Moist Carrot Cake

This moist carrot cake recipe has been a long time coming. In the past, whenever I was asked to make a carrot cake, I used a very traditional carrot cake recipe.

Most classic or Southern carrot cake recipes include shredded coconut, chopped walnuts or pecans, and crushed pineapple.

Some even included raisins (gross, I know!). But you know what?! I never have any of those ingredients on hand.

Getting all the ingredients from the grocery store felt like a chore. Which got me thinking, do I even like nuts and coconut in my carrot cake? Not really.

image of slice of carrot cake, frosted with cream cheese frosting

What Ingredients Really Gives Carrot Cake Its Flavor?

Most of the delicious flavor we associate with carrot cake comes from the spices that are added into the batter.

Ground nutmeg, ground cloves, and cinnamon are the dominant flavors in most carrot cake recipes. Some recipes also call for molasses or brown sugar, which pairs so well with these warm spices.

While the additional ingredients do add to the texture of the cake, I don’t really love the mouth feel they create.

image of decorated carrot cake, with cream cheese frosting

My Carrot Cake Modifications

If these spices create the carrot cake flavor that I know and love, why do I have to include those other ingredients I don’t even like? Why can’t a carrot cake recipe be a bit simpler, or have less ingredients?

That was when I took a step back, and realized I needed to come up with a new carrot cake recipe. A moist, delicious carrot cake recipe that was nut-free (my fiance is severely allergic!).

It would use ingredients I actually had in my pantry. It also could be made without using a stand mixer. Yup, this carrot cake recipe comes together in one bowl.

unfrosted carrot cake, stacked and filled

What Makes This Carrot Cake So Moist?

There are three ingredients in this recipe that make it super moist. The first is the massive amount of carrots this recipe uses!

It uses an entire pound of shredded carrots. The water from all the carrots turns into steam as the cake batter bakes, which creates an amazing texture.

This cake recipe also uses oil as the fat instead of butter. This adds moisture to the recipe. It also allows you to mix the carrot cake batter by hand, without a stand mixer.

The final ingredient that makes this carrot cake so moist is buttermilk! I love baking with buttermilk, and felt like this recipe needed a bit. Buttermilk adds a wonderful tang, and also adds…you guessed it! More moisture 🙂

carrot cake slice frosted with cream cheese buttercream, with decorated carrot cake in background

Share Your Creations With Me!

Nothing makes me happier than when I get emails or DMs with photos of your amazing cakes. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your triumphs, or questions <3

If you try this moist carrot cake recipe, please tag me @chelsweets. Also use the #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations!

Yield: 24 servings

Moist Carrot Cake

Moist Carrot Cake

This carrot cake recipe is made in one bowl, and is super moist! One batch makes three, 8-inch cake layers, and is decorated with a delicious cream cheese buttercream frosting.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

Carrot Cake

  • 3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (410 grams)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (200 grams)
  • 1 cup canola oil, or any flavorless oil (224 grams)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (4 grams)
  • 2 tsp baking soda (12 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
  • 6 eggs (336 grams)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (114 grams)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (8 grams)
  • 1 lb of carrots, finely grated (roughly 2 1/2 cups, about 450 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (7 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (1 gram)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (< 1 gram)

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (678 grams) - 4 sticks
  • 1 cup full-fat cream cheese, room temperature (225 grams or 8 oz.)
  • 12 cups powdered sugar (1500 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (29 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12 grams)
  • green and orange gel food coloring

