Foolproof, Perfect Carrot Cake Recipe

This carrot cake recipe is my personal favorite carrot cake ever. It’s not too sweet, has an enormous depth of flavor, and the cream cheese frosting is to die for. Everyone who has tried this carrot cake has fawned over it, and you will definitely impress your friends/family if you make this carrot cake for them.

Foolproof, Perfect Carrot Cake Recipe

Carrot cake has a lot of haters for some reason — I’m not sure why. I’ve always really liked it! I think carrots are incredibly versatile in baking. I also love anything with chai spice, so this carrot cake has a chai spice to it that lends warmth and a hint of spice. It also uses applesauce as a wet ingredient, which lowers how much butter/eggs you have to use; it is a baking hack that dieters use traditionally to lower calories, but it actually *makes* this cake so much better, imho. The cream cheese frosting is fully indulgent, so don’t get too excited by the applesauce sub, lol.

To make this carrot cake, I recommend some baking gear:

  • A stand mixer is really helpful for baking. If not, use a hand mixer, or just prepare for an arm workout.
  • Three 8″ cake pans — I recommend these
  • Baking spray so your cakes don’t stick to the pan
  • I always recommend using a cooking scale to weigh your ingredients. Baking projects turn out better when you weigh ingredients!!!
  • An offset spatula is key for frosting a cake, and bench scraper helps a lot too
Foolproof, Perfect Carrot Cake Recipe

The ingredients for this delicious carrot cake are:

  • About 1 1/4 sticks – 10 tablespoons (142 grams) – unsalted butter, melted but not hot. Microwave for 30 seconds, swirl it around, let it sit to cool off.
  • 2 cups (400 grams) firmly-packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (250 grams) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (296 grams) grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
  • 2 1/2 cups (318 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of my homemade chai spice or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Optional: 3/4 cup (84 grams) chopped walnuts

To make the cream cheese frosting you will need:

  • 3 packets (24 ounces/680 grams) of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 sticks (227 grams) of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 4-5 cups of powdered sugar. if you don’t have any, you can DIY powdered sugar by following this hack w/ regular granulated sugar + corn starch
Foolproof, Perfect Carrot Cake Recipe

And here’s how you make carrot cake.

Start by baking the cakes.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Spray your cake pans with baking spray and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine your wet ingredients: the sugar, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, applesauce, and grated carrots.
  3. In another bowl off to the side, whisk together your dry ingredients: the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. Add in thirds to your wet ingredients and mix to *just barely combine*.
  4. Add in the nuts in last and fold to combine, if you wish.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the 3 pans — it’ll be about 21 ounces of batter per cake pan.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the sides of the cake are pulling away from the cake pan.
  7. When done, let them cool in their pans for about 5-10 minutes. Then, flip them onto a cooling rack, and stick in your freezer while you make the frosting.

Make the cream cheese frosting next.

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and the pinch salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
  2. On low speed, add in the powdered sugar in thirds, until nicely combined. Scrape down the sides to make sure everything’s incorporated. Start with 4 cups of powdered sugar, and if it looks and tastes too buttery to you, add in that last cup to firm it up.
  3. It should be very pliant and well-combined.

Assemble the cake

  1. Pull the cake layers out of the freezer, and place a dab of frosting on a plate or a cake platter, and place the cake layer upside down (so the flattest part is face-up). Spoon about 1/4 of your frosting on that layer, and spread around evenly using an offset spatula.
  2. Repeat with the next two layers. You’ll have a naked cake after you’ve applied frosting to the 3 layers on top only.
  3. Stick the cake in the fridge for about 10 minutes to let the frosting firm up before doing the sides.
  4. Come back to the cake and apply the rest of your frosting on the sides. Using a bench scraper, place the bench scraper perpendicular to the cake and gently drag it around the cake, to even out the sides. Here’s a video that shows that in more detail.
  5. If you like the idea of doing a little decor on top, you can do carrot shavings or more crushed walnuts on top, just to visually indicate that it’s a carrot cake.
  6. Serve immediately, or store in the fridge until you’re ready — it will last about 3-4 days in the fridge.
Foolproof, Perfect Carrot Cake Recipe

Foolproof, Perfect Carrot Cake Recipe

Mimi Newman
Foolproof, Perfect Carrot Cake Recipe
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Cake
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients
  

Cake layers:

  • 10 tablespoons 142 grams unsalted butter, melted but not hot. Microwave for 30 seconds, swirl it around, let it sit to cool off.
  • 2 cups 400 grams firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup 250 grams unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups 296 grams grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
  • 2 1/2 cups 318 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of my homemade chai spice or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Optional: 3/4 cup 84 grams chopped walnuts

Cream cheese frosting:

  • 3 packets 24 ounces/680 grams of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 sticks 227 grams of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 4-5 cups of powdered sugar. if you don't have any you can DIY powdered sugar by following this hack

Instructions
 

  • Start by baking the cakes.
  • Preheat your oven to 350F. Spray your cake pans with baking spray and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine your wet ingredients: the sugar, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, applesauce, and grated carrots.
  • In another bowl off to the side, whisk together your dry ingredients: the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. Add in thirds to your wet ingredients and mix to *just barely combine*.
  • Add in the nuts in last and fold to combine, if you wish.
  • Divide the batter evenly among the 3 pans -- it'll be about 21 ounces of batter per cake pan.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, until the sides of the cake are pulling away from the cake pan.
  • When done, let them cool in their pans for about 5-10 minutes. Then, flip them onto a cooling rack, and stick in your freezer while you make the frosting.
  • Make the cream cheese frosting next.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and the pinch salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
  • On low speed, add in the powdered sugar in thirds, until nicely combined. Scrape down the sides to make sure everything's incorporated.
  • It should be very pliant and well-combined.
  • Assemble the cake
  • Pull the cake layers out of the freezer, and place a dab of frosting on a plate or a cake platter (this helps 'glue' the cake down to the platter), and place the cake layer upside down (so the flattest part is face-up). Spoon about 1/4 of your frosting on that layer, and spread around evenly using an offset spatula.
  • Repeat with the next two layers. You'll have a naked cake after you've applied frosting to the 3 layers on each one's top only.
  • Stick the cake in the fridge for about 10 minutes to let the frosting firm up before doing the sides.
  • Come back to the cake and apply the rest of your frosting on the sides. I use my offset spatula and apply globs of frosting on the sides, then smooth it around/try to get it to be uniformly applied. Once there's an even amount of frosting, using a bench scraper, place the bench scraper perpendicular to the cake and gently drag it around the cake, to even out the sides. Here's a video that shows that in more detail.
  • Serve immediately, or store in the fridge until you're ready -- it will last about 3-4 days in the fridge.
Keyword Carrot cake, carrot cake recipe, mothers day dessert, spring baking
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