My Best Carrot Cake recipe is moist, flavorful and topped with the fluffiest cream cheese frosting! I have issues with carrot cake because I've tried so many and they taste of mostly one thing: oil! Not mine. This one is ultra moist and delicious with half the amount of fat compared to most! I don't know when or where in history there was a rule to say that Carrot Cake has to have 3 times as much oil as every other cake recipe... Carrots make it moist enough, and with my recipe, there's plenty of moist-making ingredients!
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- Easy to make - this cake is simple and quick to prepare. The most work is grating the carrots.
- Half the oil - Let's clear something up: Oil does not make cakes moist. Moisture (in the form of liquid... water) makes things moist. Oil makes things soft and tender which gives the perception of moistness. So many carrot cake recipes have too much oil that it makes the texture gummy and pasty. My cake has just ⅔ cup of oil vs. more than 1 cup that you find in most recipes.
- Moist carrot cake - this recipe makes a moist carrot cake with a soft texture and stays moist for days without drying out.
- Flavorful spice cake - a fragrant blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice adds such a wonderful flavor.
- Fluffy cream cheese frosting - this frosting! It is incredible. Say goodbye to runny cream cheese frosting - this one is thick and fluffy. You can even pipe it onto the cake!
INGREDIENTS FOR CARROT CAKE
- All purpose flour - regular unbleached all-purpose flour works just fine in this carrot cake recipe for a moist and soft texture.
- Spices - a fragrant blend of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger is just right here! I've played with the blend of spices a lot and this is the combination I love the most for carrot cake. Feel free to leave out the allspice if you don't have it, or add a pinch of ground clove instead.
- Oil - liquid oil will keep this cake soft even when it's refrigerated to preserve the cream cheese frosting. That's because oil is liquid even when cold whereas the saturated fats in butter are hard when cold.
- Granulated sugar - granulated sugar keeps these muffins tender and moist.
- Brown sugar - brown sugar adds rich molasses undertones to complement the sweet spices in this cake. You can use light or dark brown sugar.
- Eggs - two large eggs will add nice structure and help with the moist spongy texture.
- Pure vanilla extract - vanilla will enhance the spices. I like this Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract.
- Yogurt - use full fat plain yogurt to add tanginess to balance the sweet carrots and the acidity will react with the baking soda.
- Grated carrots - you will need 1 ½ cups of shredded carrots which is about 170g from 2 medium carrots. Make sure you grate them on the finer side of your box grater.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
Carrot cake is surprisingly easy to make that you really shouldn't feel the need to buy a box mix! The most labour intensive part is grating the carrots, but once that is out of the way, then all you need to do is mix it all up! I use my hand mixer for this recipe, but you can use a stand mixed or even make it by hand with just a whisk.
- STEP 1). First grate your carrots. Use the medium grate on your box grater -- not the largest size. If the carrot shreds are too large then they will be stringy in the cake and this interferes with the nice moist crumb texture. Measure out 2 cups and place it in a large mixing bowl.
- STEP 2). Add the sugar and wet ingredients. Add sugar, eggs, oil, yogurt and maple syrup to the carrots and mix it all up.
- STEP 3). Combine dry ingredients. Whisk together flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
- STEP 4). Add in all the dry ingredients and you are DONE! It's so simple.
EXPERT BAKING TIPS FOR BEST CARROT CAKE
- Mix carrots with sugar first. This step helps to break down the carrots slightly so that you don't end up with fibrous bits in the baked cake.
- Measure flour accurately. Too much flour can make this cake feel more dry and create a coarser texture. For the best results, weigh your flour.
- Sift the dry ingredients. Sifting the flour will break up any lumps and make it easier for them to incorporate into the batter and minimize the amount of mixing required.
- Do no over-mix on the last step. Once the dry ingredients are just incorporated and the batter looks uniform, STOP mixing.
WHAT PREVENTS CAKE FROM BECOMING DRY?
Too much flour and over-mixing makes cakes dry. For the best results, weigh your flour. Also be careful not to over-mix on the last step. Once the dry ingredients are just incorporated and the batter looks uniform, STOP mixing.
WHAT TYPE OF OIL SHOULD I USE FOR THE BEST CARROT CAKE?
For oil-based cakes, I almost always prefer sunflower oil because it has a very neutral and clean taste. This recipe will work with any liquid oil, including canola (rapeseed) oil, peanut oil or even olive oil. For a pleasant fruity/green grassy background note, try making this cake with light olive oil. It's really nice!
WHAT MAKES CAKES MOIST?
Water makes cake moist. This cake gets its moisture from maple syrup and yogurt as well as eggs. Also, let's not forget grated carrots which are mostly water! Carrots also contain fiber which helps to provide structure.
DOES OIL MAKE CAKES MOIST?
