Classic Carrot Cake – deliciously moist spiced carrot cake layers with a perfectly tangy cream cheese buttercream.
Carrot Cake: The Easter Dessert
Hard to believe Easter is less than a week away, right?! What better way to celebrate than with my Classic Carrot Cake recipe. I know this Easter will look a bit different for most of us than in years past, but the meaning stays the same… as do the desserts!
For me, carrot cake is the quintessential Easter dessert. In fact, I think Easter is the only time of year we ever had carrot cake. But here’s the thing – I never liked carrot cake. Not until I made my Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream, that is. Every carrot cake I ever had growing up had nuts and raisins in it. And I think you know how I feel about that: eew, gross!
But when I made my first carrot cake, based off a Sweetapolita recipe, I realized two things: one, carrot cake doesn’t HAVE to have nuts and raisins and two, carrot cake is actually really good!
The first carrot cake I published on my blog is definitely untraditional, and I think that’s why I like it so much. My recipe is based off a compilation of a couple adapted recipes from some of my fave bakers: the cake is adapted from Rosie of Sweetapolita and the white chocolate pretzel crack filling is adapted from Christina Tosi of Milk Bar.
I was first attracted to Rosie’s carrot cake because it didn’t have any nuts and raisins, and because she used ginger! I love ginger! Also, I love adding texture to my cakes, but not in the cake layers. So adding Christina’s white chocolate pretzel crack filling was almost a no-brainer.
In addition to the cake and the filling, I decided to add an apricot compote (you can also use apricot jam) and a white chocolate buttercream. Again, I was purposely going against the norm.
The result, a deliciously unique and moist carrot cake!
Classic Carrot Cake
And while I absolutely love that unique carrot cake, I’ve been feeling for a while now that a classic, more traditional carrot cake was calling my name. So, here we are! Today I’m sharing my new Classic Carrot Cake recipe with you.
- This carrot cake is more traditional in flavor with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.
Oil and Applesauce
- I also use a combination of oil and applesauce for fat and to create a beautiful moist cake. You can certainly use all oil in place of applesauce or sub the applesauce for crushed pineapple.
Freshly Grated Carrots
- It’s SUPER important to use FRESHLY grated carrots in your carrot cake recipes. Freshly grated carrots have more moisture than the pre-shredded carrots. We want a moist cake! That moisture also means the carrot pieces will soften. If you use pre-shredded carrots, you’ll have crunchy carrot pieces in your cake.
Cream Cheese Buttercream
- Sticking to traditional elements, I’m using a cream cheese buttercream with my Classic Carrot Cake instead of my white chocolate buttercream. To ensure the cream cheese flavor doesn’t overpower the cake, I don’t use a lot of cream cheese — just enough to give it a perfectly tangy but not overwhelming cream cheese flavor. See my frequently asked questions about how to get the best frosting results.
Nuts and Raisins
- As I mentioned above, I left nuts and raisins out of my cake layers. However, that doesn’t mean you have to if you love that kind of texture in your classic carrot cake. If you want to add nuts and raisins, I’d start with a half cup of each.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes
If you’d like to turn this Carrot Cake recipe into cupcakes, no problem! A full batch of the batter will make about 24 to 26 standard size cupcakes. You can also split the batch and make a half batch. I did that with my cupcakes yesterday!
For carrot cake cupcakes, you’ll want to bake at 325 degrees F. for a little less time than the cake recipe calls for. Mine were perfect and moist at 20 minutes. If you’re doing a full batch, and baking two cupcake pans at a time (on the same rack), the bake time will vary slightly. Keep your eye on them, but know they’ll take a few minutes longer.
BAKING TIP: I don’t ever recommend baking cake layers or cupcakes on different racks. You always want to bake them on your middle rack. If you can’t fit all of your cake pans or cupcake pans on the same rack in your oven, it’s ok to leave cake batter on the counter while you wait to bake. Just make sure to cover the cake pan or cupcake pan with plastic wrap while you wait.
FOR THE CAKE
- 1 cup (218 g) vegetable or canola oil
- 1/2 cup (125 g) applesauce can substitute with crushed pineapple
- 1 cup (200 g) packed brown sugar
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 6 eggs at room temperature
- 2 tsp. (8.4 g) vanilla extract
- 3 cups (360 g) all purpose flour
- 2 tsp. (5.3 g) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. (1.2 g) ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. (.8 g) ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. (.8 g) ground cloves
- 1 Tbsp. (10 g) baking powder
- 1 tsp. (4 g) baking soda
- 1 tsp. (5.6 g) salt
- 4 cups (400 g.) freshly grated carrots
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM
- 1 1/2 cups (339 g) unsalted butter slightly cold
- 6 oz. (170g) cream cheese slightly cold
- 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
- 3 tbsp. (45 g) heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp. (4.2 g) vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
FOR THE CAKE
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the oil and sugars. Beat on medium speed for about two minutes.
Add the applesauce and vanilla and then stir to combine.
With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the eggs, making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions. Once all of the eggs are combined, beat the mixture for about a minute on medium speed.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture.
Fold in the carrots.
Evenly divide the cake batter between the three prepared pans (about 20 ounces of batter in each). Bake for 25 to 27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it.
Let the cake layers cool in the pans on cooling racks for about 10 to 15 minutes. Invert the cake layers onto the cooling racks to cool completely.
Level cake layers, if needed.
Cake layers can be made ahead of time. To store: let cake layers cool to room temperature and then wrap well with plastic wrap and freeze. Before you decorate your frozen cake layers, let them thaw at room temperature for about 30 to 60 minutes prior to decorating.
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese. Beat on medium speed for about two minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar, followed by the cream, vanilla and pinch of salt.
Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Place the first cake layer, top side up, on a cake plate or cake board.
Evenly spread about 1 cup of buttercream on the cake layer. Place the second cake layer on top of the buttercream and spread another 1 cup of buttercream over the second layer.
Place the third cake layer top side down.
Apply a thin layer of buttercream over the entire cake. This is the crumb coat. Freeze the crumb coated cake for about 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Once the crumb coat is set, continue decorating the cake with the remaining buttercream.