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Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A pleasingly moist cake, this treat is the one I requested that my mom make each year for my birthday. It's dotted with sweet carrots and a hint of cinnamon. The fluffy buttery frosting is scrumptious with chopped walnuts stirred in. One piece of this homemade carrot cake is never enough—better than all the other carrot cakes recipes I've tried!—Kim Orr, West Grove, Pennsylvania
  • Total Time
    Prep: 30 min. Bake: 35 min. + cooling
  • Makes
    16 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • FROSTING:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons 2% milk
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • Orange and green food coloring, optional

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and oil. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; beat into egg mixture. Stir in carrots.
  • Pour into two greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • For frosting, in another large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. Add enough milk to achieve desired spreading consistency. Reserve 1/2 cup frosting for decorating if desired. If desired, stir walnuts into remaining frosting.
  • Spread frosting between layers and over top and sides of cake. If decorating the cake, tint 1/4 cup reserved frosting orange and 1/4 cup green. Cut a small hole in the corner of pastry or plastic bag; insert #7 round pastry tip. Fill the bag with orange frosting. Pipe twelve carrots on top of cake, so each slice will have a carrot. Using #67 leaf pastry tip and the green frosting, pipe a leaf at the top of each carrot.
  • Store cake in the refrigerator.

Carrot Cake Tips

What's the trick to a moist cake?

Cakes made with oil tend to retain more moisture than cakes made with butter or shortening. Ingredients such as sour cream or buttermilk are also key ingredients to a moist carrot cake because they contain acids that tenderize the developing gluten in the flour.

What is a good substitute for cream cheese frosting?

Instead of cream cheese frosting, use a traditional buttercream frosting or try your hand at Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.

What's the best oil for carrot cake?

Canola oil is best for this cake because it has a nice, neutral flavor which doesn’t interfere or clash with any of the other flavors going on in the cake. If you prefer a butter-based carrot cake, check out our recipe for three-layered carrot cake. To convert oil measurements to butter, the general rule is 1 cup butter to ¾ cup oil.

How do I make the frosting less sweet?

To keep the frosting from becoming too sweet, cut back on the confectioners’ sugar slightly (a few tablespoons may be enough to make a difference). As you prepare the frosting, add a little sugar at a time and taste as you go. Also, you could add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the frosting because the acidity in the juice counters the sweetness of the sugar. If the frosting still seems too sweet, simply decrease the amount you use on your cake.

How do I prevent my frosting from getting runny?

Because it is made in a mixer, cream cheese frosting can become runny if overmixed. Mix just until all of the confectioners’ sugar has been incorporated, and you have whipped in some air for stability. To thicken your frosting, pop the bowl in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes. This will allow the butter and cream cheese to firm up a bit more.
Nutrition Facts
1 slice: 531 calories, 28g fat (7g saturated fat), 67mg cholesterol, 203mg sodium, 68g carbohydrate (54g sugars, 1g fiber), 5g protein.

Reviews

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Average Rating:
  • Cina
    Jun 11, 2020

    Cake is wayyy too sweet.

  • monica
    May 26, 2020

    I bake this cake for my daughters birthday every year and we also have it for our Easter dinner. It is the most light, moist, flavorful carrot cake I have baked. I bake it in a 13 x 9 deep baking dish. I do have to bake just a tad bit longer than recipe calls for. I never have leftovers.

  • Rebecca
    Apr 19, 2020

    Cake was nice and moist, but the frosting is terribly. WAY too much sugar and not enough frosting. About 6C of sugar in a cake?! Ridiculous. Save yourself and use a better frosting recipe with more cream cheese and less sugar

  • Hande
    Apr 7, 2020

    So, before I made this recipe, I read the comment section and I want to say it off the bat – the cake I made following this recipe was not dry. Moving on, I didn't have two 9" pans, so I baked all the batter in a single 9" pan for about two times the baking time. Once it cooled I halved the cake from the middle and made two layers. It turned out okay/good, but it's not extraordinarily good. I also added walnuts to the batter and didn't add any to the frosting. For the frosting I added my confectioner's sugar tasting it after every tbsp, and I have to say 3-3/4 cups of sugar for the icing seems A LOT! I only added a couple of tbsp to mine... All in all, people liked it, but would I do it again or recommend this recipe to my friends ? I don't really think so.

  • Sarah Storr
    Mar 4, 2020

    Everything a carrot cake should be!

  • tsuop
    Mar 4, 2020

    I eliminated the nutmeg

  • Rowen
    Mar 4, 2020

    This is my favorite. It’s a perfect recipe. I do not understand why anyone would want to cut the sugar...altering the recipe. Just don’t make it if you that picky. Find a recipe that uses sugar substitutes. When you alter a formula you destroy the essence.

  • Payton
    Feb 10, 2020

    DO NOT ADD MILK TO THE FROSTING. It makes it way to thin. For me it ruined the entire batch of frosting. It baffles me why the recipe says to add milk because without it the consistency would be perfect.

  • Judie
    Jan 4, 2020

    I make a carrot cake that everyone loves esp. the frosting. I find most cream cheese frostings sickening sweet. For the cake I would cut the sugar to 1

  • Josie
    Nov 29, 2019

    This was my first time making a carrot cake and it was a hit! People who didn't like carrot cake said it was the best they've had, people who did were raving about it, it was awesome.