The Best Classic Carrot Cake Recipe for Easter

Classic Carrot Cake – deliciously moist spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream.

Classic Carrot Cake: incredibly moist, spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream. #CakebyCourtney #carrotcake #classiccarrotcake #carrotcakewithoutraisins #carrotcakewithoutnuts #carrotcakewithoutnutsorraisins #creamcheesefrosting #creamcheesebuttercream #carrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcake #eastercake #easterrecipe #easterdessert

Carrot Cake: The Easter Dessert

Hard to believe Easter is less than a week away, right?! What better way to celebrate than with my Classic Carrot Cake recipe. I know this Easter will look a bit different for most of us than in years past, but the meaning stays the same… as do the desserts!

Classic Carrot Cake: incredibly moist, spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream. #CakebyCourtney #carrotcake #classiccarrotcake #carrotcakewithoutraisins #carrotcakewithoutnuts #carrotcakewithoutnutsorraisins #creamcheesefrosting #creamcheesebuttercream #carrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcake #eastercake #easterrecipe #easterdessert

For me, carrot cake is the quintessential Easter dessert. In fact, I think Easter is the only time of year we ever had carrot cake. But here’s the thing – I never liked carrot cake. Not until I made my Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream, that is. Every carrot cake I ever had growing up had nuts and raisins in it. And I think you know how I feel about that: eew, gross!

But when I made my first carrot cake, based off a Sweetapolita recipe, I realized two things: one, carrot cake doesn’t HAVE to have nuts and raisins and two, carrot cake is actually really good!

Untraditional Recipe

The first carrot cake I published on my blog is definitely untraditional, and I think that’s why I like it so much. My recipe is based off a compilation of a couple adapted recipes from some of my fave bakers: the cake is adapted from Rosie of Sweetapolita and the white chocolate pretzel crack filling is adapted from Christina Tosi of Milk Bar.

I was first attracted to Rosie’s carrot cake because it didn’t have any nuts and raisins, and because she used ginger! I love ginger! Also, I love adding texture to my cakes, but not in the cake layers. So adding Christina’s white chocolate pretzel crack filling was almost a no-brainer.

In addition to the cake and the filling, I decided to add an apricot compote (you can also use apricot jam) and a white chocolate buttercream. Again, I was purposely going against the norm.

The result, a deliciously unique and moist carrot cake!

Classic Carrot Cake

And while I absolutely love that unique carrot cake, I’ve been feeling for a while now that a classic, more traditional carrot cake was calling my name. So, here we are! Today I’m sharing my new Classic Carrot Cake recipe with you.

Classic Carrot Cake: incredibly moist, spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream. #CakebyCourtney #carrotcake #classiccarrotcake #carrotcakewithoutraisins #carrotcakewithoutnuts #carrotcakewithoutnutsorraisins #creamcheesefrosting #creamcheesebuttercream #carrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcake #eastercake #easterrecipe #easterdessert

Traditional Ingredients

Spices

  • This carrot cake is more traditional in flavor with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Oil and Applesauce

  • I also use a combination of oil and applesauce for fat and to create a beautiful moist cake. You can certainly use all oil in place of applesauce or sub the applesauce for crushed pineapple.
Classic Carrot Cake: incredibly moist, spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream. #CakebyCourtney #carrotcake #classiccarrotcake #carrotcakewithoutraisins #carrotcakewithoutnuts #carrotcakewithoutnutsorraisins #creamcheesefrosting #creamcheesebuttercream #carrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcake #eastercake #easterrecipe #easterdessert

Freshly Grated Carrots

  • It’s SUPER important to use FRESHLY grated carrots in your carrot cake recipes. Freshly grated carrots have more moisture than the pre-shredded carrots. We want a moist cake! That moisture also means the carrot pieces will soften. If you use pre-shredded carrots, you’ll have crunchy carrot pieces in your cake.

Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • Sticking to traditional elements, I’m using a cream cheese buttercream with my Classic Carrot Cake instead of my white chocolate buttercream. To ensure the cream cheese flavor doesn’t overpower the cake, I don’t use a lot of cream cheese – just enough to give it a perfectly tangy but not overwhelming cream cheese flavor. See my frequently asked questions about how to get the best frosting results.

