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Spicy Carrot Cake

I have a go-to, moist carrot cake recipe that I would stake my life on. It’s moist, has great texture, and has a wonderful balance of flavors. But sometimes you want something a little different, and that’s where this spicy carrot cake comes into play.

I decided to spice up my favorite recipe. I experimented with a bit of cayenne and made a spicy carrot cake with a bourbon maple cream cheese frosting.

It has the perfect amount of kick in my opinion, and really adds such a fun spin to this classic flavor.

Yield: 24 slices

Spicy Carrot Cake Base:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups finely grated carrot
  • 1 (12-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 10 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp maple bourbon
  • 1 Tbsp Pure Maple Syrup

Step 1: Bake the Spicy Carrot Cake Layers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line and lightly greasing three eight-inch, round, cake pans. Set the pans aside. Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon.

Mix in the eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla at a medium speed, until fully incorporated. Fold in the carrots, pineapple, and walnuts.

Pour the batter evenly between to prepare cake pans, and bake for 30 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Allow the layers to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then carefully remove them to allow them to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Step 2: Make the Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

While the cake layers cool, prepare the cream cheese frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese, until the mixture becomes light and fluffy (about 2 minutes), then mix in the powdered sugar in several installments on a low speed.

Add in a splash of bourbon between the powdered sugar installments. Add in maple syrup and salt last, and mix on a low speed until fully incorporated.

image of a bowl of fluffy bourbon cream cheese frosting

Step 3: Assemble this Spicy Carrot Cake

Once the cake layers are fully cooled, frost each layer with an even layer of frosting, and add a thin crumb coat around the cake.

Chill the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes, until the crumb coat is firm to the touch. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting, and smooth using a bench scraper. Then decorate as desired!

Tips for Making the Best Spicy Carrot Cake

  • Use a microplane grater to shred your carrots into super fine pieces! It’s a bit of extra work, but it gives the cake an amazing texture
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake, to make it easier to stack and frost.
  • Mix your cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated; this will ensure your cake layers are tender and fluffy
  • Be sure to properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients
  • Use a serrated knife to level your cake layers once they’re fully cooled, to make it easier to assemble and frost your cake

Making this Spicy Carrot Cake in Advance & Storage Tips

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try my spicy carrot cake recipe, I’d love to hear what think of it! Please leave a rating, and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment 🙂

Also please tag me @chelsweets, and use the #chelsweets on social media so that I can see your amazing creations!

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Saturday 2nd of July 2022

Oh my goodness, this cake. Now I admit that I had to leave the cayenne out because a family member can’t have it but I added a small amount of ginger instead and it’s one of the best recipes I ever tried. I have used your recipes so many times and the confidence I have that it will turn out well because it is from this site is never without merit.


Sunday 2nd of July 2023

@Chelsweets, Can I convert this to 6 inch pans?


Sunday 3rd of July 2022

Love that Nikki, you're too sweet :) Thank you!!!

Sharon McQuade

Friday 24th of April 2020

Hello was reading the frosting instructions and it says to add in a splash of cream with the bourbon in between the icing sugar. i don't see cream on the list of ingredients, do you mean cream cheese? (new baker over here lol)


Friday 8th of May 2020

Hi Sharon,

So sorry for the delayed response! That is actually a typo! When I was recipe testing that recipe I originally used cream, but I've updated the recipe since to just use bourbon and maple syrup to thin it. Sorry for any confusion, hope that helps for next time <3


Monday 1st of October 2018

Hi! Trying this recipe now, but a big confused - you have it described as both a cake and cupcakes, and refer to two types of frosting but don't talk about how you used each of them. Will you clarify? Thanks!


Monday 15th of October 2018

wow not sure what happened there! it's updated now, so sorry about that!!!

Vinny Grette

Sunday 23rd of March 2014

The only thing that looks better than this wonderful recipe is the one that has walnuts in it, too :)


Sunday 23rd of March 2014

Haha that one is pretty tasty too!! Thanks :)