and ginger, infused with flecks of fresh carrots, and covered in luscious cream cheese frosting. It’s the best.
This cake is also simple to make from scratch with wholesome ingredients. You can easily make it in an afternoon, with plenty of time to kill while the cake cools.
I’m often intimidated by layer cakes, so if I can make this cake, I know you can, too. Ready?!
Why You’ll Love This Carrot Cake
This carrot cake recipe is my favorite for several reasons:
1) This cake is incredibly delicious and moist.
The cake is nice and tender inside. The carrots are the star of the show, so you won’t find raisins, pineapple or applesauce here. Freshly toasted, chopped pecans are optional, but I love them. Sweet-and-tangy cream cheese frosting makes this cake utterly irresistible.
2) This cake is sweet, but not too sweet.
Some carrot cakes are overwhelmingly sweet with giant layers of frosting, and I can only stomach a bite or two. On the other hand, some “healthy” cakes are dry and disappointing, with a meager spread of frosting. This cake is just right—it’s sweet and tastes like a true treat.
3) This carrot cake is simple and easy to make.
No stand mixer required! You’ll just whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, and stir to combine. It doesn’t get easier than that.
4) This cake is made with wholesome ingredients, but no one will know it.
The recipe calls for whole wheat flour rather than all-purpose (although, you can use all-purpose if that’s what you have). Instead of refined vegetable oil, it calls for mild extra-virgin olive oil, which yields a wonderfully moist cake without any funny flavors. Lastly, it calls for maple syrup or honey instead of cups of granulated sugar.
5) This recipe is versatile.
You can leave out the nuts if you don’t like them. You can make this cake dairy free or gluten free. You can turn it into cupcakes. See the recipe notes for all the details!
Carrot Cake Tips
For the best carrot flavor, choose skinny to medium-sized carrots and peel them before grating. Large carrots don’t taste as nice, and sometimes the outer carrot skin can taste bitter.
The easiest way to grate your carrots is a the food processor. Use the grating attachment, and your carrots will be grated in no time! Otherwise, you can grate the carrots by hand. Don’t buy carrot matchsticks from the store; they’re too thick and will yield crunchy cake.
Don’t overmix. This cake is easy to make by stirring the ingredients together by hand. If you overmix the batter, you risk ending up with dense, tough cake. Make it as directed and you will be rewarded with gloriously tender cake!
Don’t forget to grease your pans. Otherwise, your cake might stick! For extra insurance, use my favorite round baking pans (affiliate link), which have a non-toxic, non-stick silicone lining.
Let the cake cool completely before frosting. I know, it’s tempting to frost this cake when it’s warm, but don’t do it. If you do, your cake won’t be structurally sound, and the frosting might melt off.
Looking for more naturally sweetened treats? Here are a few of my favorites:
- Healthy Carrot Muffins
- Gluten-Free Apple Crisp
- Naturally Sweetened Pecan Pie
- Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Favorite Banana Cake
Please let me know how your cake turns out in the comments! I hope it becomes your new favorite carrot cake.
Favorite Carrot Cake
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Yield: 16 slices 1x
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American
This carrot cake recipe will become your new favorite! This moist and delicious carrot cake is easy to make with basic, wholesome ingredients. It’s the best! Recipe yields one double-layer 9″ cake.
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ pounds peeled and grated carrots* (about 4 cups)
- 1 cup raw pecan or walnut halves
- ¾ cup mild extra-virgin olive oil** or melted coconut oil
- 1 ¼ cups maple syrup or honey
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 4 eggs, preferably at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Double batch classic cream cheese frosting or naturally sweetened cream cheese frosting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease two 9″ round cake pans. If you’re making classic cream cheese frosting, don’t forget to pull the cream cheese and butter out of the fridge so they can warm to room temperature.
- Toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet in the preheated oven until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Once they’re cool enough to handle, transfer them to a cutting board and chop them into small pieces. Reserve a couple tablespoons chopped pecans for garnishing the cake, if desired. We’ll stir the rest into the dry mixture in the following step.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine both flours, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir until blended. Add the grated carrots and chopped pecans, and stir to combine.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup, milk, eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk until fully blended.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix with a big spoon, just until combined (a few lumps are ok). Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and spread the batter in an even layer on top.
- Bake the cakes on the middle rack for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the center of the cakes is springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place the baked cakes on a cooling rack and let them cool completely before frosting.
- When you’re ready to assemble, prepare the frosting as directed. Carefully invert the cakes to release them from their pans. Frost the top of one cake with about one-third of the frosting. Place the second cake on top, and frost the top with another one-third of the frosting. Finish by frosting around the side of the cake with the remaining frosting. If desired, sprinkle the reserved chopped pecans on top.
- When you’re ready to serve, use a sharp chef’s knife to carefully cut the cake into slices. The cake will keep at room temperature for the rest of the day, and for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Recipe adapted from the easy carrot cake in my cookbook, Love Real Food (page 208).
*Carrot tips: Skinny-to-medium carrots (not large) offer the best carrot flavor. The easiest way to grate your carrots is in a food processor with the grating attachment. You can also grate them by hand, on the medium holes of a box grater. Don’t use store-bought matchstick carrots; they’re way too thick and will make your cake crunchy.
**Olive oil note: I recommend California Olive Ranch Everyday for this recipe. It’s an affordable, high quality olive oil that you can find at most grocery stores, and the flavor is so mild that you will not detect it in the finished product.
Flour substitutions: If desired, you can make this cake with a total of 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour.
Make it gluten free: Substitute your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour blend.
Make it nut free: Simply omit the pecans.
Make it dairy free: Use a non-dairy milk (I’ve confirmed that almond milk and oat milk work in this recipe). Use a dairy-free cream cheese frosting (I haven’t come up with one yet).
Make it naturally sweetened: The cake itself is naturally sweetened with maple syrup or honey. Top the cake with my date-sweetened cream cheese frosting for a cake free of refined sugar.
Pan size notes: You could make these cakes in 9″ square baking pans, no adjustments needed. You can also cut the recipe in half to make one 9″ round or square cake. For other pan sizes, keep the baking temperature constant and bake until the center of the cake is springy to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean (timing will depend on the pans used).
Make cupcakes: Divide the batter between 2 dozen muffin cups and bake at 350 for 18 to 24 minutes, or until the cupcakes are golden on top and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.