Nuts and Raisins

  • As I mentioned above, I left nuts and raisins out of my cake layers. However, that doesn’t mean you have to if you love that kind of texture in your classic carrot cake. If you want to add nuts and raisins, I’d start with a half cup of each.
Classic Carrot Cake: incredibly moist, spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream. #CakebyCourtney #carrotcake #classiccarrotcake #carrotcakewithoutraisins #carrotcakewithoutnuts #carrotcakewithoutnutsorraisins #creamcheesefrosting #creamcheesebuttercream #carrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcake #eastercake #easterrecipe #easterdessert

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

If you’d like to turn this Carrot Cake recipe into cupcakes, no problem! A full batch of the batter will make about 24 to 26 standard size cupcakes. You can also split the batch and make a half batch. I did that with my cupcakes yesterday!

For carrot cake cupcakes, you’ll want to bake at 325 degrees F. for a little less time than the cake recipe calls for. Mine were perfect and moist at 20 minutes. If you’re doing a full batch, and baking two cupcake pans at a time (on the same rack), the bake time will vary slightly. Keep your eye on them, but know they’ll take a few minutes longer.

BAKING TIP: I don’t ever recommend baking cake layers or cupcakes on different racks. You always want to bake them on your middle rack. If you can’t fit all of your cake pans or cupcake pans on the same rack in your oven, it’s ok to leave cake batter on the counter while you wait to bake. Just make sure to cover the cake pan or cupcake pan with plastic wrap while you wait.

Classic Carrot Cake: incredibly moist, spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream. #CakebyCourtney #carrotcake #classiccarrotcake #carrotcakewithoutraisins #carrotcakewithoutnuts #carrotcakewithoutnutsorraisins #creamcheesefrosting #creamcheesebuttercream #carrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcakerecipe #thebestcarrotcake #eastercake #easterrecipe #easterdessert

Classic Carrot Cake

4.96 from 45 votes
Deliciously moist spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream.

Ingredients
 

FOR THE CAKE

  • 1 cup (218 g) vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 g) applesauce can substitute with crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup (200 g) packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. (8.4 g) vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (360 g) all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. (5.3 g) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. (1.2 g) ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. (.8 g) ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. (.8 g) ground cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. (10 g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp. (4 g) baking soda
  • 1 tsp. (5.6 g) salt
  • 4 cups (400 g.) freshly grated carrots

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

  • 1 1/2 cups (339 g) unsalted butter slightly cold
  • 6 oz. (170g) cream cheese slightly cold
  • 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
  • 3 tbsp. (45 g) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. (4.2 g) vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions
 

FOR THE CAKE

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
  • In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the oil and sugars. Beat on medium speed for about two minutes.
  • Add the applesauce and vanilla and then stir to combine.
  • With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the eggs, making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions. Once all of the eggs are combined, beat the mixture for about a minute on medium speed.
  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture.
  • Fold in the carrots.
  • Evenly divide the cake batter between the three prepared pans (about 20 ounces of batter in each). Bake for 25 to 27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it.
  • Let the cake layers cool in the pans on cooling racks for about 10 to 15 minutes. Invert the cake layers onto the cooling racks to cool completely.
  • Level cake layers, if needed.
  • Cake layers can be made ahead of time. To store: let cake layers cool to room temperature and then wrap well with plastic wrap and freeze. Before you decorate your frozen cake layers, let them thaw at room temperature for about 30 to 60 minutes prior to decorating.

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese. Beat on medium speed for about two minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar, followed by the cream, vanilla and pinch of salt.
  • Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat for about 3 to 5 minutes.

ASSEMBLY

  • Place the first cake layer, top side up, on a cake plate or cake board.
  • Evenly spread about 1 cup of buttercream on the cake layer. Place the second cake layer on top of the buttercream and spread another 1 cup of buttercream over the second layer.
  • Place the third cake layer top side down.
  • Apply a thin layer of buttercream over the entire cake. This is the crumb coat. Freeze the crumb coated cake for about 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
  • Once the crumb coat is set, continue decorating the cake with the remaining buttercream.
Cuisine Cake
Course Dessert
Keyword carrot cake, classic carrot cake, cream cheese frosting

Courtney Rich

I’m a self-taught baker, obsessed with cake.

