This carrot cake recipe features a delicious, moist, and tender cake filled with shredded carrots, chopped pecans, and covered with the best cream cheese frosting!
When I think of desserts that are perfect for Spring, this carrot cake recipe is one of the first that comes to my mind. It's so fresh and vibrant, and decorating it with cute little frosting carrots always brings a smile to my face. This recipe makes a perfectly moist and delicious cake that is covered with hands-down THE best cream cheese frosting.
CARROT CAKE INGREDIENTS:
One of the biggest challenges when creating a carrot cake recipe is finding a balance that results in a moist cake that is still structurally sound. The majority of the structure comes from the eggs and the flour. For this recipe the moisture comes from:
- Freshly grated carrots: Don't use pre-grated carrots! Carrots have a high amount of water in them, which gets brought out when they're freshly grated.
- Brown sugar: The molasses in brown sugar is great for making cakes extra moist and also adds a hint of caramel flavor. You can use light or dark brown sugar, whatever you have on hand.
- Oil: Oil is best for making cakes super moist with a tender crumb.
- Sour cream: I love this ingredient because it adds so much moisture and richness without making the batter too runny. Use full-fat sour cream, you can also substitute plain full-fat Greek yogurt.
- Pecans: Lightly roasted and finely chopped. Roasting the pecans intensifies their flavor and makes a great addition to this carrot cake recipe. You can use chopped pecans or whole and chop them yourselves.
- Baking powder and baking soda: Leavening agents that help the cake rise and keep it soft and light.
- Eggs: Room temperature. Room temperature eggs mix more easily and evenly in the batter. Take them out of the fridge 30 minutes before using, or place them in a bowl of lukewarm water (not hot) for 5-10 minutes to quickly bring them to room temperature.
- Flavoring and spices: Generous amounts of vanilla extract, cinnamon, and a hint of nutmeg are key for amazing flavor.
Tips for Making Carrot Cake:
- For the best texture, finely grate the carrots with a box grater. This ensures the carrots will become tender during baking.
- Don't overmix the batter, overmixing can result in a more dense and chewy texture. When adding the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients whisk until just combined with no pockets of flour in the batter.
- Make sure the cakes are very cold before frosting them or the frosting will start to melt. I like to put my baked cakes in the freezer overnight so that frosting them is especially easy the next day.
- To frost the cooled cake: start with a crumb coat of frosting first, then allow that to set for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before adding a second coat.
- You can make this recipe into a 2 or 3-layer cake. For a 2-layer cake, bake for 30-32 minutes, and for a 3-layer cake, bake for 20-22 minutes.
Can Carrot Cake be Frozen?
Yes! Once the cakes have cooled completely, wrap the individual layers in plastic wrap and then wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
I hope you enjoy this carrot cake recipe as much as I do! ♥️
More Cake Recipes:
- 3 - 8 or 9" round cake pans
- 1 cup pecans (whole, chopped, or pieces)*
- 2 cups fresh carrots, peeled and grated
- 2 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ¾ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- ¾ cup full-fat sour cream
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened to room temperature
- 2 (8 oz.) packages full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- Peel and finely grate the carrots using the holes of a box grater.
- Preheat your oven to 225°F.
- Spread the pecans evenly on an unlined baking pan and roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Increase the oven temperature to 350°F.
- On parchment paper, use a pencil to trace the bottom of the cake pans and cut the circles out. Spray the inside of the cake pans with non-stick cooking spray, add the traced circles to the pan with the pencil side down and spray with more non-stick spray.
- In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ground nutmeg.
- In a large bowl, whisk both sugars with the vegetable oil, add the room temperature eggs, vanilla extract, and sour cream. Whisk until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Stir in the chopped pecans and grated carrots.
- Pour the cake batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-22 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean.
- Let the cakes cool for 5-10 minutes before removing them from the pans. Use a butter knife to separate the cake from the edge of the pan and then flip the pan over to remove the cake. Keep the cake sitting upright because the tops of the cake will stick to any surface. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting. You can also leave the cakes in the pans, cover them with aluminum foil, and then place the pans in the freezer overnight, which makes frosting easier.
Make the cream cheese frosting:
- Add the softened butter and softened cream cheese to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Use a hand-held mixer or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer to cream them together until smooth. Add the salt, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
- Once the cakes have cooled completely, use a large serrated knife to carefully remove the domed tops from the cakes.* Place the first cake layer, cut side up, onto a cake stand, a serving plate, or a serving board. Add a generous amount of frosting on top and spread it all over using an offset spatula. Place the second cake layer, cut side down, on top of the frosting. Spread a generous amount of frosting all over the top and around the sides of the cake. Let the first layer of frosting set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and then add a second coating of frosting. Repeat with a third coating if needed.