My best carrot cake recipe

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My best carrot cake recipe

I have spent a lot of time researching and testing the best carrot cake recipe recently and I think I have settled on one. It’s a big claim to say something is the best carrot cake but at least this is MY best carrot cake recipe. It has a decent weight whilst still being fluffy with a moist and tender crumb. The cream cheese frosting is perfect for me and there is enough to ice a 2 layer cake generously.

My best carrot cake recipe

Today is a special day because it’s my blog’s 14th birthday and I feel like marking the occasion with cake. I have never posted a carrot cake here in all the years so it’s about time. In the past, I had always adapted my Hummingbird cake into a carrot cake.

It turns out to be very similar in terms of the basic ratios but uses pineapple and banana instead of carrot and pineapple. With this recipe, I did extensive research trying to uncover the best carrot cake recipe and I’m going to explain to you all about that.

My best carrot cake recipe

A request went out on Instagram a few weeks ago, looking for people’s best carrot cake recipes and got an overwhelming response. I looked at every single screenshot or link I was sent and immediately discovered a trend. About 80% of the recipes were all very similar and had a common formula thread running through them. A few were total outliers and sounded very interesting too.

First up, I eliminated all the recipes that had coconut in them as I dislike desiccated coconut with a passion unless used when used in my grandmother’s crunchie recipe (it’s the best version you will ever find trust me).

Quite a few people voted for Ina Paarman’s  (from her cookbook ‘ Cook with Ina Paarman’), and Sally’s Baking Addiction. Both their recipes were very similar and in line with the common formula, I referred to. I had tested out Jenny Morris’s recipe which also had similar ratios, so I knew this was the right direction.

My best carrot cake recipe

Most South African recipes included crushed pineapple and the American recipes often had apple sauce. I really love pineapple in a carrot cake, so this had to be in the mix. I also added raisins because I love them so much, and this recipe was developed for my client Raisins of South Africa. If for some reason you dislike raisins, you can leave them out. Personally, I love them here.

The amount of sugar varied from 1 ½ cups to 2 and in the end, I opted for 1 ½ cups because I don’t like aggressively sweet cake. I also used 1 cup of dark brown sugar instead of all white which gives it flavour, colour, and moisture. My recipe includes all metric measurements as well as cups, but with baking, you should be using weighted measurements as this is the only accurate way to bake.

My best carrot cake recipe

There were a few minor tweaks to some of the other ingredients and I worked with what I thought was best. Three teaspoons of spice seemed to be the common amount. Ina uses 3 teaspoons of mixed spice and Sally uses cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves to the total value of 3 teaspoons. I used 3 teaspoons of mixed spice but upped the cinnamon and ground ginger slightly.

All about the carrots

Two cups of grated carrots were the norm, but Jenny suggested grating it on the fine side of the grater. I liked this but found it made the cake quite heavy as you need quite a bit more carrot, so I did one cup finely grated and one cup coarsely grated. Either way, make sure you grate the carrots yourself vs. buying grated carrots which will be too dry.

What nuts to use in a carrot cake?

I tested recipes with walnuts and pecans and prefer pecans. Make sure you toast these before as this is a game-changer. The flavour is incredible, and they add a lovely crunch. I prefer walnuts as décor for the cake, but you can decorate it however you like.

My best carrot cake recipe

What size and type of pans should you use for a carrot cake?

I prefer 2 x 23cm (9 inches) cake tins vs. one 23cm. The cake bakes for a shorter amount of time and you get an opportunity to spread a thick layer of icing in the middle vs. only having it on the top. One-layer cakes bake for a lot longer and tend to dry out on the edges due to this.

If I were to make this into a 3-layer cake, I would use 3 x 20cm springform cake tins. Ina suggests using a loose-bottomed chiffon or bundt cake pan which I think could also be lovely. Ensure you adjust your baking time to around 55-75 minutes when using a larger single-layer tin.

To make these into cupcakes – fill greased or lined cupcake pans 3/4 full with the batter and bake for around 20 – 25 minutes and you should get around 36 cupcakes.

9×13 Inch Cake: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9×13 inch pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carrot Bundt Cake: Use a 10-12 cup generously greased bundt pan. Bake for 55-75 minutes. All ovens and bundt pans are different, so that’s why the bake time varies. Keep a close eye on it. Add-Ins: If you’d like to add raisins or coconut, reduce the pecans (or leave them out) to 1/2 cup. Then, add 1 cup of raisins or shredded coconut. Stick to around 1 – 1.5 cups total add-ins. Or you can leave the cake plain without any add-ins. Carrot Cake Cupcakes: Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 20-22 minutes. Yields about 3 dozen. Or try my carrot cake cupcakes recipe.
9×13 Inch Cake: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9×13 inch pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carrot Bundt Cake: Use a 10-12 cup generously greased bundt pan. Bake for 55-75 minutes. All ovens and bundt pans are different, so that’s why the bake time varies. Keep a close eye on it. Add-Ins: If you’d like to add raisins or coconut, reduce the pecans (or leave them out) to 1/2 cup. Then, add 1 cup of raisins or shredded coconut. Stick to around 1 – 1.5 cups total add-ins. Or you can leave the cake plain without any add-ins. Carrot Cake Cupcakes: Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 20-22 minutes. Yields about 3 dozen. Or try my carrot cake cupcakes recipe.