I long ago ditched box mixes in pursuit of melt-in-your-mouth, to-die-for flavor combinations, fillings and textures. I believe cake must be decadent, life-changing and worthy of celebration! And I believe anyone should be able to bake that kind of cake – and I’m here to teach you just that!

Get my free cake decorating guide
Everything you need to know about decorating a cake like a pro!

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Comments

  1. I would love to rate this cake and once I make it I will. This is more a question than comment. Not crazy about using vegetable or canola oil. Would it be okay to substitute with melted butter?

  2. I am more of a fan of traditional carrot cake but I’m also a Milk Bar fan so I’m intrigued with your white chocolate pretzel filling that you used in your untraditional carrot cake. How would that filling be for this cake? Would it work if I also included nuts in this cake? Thanks Courtney. I absolutely love your recipes!

  3. 5 stars
    I love this cake! It’s so moist and wonderful, and totally changes my thoughts about carrot cake. I do increase the spices by half, just to add a little more flavor and it’s delightful.

    My question is, how do you think leaving out the carrots would affect the way it bakes? I’m going for a good spice cake, but unsure if the chemistry of this recipe would be totally off without carrots since it is obviously made to be a carrot cake. I just love the flavor!

  4. My bf is requesting carrot cake for his birthday… but we have multiple allergy restrictions this year. Nuts- which is simple enough to exclude but I also have to make this gluten and dairy free 😱.. I plan on substituting a GF flour but curious if you have heard from anyone making this dairy free as well or if you have suggestions? Thanks so much!!!

      1. I Understand that, was looking for a substitute that maybe others have had success with. I haven’t read all of your recipes but seems any kind of frosting has dairy whether it be Butter, cream, or cream cheese.

        1. When making frosting I have used crisco in place of butter and water for the milk. My frosting turns out light and fluffy every time. Best of luck to you

  5. So yummy! I added raisins because the person that I was making it for likes raisins in their cake. I often make them a carrot cake for their birthday and try different recipes each time. She said that this is the recipe that can’t be beat. The frosting was really good. I was worried it wouldn’t have enough cream cheese flavor, but it was great.

  6. 5 stars
    Hi Courtney, I plan to make this recipe but for a stackable cake with this being the bottom tier. I’m nervous as I know cream cheese frosting can be softer than my typical buttercream. Will this cream cheese buttercream hold up if the cake is filled and fully frosted with it?

  7. Could this be made into a 9×13 rectangular cake or even a sheet cake? If so would the timing and temp change?

  8. 5 stars
    I made this cake for my dad’s birthday a few months ago and it was a hit! The cake layers are so moist and delicious, and the cream cheese frosting is the perfect pairing. Easily the best cake I’ve ever made. I’ll definitely be making this one again!

  9. Hi, this cake looks amazing! My husband absolutely loves carrot cakes! Only problem is, he has celiacs disease, he’s on a gluten free diet. Is there any way I could sub the flour for gluten free multi purpose flour?

  10. 5 stars
    Me and my friends loved this cake!! Added pecans and increased all the spices by 50% based on other reviewers comments.

  11. I’ll be trying this recipe tomorrow, but was wondering how you get the icing to look that way on the sides?

  12. 5 stars
    I made this as a mini cake for Easter (in 2 6 inch pans, halved the recipe) and it was DELICIOUS! My family ate it up and everyone agreed it was the best carrot cake we’ve ever had.

  13. 5 stars
    Rave reviews from everyone! This cake was delicious! My 94 yr old grandmother said she never cared for carrot cake, but thought this was delicious! Will definitely make again! I added a bit more cream cheese to the frosting, but otherwise kept to the recipe exactly.

  14. 911 Question!

    Can i double this recipe for a 3 layer 10 inch cake? Also how much batter is needed for a 1/2 sheet? Helllp me lol

  15. 5 stars
    After making these into cupcakes a few times for events, I have friends request them all the time ! Attempting it as a stacked cake today to test out my decorating skills 🙂 Such an easy, WONDERFUL recipe !

  16. I am going to make this carrot cake in a 1/2 sheet pan. How many batches of cake should I make? How long should I bake it? My family loves your cake recipes and we are excited to try a new one!

    1. In a 9×13 one batch is fine. If you want a thick half sheet pan, then double or a single batch makes it thin like an inch high.

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