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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.

What Ingredients Really Gives Carrot Cake Its Flavor?

Most of the delicious flavors 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 husband 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 amount of shredded carrots!

This recipe 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.

I am a maniac and shred them by hand on a microplane grater, but I highly recommend shredding them with a food processor or a KitchenAid attachment.

image of finely shredded carrots that were shredded using a microplane grater

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 adds…you guessed it! More moisture 🙂

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

Tips for Making the Best Carrot Cake

  • 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.
  • 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. It makes it so much 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.

Making This Moist Carrot Cake in Advance and 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 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to a month. 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.
image of slice of moist carrot cake, frosted with cream cheese frosting

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try my moist carrot cake recipe, I’d love to hear what you think of it! Please leave a rating and comment below.

Tag me @chelsweets and use #chelsweets on social media so I can see your amazing creations!

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Yield: 24

Moist Carrot Cake

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

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 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes

Ingredients

Carrot Cake

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar (200g)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 1 cup canola or vegetable oil (240ml)
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature (336g)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (390 grams)
  • 2 tsp baking soda (12g)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (4g)
  • 1 tsp salt (6g)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (7g)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (1g)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (< 1g)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (120ml)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8ml)
  • 2 1/2 cups finely grated carrots (450g or about 1 lb)

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (452g) - 4 sticks
  • 1 cup full-fat cream cheese, room temperature (224g or 8 oz.)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12ml)
  • 1 tsp salt (6g)
  • 11 cups powdered sugar (1375g)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream or whipping cream (30ml)
  • green and orange gel food coloring

Instructions

Carrot Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Line four, 7-inch or three, 8-inch round pans with parchment rounds and grease with non-stick baking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of light brown sugar, 1 cup of granulated sugar, and 1 cup of oil until combined.
  3. Add in 6 eggs, 2 at a time. Mix until the batter is smooth.
  4. In a separate large bowl, sift or whisk together 3 cups of all purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp cloves.
  5. Add half the dry ingredients into the sugar/egg mixture and mix on low until combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  6. Mix in 1/2 cup of buttermilk and 2 tsp of vanilla on a low speed.
  7. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients. Once the ingredients are fully combined, fold in 2 1/2 cups of finely grated carrots.
  8. 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 the layers will bake up to be the same height.
  9. Bake the cake layers for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run a small offset spatula around the perimeter of the pans to separate the cake layers from the pan.
  11. 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.
  12. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers. If you're making these layers in advance, wrap and freeze the cake layers at this point.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the cream cheese frosting.
  2. Beat 2 cups of butter and 1 cup of cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment until smooth.
  3. Add in 1 Tbsp of vanilla and 1 tsp of salt. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  4. Slowly mix in 11 cups powdered sugar on a very low speed. Halfway through add in 2 Tbsp of heavy cream to make the frosting easier to mix.
  5. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tbsp 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 and set it aside. This can sit at room temperature for up to 4 hours, but if you make in advance be sure to store it in the fridge.

Assembling This Layered Carrot 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 and add an even layer of uncolored cream cheese frosting between each cake layer with a large offset spatula.
  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. Smooth the frosting with a bench scraper. This layer doesn't have to be perfect because we're about to pipe frosting carrots around the side of the cake!
  4. Chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (10 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, then enjoy!

Notes

My Tips for Making the Best Moist Carrot Cake

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level). Or better yet, use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Use a scale to weigh your cake pans as you fill them. It helps the cake layers bake to the same height and bake more evenly.
  • Bang your cake pans on the counter before putting it in the oven. This brings any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
  • Level your room temperature or thawed cake layers with a serrated knife to make them easier to stack.
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. It makes it so much easier to frost them!

Making This Layered 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 cream cheese frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. This frosting can also be stored in the freezer for up to a month. Just be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to make it nice and smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer up to a month. If you freeze the cake, transfer it to the fridge the night before you plan to eat it. This will help it gradually thaw and minimize any temperature shock. Remove the cake from the fridge about an hour before you plan to cut into it.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 609Total Fat 31gSaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 100mgSodium 391mgCarbohydrates 81gFiber 1gSugar 67gProtein 4g

Sahana

Tuesday 24th of May 2022

Hi.. I made this cake and it came out very good, but i felt the baking soda measurement is higher that baking powder, I could get the baking soda taste,,

Dr. LaGena Rosa

Sunday 17th of April 2022

I make a ton of your delicious recipes! They are well written & easy to replicate. Question though: when it calls for heavy cream (for instance when used to make buttercream) do I pull it straight from the fridge cold, or is this the 1 cold ingredient that you don't let come to room temperature 1st before adding it? Thanks in advance, Happy Easter! LaGena

Terri Miller

Wednesday 30th of March 2022

Hi Chelsie, I'm so excited to make this cake. Your so amazing with your work of art with your cakes. I've used so many of your recipes. I honestly can't thank you enough. I'll send you a picture when my cake is finished. I'm so excited to get started. Thank you again for all of your hard work and sharing your amazing ideas. You have a great day. Pictures later if your site allows them, I've never tried. Happy Wednesday. And God bless.??? Terri

Laura B

Tuesday 29th of March 2022

Can this same recipe be used for cupcakes? Would you make any modifications other than time?

Marisa

Monday 21st of March 2022

In the buttercream recipe, the gram measurement doesn’t match the cup/stick measurement. 4 sticks/2 cups are 453 grams, but it lists 678g. Which is correct?

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