Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I know that I'm jumping around with the recipes this week, but we enjoyed this cake last Sunday and it will be some time before I make it again and I want to get it out there.  Why will it be some time before I make it again?   Well, there are just too many other delicious dessert recipes to make and try☺.  That, and I have had a few requests for a carrot cake recipe.  This one is outstanding!

Normally, carrot cake recipes are incredibly moist due to the carrots and obscene amounts of oil.  I mean 1 1/2 cups of oil-- really?!  I am not one who is afraid of a little fat, but I don't care to have greasy lips after taking a bite of cake.  To eliminate that problem without sacrificing taste and texture, I replace 1/2 cup of oil with buttermilk and use a full pound of carrots.  Now that is a carrot cake.

I keep the spices and frosting traditional, but I give the finished cake an updated twist (literally).  Instead of a 9x13-inch cake pan with a simple frosted top that many of us probably grew up with, I like to make this cake into a two tiered cake with crisp candied carrot curls on top.  Completely optional, but it does make for a nice presentation and a great snack for the kids.  However, a simple 9x13-inch pan is still a good and equally tasty option.  Speaking of options, the nuts are optional too, but I do like the bit of texture that they add.  You can even add the nuts to the cake batter instead of using them as a garnish.


Like many cake recipes, it can be made several days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.  Just bring it to room temperature before serving. 
Printable Recipe

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
serves 15-20

For the Cake
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2-ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound carrots, peeled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 extra large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil

For the Frosting
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (do not use low fat or nonfat)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups (12-ounces) confectioners' sugar
1 Tablespoon sour cream

Carrot Curls (recipe follows)
Fresh Mint

For the Cake
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350º F.  Lightly grease two 9" round cake pans, or one 9"x13" pan, line with parchment paper, grease the parchment, and flour the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and salt; set aside.

Using a food processor fitted with a shredding disk, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); transfer to a large bowl.  Wipe the workbowl clean and fit the processor with the metal blade.  Process sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk in food processor until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds.  With processor running, add oil in a steady stream and process until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds.  Transfer mixture to bowl with carrots, mixing well.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour until no streaks of flour remain.

Scrape batter into prepared pan(s), smooth top with rubber spatula, and gently tap on the counter to release air bubbles.  Bake cake until toothpick in the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes, rotating pan(s) halfway through baking.  Let cake cool completely in pan(s) on wire rack, about 2 hours.

For the Frosting
Using a stand mixer or hand held beater, cream the butter, cream cheese, and sour cream together until smooth.  Add the salt and vanilla.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar and mix until fluffy.

Run a paring knife around the edges of the cooled cake(s) to loosen from the pan(s).  Invert the cake(s) onto a wire rack, discard parchment, then turn cake(s) right side up onto a serving platter.  Spread frosting evenly over cake or frost the top of one layer, top with the second layer, and frost the top and sides of the cake.  Press the walnuts onto the sides of the cake if using.  Garnish with carrot curls if using and serve.  Cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  Enjoy!

For the Candied Carrot Curls
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 250° F.  Line baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper; set aside.

Peel long strips from carrots lengthwise until you begin to get wide slices, you should get about 15 strips.

Bring water and sugar to a boil in small heavy duty saucepan.  Add carrot strips and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  Strain through a sieve, discarding syrup.  Let stand 15 minutes.

Wind carrot strips, one at a time, around the end of a wooden spoon handle, then slip off each curl and place seam side down on prepared baking sheet.  Place in the oven and bake until dry and crisp, about 60-75 minutes.  Allow to cool completely on baking sheet.

Carrot Curls can be made 5 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Source: Cake and frosting adapted from King Arthur flour and Cooks Illustrated, Carrot Curls adapted from Gourmet


  1. You are amazing! You need to be selling these things--Perfect!

  2. That is beyond beautiful! It's on my list. And, thank you for not being afraid of a little fat ;-)

  3. once again you inspire, so great.
    Leduc, Canada

  4. What a great cake. Looks sooooooo delicious :-D

  5. Hi Nicole

    I was wondering if it would be too much if I add raisins and crushed pineapples to this recipe, if I could how much of each can I add.

    1. I cannot speak from experience, but I would reduced the amount of carrots to 12 ounces, then add an 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained, and about 1 cup raisins.

  6. I made this carrot cake today and WOW, it was delicious! Super dense, moist, flavorful. The buttermilk trick really worked--the carrots dominated and gave the cake a wonderful texture. It did NOT have that 'greasy sponge' texture that some quick breads fall victim too. Perfect carrot cake! The only thing I changed was the frosting. I used only one cup of powdered sugar instead of three.

    Thanks again for another wonderful cake recipe!


    1. Glad you enjoyed the recipe with yummy results!

  7. Hi Nicole

    How much nuts did you use to decorate this cake. Can large eggs be used in this recipe instead of extra-large eggs.

    1. I used about 3/4-1 cup roasted nuts-- walnuts or pecans. Yes, you can use large eggs.

  8. AnonymousJuly 13, 2012

    I have to bake a carrot cake for my frien on Sunday but won't have the time to do so. Today is Friday. If I bake the cake tonight and first it tomorrow night will it be good and fresh to serve Sunday?

  9. Did you really mean 350 degrees for 60-75min for the carrot curls? Or maybe was it suppose to be 150degrees?

    1. Actually it should read 250º F. Thanks for catching!

  10. This recipe is like a ball gown for the carrot hahahaha. Usually when I eat this cake, I feel grossed out right after and feel the need to go to the gym, but this time, no gym necessary hahaha. Bye bye forever outside carrot cakes... This was my first, but definitely not last, carrot cake. I baked it for my husband's birthday and he will definitely go nuts over it. Thanks again for taking the time to share the wealth.

    1. You are welcome. I am pleased you enjoyed the recipe!

  11. Hi there!

    I've had success substituting yogurt for buttermilk in other recipes, but I was wondering if you thought that it would work here. Alternatively, does adding lemon juice or vinegar to soy milk produce the same buttermilk substitute as cows milk does?

    Thanks so much!

    1. I am not certain about substituting yogurt for the buttermilk in this recipe, but yes you can sour soy milk as an alternative.

  12. Mmmmmm, thanks so much for sharing a yummy looking recipe, Heather :) I hope you and yours had a Happy Easter celebration!

  13. AnonymousJuly 29, 2014

    Mmmmm this cake looks delish. Hw do yu stick the nuts on the side so perfectly like that?

    1. I usually place my cake on a small thin cake plate cake to frost and decorate before transferring it to a serving plate. This allows me to hold the cake underneath with one hand and I can apply the nuts with the other hand, pressing gently against the frosting.


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