Instructions

Carrot Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans or three 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and oil until combined.
  3. Add in the eggs, 2 at a time. Stir until the batter is smooth.
  4. Mix in the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves), scraping the sides of the bowl while mixing.
  5. Add the baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the batter, and mix in.
  6. Add half of the flour, and mix until just combined. Be careful not to over mix!
  7. Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla.
  8. Mix in the remaining flour. Once the ingredients are fully combined, fold in the grated carrots.
  9. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. I like to use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my pans, and ensure they all have the same amount of batter. This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
  10. For 7-inch cake layers, bake for 25 minutes. If you made three, 8-inch cake layers, bake for about 27 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  11. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the perimeter of the pans to separate the cake layers from the pan.
  12. Place cake layers in the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers from the pans.
  13. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the cream cheese frosting.
  2. Beat the butter and cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth.
  3. Add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  4. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar on a very low speed, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream. 
  5. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  6. Place 1 cup of frosting in a separate bowl, and color it green with gel food coloring. Place in a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M or 2D frosting tip.
  7. In a separate bowl, add 2 cups of frosting and color it orange with gel food coloring. Place in a piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip, or an opening cut about 1.5 cm wide.
  8. Cover the uncolored cream cheese frosting with a piece of plastic wrap, to prevent a crust from forming until you're ready to use it.

To Assemble The Cake:

  1. Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Stack the cake layers, adding an even layer of cream cheese frosting between each cake layer.
  3. Frost the top and sides of the cake with a moderately thick layer of frosting (thicker than a crumb coat), to fully cover the cake layers.
  4. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  5. Pipe vertical lines of orange frosting on the sides of the cake to look like carrots.
  6. Pipe green frosting swirls around the top perimeter of the cake to look like carrot tops.

Notes

One batch of cake batter makes about 1820 grams, so when I'm making a cake with four layer, I add 455 grams of batter into each pan.

These cake layers can be made in advance!! Learn more about how far in advance they can be made, and how to properly wrap them in my post on how to make cake layers ahead of time.

Since this frosting will be used to decorate a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on the lowest speed at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process.

You can also stir the frosting in a bowl with a rubber spatula, pushing it from side to side, to get rid of any air bubbles.This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

The frosting recipe above is 1.5 batches of my buttercream, which is the amount I usually make for 7 or 8 inch cakes. This makes enough buttercream to add a generous amount between the cake layers, and to have leftover buttercream for any special decorations. If you have extra buttercream you don't use, it can be stored in the fridge.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24 slices

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 628 Total Fat 30g Saturated Fat 13g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 16g Cholesterol 99mg Sodium 393mg Carbohydrates 87g Fiber 1g Sugar 71g Protein 4g

46 thoughts on “Moist Carrot Cake

  1. It says to add eggs, but there are no eggs in the ingredients list. How many is there? It looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it!

    1. I don’t use them when I’m making 7 or 8 inch cake layers! but if I’m making cake layers bigger than that, I do use a flower nail <3

  2. I love the way you decorated this carrot cake! I wish I could replicate the look but I have my doubts it would look anything like carrots! lol I LOVE nuts in my carrot cake and wouldn’t bother eating it without them. 🙂

    1. haha that’s totally fair! Some people live for the texture and taste they add, and I totally respect that <3 I bet if you give it a try, it’d turn out better than you think!!!

  3. I’ve been on the hunt for a new recipe for my carrot cake this Easter. I really wanted one with buttermilk!!! I’m sold. Im making it tomorrow (but i will sprinkle the top with pecans).

    1. sorry that was a typo!! Step #2 is when it should be added, but if you add it at step 7 the cake should still turn out just fine <3

    1. The carrot tops are made with a Wilton 1M and the carrots are made with Wilton 2A, but any round top (or even just sniping the tip of the piping bag) will work!

  4. Hello! This cake looks amazing. I am making my friends weeding cake soon which will be three tiers. She wants her bottom tier as carrot cake but I’ll be making 4 10inch sponges. What should I time your recipe by in order to get 4 10 inch sponges? Thank you!!

    1. I’d recommend placing two flower nails upside down in your pans to help them bake more evenly and quickly! with them, the baking time should be pretty similar to what it for 7 or inch layers, especially if you make layers that are the same height. I’d check on them after 25 minutes, and then every few minutes after that if they look like they need a bit more time. This recipe bakes pretty quickly because of all the carrots in it, so just keep an eye on them 🙂

  5. Hi Chelsea. I love the look of this recipe. I was going to make it in a 9×13 inch rectangle pan. Do I need to adjust the recipe or will this amount of batter be ok? Thank you.

