Carrot Cake

I grew up without being a big “cake” person. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that it was mostly because my dad isn’t a big cake person either. We didn’t have big cakes for celebrations or birthdays, the exceptions being carrot cake and cheesecake. Notice a theme? Cream cheese! There’s so much depth of flavor to cream cheese frosting that has forever soured me to buttercream or other frostings that I find much too sweet.

I made this carrot cake recipe for my father’s birthday this year, and it was a huge success. We liked it so much that I made it again a few weeks later for Easter, but that time as cupcakes. Both baked easily and tasted great. I will probably make the cupcakes more frequently than the cake simply because I can put a large quantity of the cupcakes in the freezer more easily than 3/4 of a cake!

~ Theresa

What you need:


For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 c. natural applesauce
  • 1 t. vanilla (store-bought or homemade)
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 T. cinnamon
  • 2 t. freshly grated ginger (or 1 t. ground ginger)
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/4 t. cloves
  • 2 c. peeled and grated carrots (about 4-5 large carrots)

For the frosting:

  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 T. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 t. vanilla (store-bought or homemade)


  • 2 9-inch round cake pans or 2 muffin pans and 24 muffin cup liners
  • 2 large mixing bowls
  • whisk and spatula
  • box grater
  • microplane zester
  • electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and whisk attachment

Time: 30 minutes prep, 30-35 minutes baking, 20-30 minutes frosting, plus cooling time

Freezeable: Yes. The carrot cupcakes in particular freeze well. If you know you are making the cake ahead of when you need it, it will be easier to freeze it unfrosted.

Serves: 12-24

Multiplying the recipe: No.

Carrot Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans (or line two muffin pans with 24 muffin cups). Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla until uniform. In another mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Using a microplane zester, grate the fresh ginger into the dry ingredients. Using a zester rather than a box grater prevents the stringy “hairs” that are sometimes present when using fresh ginger. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula until just mixed. Add the grated carrots. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans (or 24 muffin cups). Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack. Cupcakes should bake for 22-23 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until mostly smooth, about 2 minutes. Replace the paddle attachment with a whisk attachment and beat for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and 2 T. of heavy cream. Beat for 2-3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat on high for 2 more minutes.

Place the bottom layer of the cake on a platter and evenly cover it with frosting. I’m not a fan of cutting the tops off of cakes just to make them even, so I recommend simply putting the second layer of cake on upside down! (It’s flat, and no cake is lost. Win-win.) Cover the top and the surrounding sides with frosting.

Divide the remaining frosting in two, dying one orange and one green. Using piping bags or a resealable plastic bag with the corner snipped off, create a ring of orange carrots with green leaves around the edge.

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

About Cooking for the Fam

Katie and Theresa are sisters-in-law who are passionate about food, passionate about family, and passionate about making and sharing food with their families. The Fam needs to eat. Make it good!
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