Carrot cake on a cake stand and plate

If your mouth waters at the thought of a bite of tantalizing carrot cake topped with rich tasting cream cheese frosting, then this recipe will be next on your to-do list. Created by recipe developer Mark Beahm, his carrot cake is full of flavor and sweetened goodness.

Believe it or not, there’s a carrot museum in the United Kingdom that believes the carrot cake descended from medieval carrot puddings commonly eaten in Europe. Because sugars and sweeteners were hard to come by at that time, people used carrots as a sugar substitute in their cakes. When Beahm’s carrot cake is paired with his homemade frosting, every morsel is a dream perfect for a brunch or a birthday — or a friendly joust in the backyard.

"I associate layer cakes like this with special occasions. This is one I usually save for friends and family for their birthdays. That being said, if you’re craving carrot cake and you don’t want to assemble three layers, you could bake this in a 13 x 9-inch pan. You’d just have to adjust the baking time to about 35 to 40 minutes," Beahm said.

Gather up your carrot cake ingredients

Carrots, eggs, flour, sugars, spices, oil in bowls on counter

This elaborate and glamorous looking cake requires a mere 30 minutes of preparation. But it does need quite a few ingredients. The three-layer cake takes 30 minutes to bake and serves 16.

This carrot cake recipe requires vegetable oil, eggs, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, flour, cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, baking soda, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, salt, pecans and the star of the show, carrots. The incredible frosting takes just cream cheese, butter and confectioners sugar.

Once you have gathered up your ingredients, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease and flour two or three 9-inch round cake pans.

Combine the carrot cake ingredients

Sugar, flour in bowl with whisk

Grab two bowls and in one, beat together 1 1/3 cups of vegetable oil, four large eggs, 1 cup of firmly packed light brown sugar, 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until well blended. A handheld or stand mixer will work just fine.

Sift together in the second bowl 2 cups of all purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground nutmeg. There’s plenty of delicious spices in this cake that, when paired with the cocoa powder, gives it a uniquely rich taste.

Shred the carrots for the cake

Grated carrots in food processor

Slowly stir the flour mixture into the oil mixture with a large rubber spatula until thoroughly combined. Make sure there aren’t any lingering lumps in the batter. Finely shred your carrots to equal 3 cups and add to the batter.

"Be sure to grate fresh carrots either with a box grater or food processor. Don’t use the pre-grated carrots from the store, because they’re too thick and dry," Beahm said.

Sprinkle in 1 cup of toasted and chopped pecans and mix until both are evenly distributed. If toasting your own pecans, spread them in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan and bake in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees for six to eight minutes until they are lightly browned and fragrant.

Use three cake pans if possible for baking the carrot cake

Carrot cake batter in baking pans

Beahm prefers using three cake pans, since it gives the carrot cake a more elegant, polished look. Divide the batter evenly among the already prepared cake pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes for two layers or 25 to 30 minutes for three layers. When you pop the cake batter in the oven, pull out your cream cheese to soften.

"I prefer a three-layer cake. It seems so much more impressive and indulgent. Plus, there are more layers of frosting," Beahm said

Insert a wooden toothpick in the center to see if it comes clean to determine if the cake is done. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let the layers cool completely before frosting.

Time for the carrot cake frosting

Cream cheese frosting made in mixer

While the cake layers are cooling, whip up the cream cheese frosting. Beat together two 8-ounce packages of softened cream cheese, 1 cup of softened unsalted butter, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or whisk until smooth. Once blended, beat in 5 cups of confectioners sugar.

"With this recipe, I would pull the cream cheese from the refrigerator at about the time I put the cake layers in the oven. Then I mix the frosting while the cakes cool. If you forget and need to soften the cream cheese quickly, you can use the microwave. Microwave the cream cheese for 15 seconds, then check the consistency. If it’s still not soft, continue microwaving at 10 second intervals, checking each time," Beahm said. "I think the consistency and flavor of homemade cream cheese frosting is much better than store-bought frosting. Plus, I know what all of the ingredients are."

Frosting the carrot cake

Cream cheese frosting on a carrot cake

When the cake layers have cooled, get ready to frost the cake. It’s like placing a crown on the beauty queen. Place the first layer of the cake on a cake stand or serving platter and spread approximately 1/3 of the frosting evenly over the top layer but not the sides. Do that again with the remaining two layers. Beahm prefers to leave the sides open, revealing the rich cake blanketed underneath the incredible tasting frosting.

Decorate the top of the cake with more chopped pecans if you prefer. If you’ve seen carrot cakes with those adorable tiny carrots on them, you can make those and place atop the cake. These can be made with buttercream icing or marzipan if you have either on hand.

Carrot cake makes for a fabulous dessert that’s punctuated by tangy cream cheese frosting. Master this recipe and it’s sure to impress friends and family.

Carrot cake with pecans on top
Ready in 60 minutes
  • 1 ⅓ cups of vegetable oil
  • four large eggs
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 cups finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cups chopped pecans, toasted
  • two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 cups confectioners sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease and flour two or three 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Beat together the vegetable oil, eggs, both sugars, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until well blended.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, spices, baking soda, and ½ a teaspoon of the salt.
  4. Stir the flour mixture into the oil mixture with a large rubber spatula until combined.
  5. Add the shredded carrots and the chopped pecans, mixing just until evenly distributed.
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes for a two-layer cake or 25 to 30 minutes for a three-layer cake, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.
  8. To make the cream cheese frosting, beat the cream cheese, butter, the remaining 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon of salt in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or whisk until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar.
  9. When the cake layers have cooled, frost the cake. Place the first layer on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread roughly ⅓ of the frosting evenly over the top of the layer (not the sides). Repeat with the remaining two layers and frosting. Decorate the top of the cake with more chopped pecans, if desired.