Whenever you crave a delicious and easy-to-make carrot cake you can use this recipe. It's very straightforward, versatile with ingredients (you can find the list of substitutions in the recipe card), can be adapted to different pans (sheet, round, cupcakes, loaf) and spice mixes and has a ginger frosting that is the perfect pair for this cake. Oh, and it freezes wonderfully!
I have my favorite carrot cake as I'm sure you do too. The thing is that I have several favorites, depending on the occasion and time availability.
For celebrations, it's always the Birthday Carrot Layer Cake, of course.
But these past weeks, with all that's going on, easy cake recipes is the way I roll. So in enters this fantastic carrot cake recipe.
Though the list of ingredients is long, it can be trimmed down and still get wonderful results! Trust me, simple, flavorful and amazing!
This is a versatile recipe and some of its ingredients can be adapted:
- Flour - my favorite combination is all-purpose and whole wheat. But you can substitute the latter and only use white, regular flour (AP or cake flour).
- Spices - the only ones that are essential for a great flavor are cinnamon and ginger.
- Cream - use double, whipping or heavy cream. Or use the same amount of sour cream or even milk.
- Sugar - brown sugar adds moisture and gives it a wonderful caramel undertone, but this recipe works well with white sugar if that's all you have.
- Variation - add a few gratings of fresh ginger and/or 2 tablespoons chopped nuts or raisins.
I have my favorite mix of carrot cake spices and I'm sure you have yours.
So, even though the recipe specifies a certain combination, feel free to increase or decrease them or even use one you already have, like pumpkin spice which goes really well with carrots too.
- Ginger: sometimes I like to add an extra dose (a small amount, maybe ½ teaspoon) of grated fresh ginger to the batter. It will give it an extra kick. But don't go out of your way to buy it. This recipe is still great without it.
The frosting in this carrot cake has cream cheese but is lighter because it has no butter. The ginger is optional but I think add a zing that is fantastic!
Alternatively, use a traditional cream cheese frosting (find the recipe in the Hummingbird Layer Cake post) with cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar.
This cake keeps well at room temperature for a day after it's baked.
Cakes that have vegetables and fruit added to them are best kept refrigerated after a day. Why? Those ingredients tend to ferment, especially if the room is warm or not cool enough. The cake will go bad quickly. So to prevent that, wrap or cover well (to prevent dryness) and keep in the fridge.Vintage Kitchen Tip
- Freezing: carrot cake in general freezes wonderfully and this is no exception. After the cake is cooled, wrap in plastic and then in foil or Ziploc bag or something similar and freeze for a month or two.
- Cake and loaf: This is a recipe that can be baked in an 8-inch square or round pan (in the photos here), a loaf pan about 4x11-inches.
- Cupcakes: this recipe renders 10-12 regular cupcakes.
- Double the recipe and make it as a 9-inch tube or bundt cake. Or 3 8-inch layers, baked in separate pans.
Variation: Zucchini Cake
Did you know you can also make zucchini cake with this recipe? Or bread, if baked in a loaf pan.
- How-to: follow the recipe below but substitute an equal amount of coarsely grated zucchini for the carrots and only use ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. You can add 2 tablespoons of raisins or chopped walnuts/pecans.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, at least the day after they're made onwards. Cakes that contain fruit or vegetables are best stored in the refrigerator, well covered or wrapped (if not yet frosted) to prevent them from drying out. I had some awful experiences of carrot cakes going bad quickly because the fruit (some have apples also and it makes this worse) fermented at room temperature.
Not necessarily, it depends on the carrot. Some have super thin orange skins with no blemishes or dark patches. You can use them whole. Always wash them thoroughly if you're using them with the skin on. The rest it's best to peel them.
Absolutely! Oil with add more moisture but you won't have that buttery taste. You can also use half and half. The substitution is 1:1 in volume, that means the same amount in cups or tablespoons.
Of course, and I highly recommend it if making several days or weeks ahead. Always wrap it well and label it. I posted a Guide to Freezing Baked Goods & Desserts which might come in handy.
Other recipes you might like:
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Whenever you crave a delicious and easy-to-make carrot cake you can use this recipe. It's very straightforward, versatile with ingredients, can be adapted to different pans and spice mixes and has a ginger frosting that is to die for. Oh, and it freezes wonderfully!
For substitution for several of the ingredients see the Notes, below
For the cake:
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon (130g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) brown sugar
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
- ¾ cup (100g) all-purpose or cake flour
- ¾ cup (100g) superfine whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- Pinch of ground allspice
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (about 2 medium or 170g) grated carrots
- ¼ cup (65g) milk
For the frosting:
- ⅔ cup (160g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons heavy or double cream
- ½ cup (80g) powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
For the cake:
- Preheat oven at 350°F/180°C.
- Butter or spray an 8-inch pan. You can line it with a piece of parchment paper as I do. It’s easier to remove after it’s baked. Or you can dust with fine breadcrumbs or flour.
- In a large bowl beat butter with sugar for 2-3 minutes, until creamy and smooth.
- Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition but no more than half a minute or so.
- Sift over this mixture the dry ingredients (flours, spices, salt and baking powder). You can sift them apart or have them measured and do it directly.
- Add grated carrots (it’s best to grate it at the last minute so they keep their moisture but don’t release liquid) and mix well. I do this with a spatula.
- Add milk and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.
- Pour into the prepared pan, smooth top and bake for about 35-40 minutes, until springy if you lightly touch the center and a tester insertedin the middle comes out clean.
- Let cool on a wire rack until warm enough to handle and carefully remove from pan.
For the frosting:
- In a bowl mix all ingredients until smooth. It will look like very thick honey.
- Pour over the warm cake.
- Keep at room temperature for 1 day and refrigerate leftovers, wrapped.
Carrots: you can peel them or not, your choice. What works best for me is grating them in the food processor or processing them. They stay dry longer, even if refrigerated.
Substitutions: Flour - my favorite combination is all-purpose and whole wheat. But you can substitute the latter and only use white, regular flour (AP or cake flour). Spices - the only ones that are essential for a great flavor are cinnamon and ginger. Cream - use double, whipping or heavy cream. Or use the same amount of sour cream or even milk. Sugar - brown sugar gives it moisture and a wonderful caramel undertone, but this recipe works very well with white sugar if that's all you have. Add-ins - add a few gratings of fresh ginger and/or 2 tablespoons chopped nuts or raisins to the batter.
Pan sizes: this recipe can also be made in a loaf pan, 4x11-inch or similar. Cupcakes: this recipe renders 10-12 regular cupcakes.
Keywords: carrot cake