The best incredibly moist carrot cake is here! This easy carrot cake is filled with warming spices, carrots, and pecans. Topped with velvety cream cheese frosting and cute buttercream carrots, this cake will keep you coming back for seconds and thirds!
Carrot cake is one of those cakes that just stands out and shines on its own. This cake contains an incredibly moist crumb and a beautiful decadent cream cheese frosting. DROOL. If you haven't been a fan of carrot cake before, this carrot cake will definitely change your mind. This cake is rich, moist, and absolutely perfect. Normally, I eat carrot cake year-round whenever I crave it, but it is the perfect cake for spring.
What makes THIS Carrot Cake the Best?
Like a lot of people, growing up I was NOT a fan of vegetables. So, when I heard carrots in a cake? PASS. But one day, I was duped by my mother who gave me a slice of cake without telling me what was in it and I fell in love! A good carrot cake has a perfect balance of moisture from the carrots and the warm spices from the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Since I was originally a skeptic, I have an incredibly high standard when it comes to carrot cake.
During my recipe tests, I made sure to accomplish the key parts in making a perfect carrot cake. First, the cake has to be moist, but not oily. Second, there have to be enough spices to elevate the carrots but not overpower them. Third, the carrot cake MUST partner with a rich and silky cream cheese frosting. Lastly, the cake has to be easy to make.
Ingredients For The Cake
Time to gather up all of the ingredients and make a shopping list!
- All-Purpose Flour: all-purpose flour is the best flour for this cake.
- Baking Powder and Baking Soda: are both necessary for that extra rise since this is such a wet batter.
- Eggs: give the cake its structure and helps with the rise. Make sure to have the eggs at room temperature for an even rise.
- Neutral Flavorless Oil: the cake needs fat to make it soft and tender. I used vegetable oil but you can also use canola oil.
- Spices— Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger: mixing these three spices bring out the warmth in the carrots.
- Vanilla: for the best results, always use the best ingredients. I love Rodelle's vanilla. It is rich, bold, and made with the quality you can taste.
- Carrots: the carrots need to be peeled and grated at home. Avoid buying store-bought pre-shredded carrots because they have hardened and dried and will yield a dry cake. This is VERY IMPORTANT for that incredibly moist carrot cake. I use the fine side of my grater at home for the smaller carrot pieces but this is up to you whether you want small or large carrot slices. Alternatively, a food processor works too.
- Pecans: the pecans add a little extra crunch to the cake which adds more texture and flavor to the cake. This is entirely optional! You can also substitute the pecans with walnuts.
- Brown Sugar and Granulated Sugar: the granulated sugar sweetens the cake and the brown sugar sweetens and brings added moisture.
- Apple Sauce: this is key to adding moisture into the cake and reduces the amount of oil needed. If you don't want to use apple sauce, you can also use finely chopped pineapple instead!
Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream Cheese: use full fat room temperature block cream cheese for the frosting. Avoid getting pre-whipped cream cheese because it is too airy and lacks the flavor needed for that rich cream cheese frosting. Also, make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature, this will make whipping up the frosting so much easier.
- Vanilla: adds that subtle but necessary sweet vanilla flavor to the cream cheese.
- Unsalted Butter: similarly to the cream cheese, use the butter at room temperature but not melted! It is important for the butter to be soft and malleable but not too soft that it is wet.
- Powdered Sugar: you will need the powdered sugar for the buttercream carrots.
How To Make This Recipe
- Preheat the oven and prepare the pans. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare three 8" cake pans. Add a parchment round to the bottom of each pan and grease the parchment paper and the pans.
- Mix the wet ingredients(+sugar). In a large mixing bowl, beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, sour cream, apple sauce, and vanilla together.
- Sift the dry ingredients. In the second large mixing bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and whisk.
- If using pecans, in a separate bowl coat the pecans with 2 tablespoons of the dry ingredients.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Next, mix together until just combined and scrape the bowl down.
- Fold the carrots and pecans into the batter.
- Divide the batter evenly into three-lined and buttered 8" pans
- Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave the cakes in the pans for about 5-10 minutes before removing them from the pan onto a wire rack to cool.
How to Make the Cream Cheese Frosting and Assemble the Cake
- Make the cream cheese frosting. Cream the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix in the vanilla until well combined, add the powdered sugar, and mix until smooth
- Make buttercream frosting carrots. In a mixing bowl, whisk up the butter until light and creamy. Then, use a spatula and fold in the powdered sugar until it forms a thick pipeable consistency. Lastly, divide into two bowls and use food coloring to dye one bowl green and one bowl orange. Make sure to add more buttercream to the orange bowl.
- Assemble the cake. Pipe a thick layer of the cream cheese frosting onto the first cooled cake layer, add the second layer then repeat the process until the cake is built. Then, cover the cake in cream cheese frosting then smooth the side and top.
- Decorate the cake. Next, pipe the carrots and the stems and add in the touch of pecans around the bottom layer. You can decorate the cake however which way you choose. This is the fun part! Go nuts!
Tips for the Ingredients
- Measure your flour correctly. Adding too much flour to the recipe is the most common mistake. The best and easiest way to measure flour is by using a kitchen scale. Alternatively, you can fluff the flour with a spoon, then using that same spoon lightly scoop it into your measuring cup, and then use a knife to level it off.
- Make sure all refrigerated ingredients are at room temperature. This is important for your cake to have an even high rise.
- Use freshly grated carrots. Please grate them yourself the moisture from freshly grated carrots cannot be bought!
- Pecans are optional. Pecans add a crunch and depth of flavor but it is not necessary for the cake. You can also substitute the pecans with walnuts.
- If using pecans, lightly dust with a dry mixture. This prevents the nuts from falling to the bottom of the cake.
- Add-Ins: If you’d like to add raisins or coconut, reduce the pecans to ½ cup. Then, add 1 cup of raisins or shredded coconut.
Extra Baking and Decorating Tips
- Line your cake pans with parchment paper at the bottom of the pan! Place your 8-inch cake pans on a sheet of parchment paper. Trace the bottom of the cake pan then cut the circles. Grease the pan and the parchment paper. This will guarantee an easy removal of the cakes.
- For perfect rise, use cake strips. For the longest time, I wanted to avoid having that dome shape in my cakes whenever I baked them. I used to have to shave the dome after the cake was baked and I always felt like it was such a waste! When I discovered cake strips my life was forever changed. All you do is soak them in water and wrap them around the cake and VOILA-- Perfectly flat cakes. EVERY TIME.
- Let your cake cool to room temperature before frosting. This will prevent you from having a goopy melted-looking cake. Sometimes I pop the cake in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to speed up the cool down time.
- Add extra powdered sugar to cream cheese frosting for the outer layer. For the outside of the cake, I like to add about ¼-1/2 cup extra powdered sugar to make the frosting firmer and easier to handle.
- Use an icing knife to smooth out the frosting. For that smooth surface, I dip my icing knife in warm to hot water to warm the knife.
- You can easily half this recipe to make cupcakes! Fill cupcake liners ⅔ full. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 20-22 minutes.
Since there is a cream cheese frosting on the cake, the frosted carrot cake should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. It should not sit on the counter of your kitchen for longer than 1 day.
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