    1. One batch of batter will make 2, sheet cakes that are 9x 13 inches (And about 1 inch tall)! I’d also recommend placing a couple flower nails upside down to help the layers bake more evenly and quickly 🙂

    1. This cake recipe is already super moist, so I’d be worried that adding crushed pineapple would be too much liquid :/ Maybe you could try to reduce a bit of the buttermilk and swap in the pineapple though??

  6. I have a customer that request carrot cake cupcakes, I love this recipe for my cakes but wasn’t sure if you’d recommend it as a cupcake?

    1. This cake recipe makes great cupcakes! It’s a lot of batter though, so I think it’ll make 2-3 dozen cupcakes <3

  7. Chelsea, you’re amazing. Thanks so much for all the very detailed instructions! I’m making a carrot wedding cake for my friend and it will be semi naked. It’s a 3 tier 12,9 &6 inches. For some reason all my layers turned out at exactly 2 inches tall. They’re super flat too (not domed). I have two questions. 1) is the cream cheese frosting recipe here thin enough to be for a semi naked cake or should I add another tablespoon of cream? 2) Is 3×2” plus frosting too tall for each tier (about 7.5 inches tall)? If so, do you think I should make the layers thinner by slicing off to make them 1.5 inches tall? I’m reluctant to just do two layers per tier because I’m going for the tall effect. But if you think I should just do that, I will. Thanks so so much!

    1. Hi Thamara! You are too sweet 🙂 I think you comment may have posted twice, and I responded to the earlier comment <3

  8. Hi Chelsey,

    Two questions: 1) If I want to make a semi naked carrot cake, should I add more cream to the frosting recipe above? It’s a wedding cake: 3 tiers 12, 9 and 6 inches. Each layer within each tier cane in at 2 inches. Do you think that would make the cake too gigantic? Should a slice off a half inch from each cake or should I just leave it? Any suggestion on how tall it should be (avg and max) would be great! Thanks!!

    1. Hi Thamara,

      Since this is cream cheese frosting, it’s already a bit thinner than my normal frosting. I wouldn’t recommend adding anymore cream, it should be a great consistency for a semi naked cake as it 🙂

      How many layers are going into each tier?? I usually make wedding cakes with 3 or 4 cake layers that are a little taller than 1 inch, with about 1/4 of an inch of frosting between each layer. My tiers usually aren’t super tall, but it’s all about whatever look you’re after!! My tiers are between 4-6 inches, but if you use layers that are 2 inches tall, maybe you do only 2 or 3 layers?? Tall tiers are definitely in right now, so there’s nothing wrong with making them tall!

  9. Hi, love your recipes and big fan.
    Can I use egg white instead of whole eggs in this recipe?

    Also can you provide me the adjustments to make a small batch (3 tier 6 inch cake) rather than the 3tier 8″ with this carrot cake recipe?

    1. Hi Martha!! I’ve never made this recipe with egg whites, but the conversion would be able 8 egg whites, or 1 1/4 cup of egg whites.

      To make this recipe in 3, 6-inch pans, I’d recommend using 2/3 of this cake recipe. Or you can use a full batch to make 4, 6-inch cake layers. Hope that helps, happy baking!!

    1. Hi Tammy! These should be done baking after 18-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or whenever a toothpick comes out clean (or with a few loose crumbs). Hope that helps!

    1. Hi Katherine,

      I actually haven’t tried it out as cupcakes yet! I plan to next week though, stay tuned!! Or if you try it, let me know how it turns out <3

  10. Hey Chels! I made this layer cake once and absolutely loved it. I had someone ask to make a 9×13 cake – 2 layers. Do you know how much batter I would put in?

  11. Oops I should’ve read the comments above. I see that you already said this recipe will make 2 – 9×13 cake layers. Thanks anyway!

Let me know what you think!