This Carrot Cake recipe makes a two-layer full-size carrot cake. It can be baked in 8” or 9” cake pans. The cake is extremely moist and will stay moist for days if you manage to stow away any leftovers.
If you are looking for the best Carrot Cake to serve for Easter or anytime you have a craving for carrot cake, you have found it! This full size carrot cake is perfect for a party but if you want something a little smaller, make my Mini Carrot Cake.
You might be curious why I have 2 separate recipes for this full size version and the mini cake & cupcake version. It’s because the ingredient list actually changes a little bit, making a large cake doesn’t just mean doubling the recipe of the mini cake.
How to Make Carrot Cake from Scratch
I started testing this full-size carrot cake recipe by doubling the recipe for the mini carrot cake and while it still came out delicious, I thought it was a bit too wet and dense for my liking due to too much moisture in the cake. Is there such a thing as too moist?? I didn’t mind it, but it is possible to be too moist. I tried it so you don’t have to.
The final recipe has less buttermilk to reduce the moisture content and more eggs to give the cake more structure. It’s a heavy cake with loads of ingredients like shredded carrots and chopped walnuts that need some extra binder to hold it all together.
Carrot cake batter
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until smooth.
- Mix in brown sugar until it dissolves completely.
- Add the shredded carrot and mix until evenly distributed.
- In another mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices, stir in the kosher salt. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture and stir or fold until incorporated.
- Fold in the chopped toasted walnuts – toasting the walnuts brings out their flavor, I highly recommend you don’t skip the toasting step.
- Divide batter between 2 cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
I used two 8” cake pans in this recipe. But 9” cake pans should work as well, just keep in mind the baking time may be shorter since the cake layers are thinner.
Cream cheese frosting
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is a must. For the cream cheese frosting, I simply doubled what I made for the mini cake. This yields about 4 ⅔ cups of frosting which is more than enough to frost this 8” cake, with a little bit extra to pipe a few swirls on top.
Storing and making ahead
Storing unfrosted cake
Unfrosted carrot cake layers can be kept on the counter overnight, or in the fridge for up to 3 days, and in the freezer for up to 3 months.
For storage, wrap each layer individually in plastic wrap after they have cooled completely. Place them in the fridge just like that or in a freezer bag if you plan to freeze them and add frosting much later.
Storing frosted cake
Frosted carrot cake should be refrigerated and will last up to a week in the fridge. The whole cake, when covered in frosting, does not need to be covered with plastic, the frosting acts as a protective cover to keep the cake from drying out.
If you have already cut into the cake, make sure to cover the exposed sides with some plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. Or you can cut them up into individual slices and store in an airtight container.
Freezing carrot cake
Carrot cake can also be frozen for up to 3 months. I like to cut them up into individual slices, wrap each piece very well with plastic wrap and place them in a freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the fridge or a couple hours at room temperature before serving.
- You can substitute buttermilk with regular milk, sour cream, or yogurt.
- Even though olive oil has a strong flavor, it will work in this recipe because of all the spices. I recommend any flavorless oil like vegetable and canola oil.
- Using a food processor to chop up the carrots is most efficient, but if you don’t have a food processor, you can use a box grater.
- If you don’t want a carrot cake with walnuts, try pecans. Make sure to toast whichever nuts you’re using, it will bring out their sweet flavor.
- I used 4 medium carrots in this recipe. They were about 1 lb total in weight before peeling and shredding.
More spiced cakes you’ll love
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, send me a photo, rate it and don’t forget to tag me @wildwildwhisk on Instagram. I’d love to see what’s cooking up in your kitchen. Cheers!
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (325 g)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup buttermilk (246 g)
- 1 cup vegetable oil (210 g)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cup light brown sugar (lightly packed, 288 g)
- 2 ½ cup shredded carrot (340 g)
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (60 g)
- More walnuts for topping if desired
- Melted butter for cake pans
- 16 oz cream cheese (room temperature, 454 g)
- 8 oz unsalted butter (room temperature, 227 g)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cup powdered sugar (150 g)
Make the carrot cake batter
- Toast the walnuts in a frying pan over medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes until fragrant. Let it cool and chop into smaller pieces.
- Scrub the carrots clean, trim the end and peel the skin off. Cut them into smaller pieces and shred them in a food processor or shred them with a box grater. This should yield 2 ½ cups.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Brush some melted butter on two 8” round cake pans. Line the bottom of the cake pan with a piece of round parchment paper cut to size and brush the parchment paper with butter as well. Set aside.
- Add buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla extract to a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add brown sugar and mix until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add shredded carrot and mix until evenly distributed.
- Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg into a medium mixing bowl. Add the salt and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture and fold until incorporated. Fold in the chopped walnuts.
- Divide batter evenly between two cake pans, about 800 g of batter per pan. Bake for 35 - 37 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean with just a few crumbs attached.
- Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 - 15 minutes. When you can touch the cake pans, use a butter knife to loosen the sides, flip the pan over to remove the cake from the pan. Peel off the parchment paper, and allow the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack before adding frosting.
Prepare the cream cheese frosting and assemble the cake
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream butter and cream cheese together until thoroughly mixed and creamy.
- Add vanilla extract and beat to combine.
- Add powdered sugar and stir until incorporated, gradually increase the mixer speed and beat until fluffy.
- When the cake is completely cool, place 1 layer on a cake stand or plate. Put 3 or 4 strips of parchment paper underneath the cake to cover the cake stand or plate. This is to keep the frosting from smearing everywhere.
- Add about 1 cup of frosting on top of the first layer and even it out with an offset spatula. Add the second layer of cake on top.
- Frost the side and top of the cake with the rest of the frosting. If there is any leftover frosting, pipe on decoration. Add chopped walnuts on top if desired. Carefully pull out the pieces of parchment paper underneath the cake.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the frosting to set or until ready to serve.
- Vegetable oil, canola oil or olive oil will work in this recipe.
- If you don’t have buttermilk, use regular milk, sour cream or yogurt.
- If you don’t have walnuts, use pecans.
- 4 medium carrots, about 1 lb total in weight, will yield enough shredded carrot for this recipe.