Oil is fat. Moisture comes from water. Oil does not contain water. So then what's the deal? Well, oil makes cakes soft and that gives the perception of moistness. It keeps the crumb tender. If there is too much oil, then the cake will be dense and heavy and air bubbles will not be able to sustain themselves in the batter. Light and fluffy usually does not go hand-in-hand with high fat.
HOW DO I STORE OIL FOR BAKING?
One of the most important things to note when baking with oils is to use the freshest oil possible. You can easily ruin a recipe if your oil is rancid, and you will be so upset that you wasted all the other ingredients! Store oil in a cool, dry and dark place away from sunlight. Do not store your oil under the sink because it can get hot under there after long periods of running hot water. It's best to buy oil that is packaged in dark green bottles as opposed to clear glass or plastic which do not provide much of a barrier to light. Light and heat can trigger oxidation reactions, and it's these reactions that cause the fat molecules in oil to taste rancid. Rancidity can be detected by a soapy taste.
WHAT SPICES ARE IN CARROT CAKE?
My favourite blend of spices for carrot cake are cinnamon (in the highest quantity), allspice, nutmeg and ginger. It's such a wonderful fragrance and will make your house smell amazing! You can use clove if you like, but I find it is too overpowering for carrot cake. Clove belongs in gingerbread.
EXPERT TIPS FOR THE BEST CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
So many times I hear from home bakers that their cream cheese frosting is runny. This one is NOT! This frosting is so thick, fluffy and luscious!
- The key is to not use too much liquid since cream cheese is almost 60% water anyway! Also it is important to use the right ratio of butter to cream cheese. That ratio is about 1:2. One part butter to 2 parts cream cheese.
- Hold back on the sugar! Too much sugar will not only make it taste way too sweet, but it will make it more runny since sugar binds water and turns into a syrup.
HOW DO I STORE THIS BEST CARROT CAKE?
This is a common question that I get asked often. For most cakes, I recommend storing at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap and in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. That's for cakes with buttercream (American, Swiss Meringue or Italian Meringue). The butter is stable at room temperature and the frosting is safe to eat. I usually do not recommend refrigerating cakes made with butter in the batter because the butter will harden and make the texture feel firm and dry.
However, due to the cream cheese in the frosting which has a high moisture content, this cake needs to be refrigerated. The good news is that since the cake layers are made with oil (not butter), they will remain soft even when cold. Wrap the cake well and store in an airtight container in the fridge. For the best experience, let it come to room temperature before serving.
HOW TO FROST AND CRUMB COAT A CAKE
For a simple finish on the cake, first make sure your baked cake layers are completely cooled or even cold. Apply a thin layer of frosting all over the cake to first catch and trap the crumbs. This is called a "crumb coat". Then chill the cake for about 15 minutes so this layer of frosting stays in place.
Then dollop the balance of the frosting right on top of the cake and use an offset spatula to push and spread the frosting down from the center, out to the edges and then finally down the sides of the cake to coat. Have restraint when it comes to spreading -- the more you spread, the more air you will press out of the frosting. So, stick to swift swoops and swooshes for a natural effect.
If you love cake, check out these recipes too:
The Best Carrot Cake with Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 cups 284g all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon each ground allspice, nutmeg and ginger
- 2 cups 235g finely grated carrots (from about 3 medium carrots)
- ⅔ cup 145g packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup 100g granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- ½ cup 120ml plain low fat yogurt
- ⅔ cup 160ml sunflower oil
- ⅓ cup 80ml pure maple syrup
- ½ cup 50g coarsely chopped walnuts
- ½ cup 70g raisins (optional)
- ½ cup 113g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup 125g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 block 250g cream cheese, softened
- 2 teaspoon 10ml lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup 30g icing sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides.
- For the cake batter, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl and whisk to blend evenly.
- Combine grated carrots, both sugars and eggs in a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until combined. Add oil, yogurt and maple syrup and beat until evenly blended. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined. Do not over-mix. Add walnuts and raising and fold them in until the batter is evenly blended (if desired).
- Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake for 28-32 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert the cakes onto the rack to cool completely.
- For the frosting, beat soft butter with 1 cup of icing sugar until smooth and fluffy. Beat in soft cream cheese one tablespoon at a time until full incorporated, thick, fluffy and pale in colour. Beat in lemon juice and vanilla, then beat in remaining ¼ cup of icing sugar until the frosting is smooth, fluffy and very creamy.
- Trim the slightly domed tops of the cake layers if desired to make flat layers. Spread about ¾ cup of frosting over the first layer. Place the second layer on top and spread a thin layer over the whole cake. Chill for 15 minutes. Dollop the remaining frosting on top of the cake and spread it out from the top working your way out to the edges and then down the sides to cover the cake. Serve immediately and enjoy!