The Best Classic Carrot Cake Recipe for Easter
Classic Carrot Cake – deliciously moist spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream.
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!
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!
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.
- 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.
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.
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
Deliciously moist spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream.
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
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.
- 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.
Could I use this same recipe in a 9×13 pan??
Yes. Just reduce oven temp to 325 and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Keep your eye on it!
OMG! Made this cake recipe today. Super easy to follow and it’s delicious! Thank you for sharing!
So glad you loved it!
What cake scraper did you use? I love the shape!
It’s from my store. Shop.cakebycourtney.com
I followed the recipe exactly and the cake was beautifully moist, but it was very bland. The spices don’t come through very well. I’m going to try again using more spices, bc I really want to love this recipe!
Shoot. I haven’t heard that! you are welcome to try doubling the spices and see how it tastes!
Could this be done as cupcakes?
did you use dark or light brown sugar on this one?!
Is there a way to make this cake smaller for less people?
You could half the recipe and use 2 6-inch pans.
Courtney can you tint this cream cheese buttercream ?
Made this cake yesterday and it was Fabulous!!! Baked up with thick moist layers, yummy spices. Everyone loved it. I added a little more cream cheese to the frosting, because that’s how I like it. And drizzled Courtney’s salted carmel over the top! So good!
Yum sounds so good!
Hi! Is there a way to make this for 3 6 inch pans?
My recipes are for 3 8-inch or 4-6 inch. You could just leave one of the pans out.
Absolutely delightful. I made this gluten-free and used coconut sugar instead of white and brown sugar, It was amazing. Also, room temperature ingredients really do make a difference in how the cakes rise, thank you for the tip!
Thank you so much!
Courtney, does this buttercream crust over? My family dislikes crusting buttercream, any suggestions? Thank you.
My buttercream does not crust.
Once the buttercream icing is on the cake – does this cake need to be refrigerated or can it stay at room temperature?
Thank you 🙂
It can stay at room temp for a day or two but I suggest freezing leftovers to keep them fresh!
Hey just wondering if I can substitute the flour for gluten free flour to make it a gluten free carrot cake? Thanks 😊
I’ve made this before and it was AMAZING!!! My sister is now requesting this cake but vegan, so what could I substitute in place of egg? Thank you
Check out what I used in my egg free vanilla cake!
Super SUPER moist and the consistency of the cupcake is fabulous!! I would suggest upping the spices because they didn’t pull trough very well.
I’ve never made one of your cakes but I’ve been a huge fan since I’ve eaten 3 of the cakes my sister has made following your recipes. I most recently had her make your yellow cake for my 40th birthday and it was the best yellow cake of my life – no small feat considering my childhood love of yellow box cakes. I wanted to make the carrot cake and wondered about adding raisins and nuts to the cake. Any suggestions on what to do different if I add these ingredients? I love traditional carrot cake with all the textures so I’m for sure going to pineapple instead of applesauce as you had in the recipe.
Just toss them in a little bit of flour so they don’t fall to the bottom and enjoy!!
This recipe is so fabulous and was just what I was looking for! I made it gluten free with Cup4Cup and halved it for a three tier 6″, adding a bit more cream cheese to the buttercream. My family all said it was the best carrot cake they ever had! Thank you, Courtney xoxo
I love that!
I substituted gluten free flour in this recipe. It was a very very light cake, even to the point of making it difficult to cut (3 – 8″ pans). I have never had this issue with any other cakes I have used rice flour in, but then I usually bake them in a 9×13 pan. Carrot cake is usually more dense, so I was surprised that it was so light. Using regular white or cake flour, would the cake have been more dense?
A little bit more dense yes. There shouldn’t be any issues cutting it with regular flour.
Thank you for sharing this recipe. I have been making wedding cupcakes for several years and was told about your blog about a year ago. I started making your buttercream icing and won’t use any other recipes. Your Cream Cheese Buttercream is my favorite. These carrot cake cupcakes are so delicious and were a huge hit for Mother’s Day!
Thank you so much!!
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?
You can but it’ll change the texture.
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!
Sure! Add it! I’m sure it would be delicious!
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!
I think you would be ok!
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!!!
This probably wouldn’t be the best one to attempt DF because of the cream cheese frosting.
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.
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
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.
I’m so happy to hear it!
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?
I would use vanilla buttercream for it to be more stable.
Do you recommend sweetened or unsweetened applesauce/sugar or no sugar added?
Can I make this into a bundt cake and drizzle cream cheese icing?
Could this be made into a 9×13 rectangular cake or even a sheet cake? If so would the timing and temp change?
Temp would be the same but double the time.
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!
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?
Totally! Use the same amount as you would regular flour.
Me and my friends loved this cake!! Added pecans and increased all the spices by 50% based on other reviewers comments.
I’ll be trying this recipe tomorrow, but was wondering how you get the icing to look that way on the sides?
I used my scraper from my essential kit!
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.
I’m so thrilled!
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.
I love grandma approved!
Fantastic cake! Made it in a bunt pan for Easter and turned out perfect!!
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
Yes double for 3 layer 10 inch. Half the recipe for half sheet.
You’re the best! Thanks ❤️
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 !
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!
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.
How can I use 9″ pans? Should I double the recipe and just put 20 oz in each of the 3 pans? BTW…I think it looks delicious. I’m in a carrot cake competition at work and think this is a real winner. Thanks.
I would 1.5 the recipe.
If I am using a sheet cake pan (12x18x2.2) Should I double the recipe? How would I adjust the bake time? Thanks!
I didn’t mean to rate the recipe!! I haven’t even made it yet, just had a question. Hope there is a way to disregard the 3 star rating that I accidentally posted!!!
Hi! Curious on how many eggs? I went with 4
There are 6 eggs in this recipe. You’ll see it as the third ingredient.
Hi Courtney! Can you sub melted butter instead of canola or vegetable oil in this recipe?
My buttercream came out runny. How could I fix it?
Make sure your butter isn’t warm next time.
I am going to make this for my dads birthday, and I was curious if it would be easier to make the cake as a whole and serve the next day. Or bake the cake and make the frosting and assemble the next day? How would I store the individual cake layers?
Thank you in advance!
You can make the whole cake and keep in the freezer until you’re ready!
This recipe is so good!! I appreciated the tip to not use the pre shredded carrots.
I used three 6-inch round pans. So the baking time was a little hard to gauge. Do you have a time you’d recommend for 6-inch vs 8-inch pans?
It should be about the same!