You may also like:

My favourite hummingbird cake

My 10 best cake recipes

My best-ever baking recipes on Drizzleandip

Victorian sponge cake with strawberry jam

Recipe – makes 1 large cake – serves 

My best carrot cake recipe

This is my best tried and tested carrot cake recipe with cream cheese frosting.
Print Recipe
My best carrot cake recipe
Prep Time:25 minutes
Cook Time:30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecan nuts toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup or 200gms densely packed dark brown sugar such as demerara or muscovado
  • ½ cup or 100gms white granulated sugar
  • 4 large free-range eggs
  • 1 cup or 250ml sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or essence optional
  • 1 cup or 250ml crushed pineapple drained from tin 432gm tin/net weight 281gm
  • 2 cups or 500ml grated carrots half finely grated and half coarsely
  • ½ cup raisins or sultanas presoaked in boiling water and then drained
  • 2 1/2 cups or 312gm cups cake or all-purpose flour 
  • 3 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb baking soda

Cream cheese frosting:

  • 200 gms butter at room temperature
  • 350 gms icing sugar
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 230 gm-250gm cream cheese a solid kind
  •  

Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 150C/300F and spread the pecan nuts on a baking tray. Roast for 7 – 8 minutes until toasted. Allow to cool.
  • Turn the oven up to 180C/350F and line 2 x 23cm (9inch) springform cake tins with baking paper.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the two sugars with the eggs, until fluffy. Add the oil and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well combined.
  • Fold through the drained crushed pineapple, grated carrots, presoaked, and drained raisins until well mixed.
  • In a separate bowl, sieve all the dry ingredients twice and then fold this through the wet cake batter until well incorporated.
  • Divide the batter equally between the two cake pans and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. The cake is done when a sharp knife is inserted into the middle and comes out clean. Loosely cover the cakes with tin foil for about 25 minutes if necessary and to prevent over-browning.
  • Allow the cakes to cool in the pans on a cooling rack. They should be completely cool before icing/frosting them.

To make the frosting:

  • It’s very important to prevent the cream cheese from splitting or becoming too runny that you only add it right at the end and do not over mix it.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, icing sugar, milk, and vanilla until pale and fluffy, about 4 – 5 minutes. At this point you cannot overmix the frosting and beat it for a longer time makes it softer and more fluffy.
  • Add the chilled cream cheese and mix very briefly and only until it is incorporated and smooth.
Servings: 1 large cake
Author: Sam Linsell


 

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15 Comments

  1. Thank you for all the testing Sam. Youve just planned my Sunday afternoon!






  2. Grant Taylor says:

    Hi Sam,,only found your carrot cake recipe online today. I too am a huge carrot cake fan and look forward to making your version (but without the raisins.)
    I am a bit puzzled regarding your comments about the cream cheese. I have never had a problem with cream cheese splitting, and the method I use is to fast mix, SOFTENED CREAM CHEESE with icing sugar lemon zest and butter in a food processer
    I am not sure how you get a fast smooth mix by beating CHILLED cream cheese “very briefly” into the other ingredients. Surely chilled would still be lumpy, and with a brief mix, the finished product would itself be lumpy?

  3. HI Grat, cream cheese splitting is a thing in South Africa as I have spoken to numerous people and experienced it myself. This is the method I use and I whisk the cream cheese enough so there are no lumps. I have tested it several times. But make any cream cheese icing and the way you prefer.

  4. I have been using this recipe for many many years. I got it from a friend in Zimbabwe – about 20 years ago and it is indeed the best carrot cake!

  5. Helen C Harman says:

    Can l use apple sauce instead of the pineapple.

    Thank you for your wonderful receipe

  6. Hi Helen, yes you can. I notice a lot of American recipes use this.

  7. I’m so glad you agree Tracey

  8. As the best carrot cakes are loafs instead of layers as too much icing and too much lime cakes carrot cake is best when it is more like a overly moist bread such as banana bread and zucchini bread this way you can add more dried fruit as dried cherries and goldens as well. The old oregon farm carrot cake is still the best ever made less cake more fruit and nuts also candied pecans make it even better!!!






  9. Thanks Barrie – The layers bake more quickly so they dont dry out but I get your point.

  10. Marlize Swanepoel says:

    Hi Sam,

    I came across your recipe and it sounds delicious! Definitely want to try and make it tomorrow.
    Just one question on the scaling. Does x1 scaling mean it is one layer and x2 scaling that it is 2 layers? I would love to make the cake in 2 layers 😊

    Thank you, keep well.
    Kind regards
    Marlize






  11. HI Marlize and thanks so much. The way the recipe is written is for 1 x 2 layer cake. x 1 is double the cake and x 2 is 2 x the cake so would be 3 x cakes. I hope you enjoy it.

  12. How great to find a classical recipe for the evergreen carrots cake.! Your cake looks absolutely perfect and the recipe sounds great. I can’t wait to try it out!

  13. Thanks Claudia, I hope you love it as much as I do

  14. What butter would you recommend using for the icing? Normal salted butter or baking margarine?
    X

  15. Hi Biance – I always use salted butter and not margarine in all my baking and icings. But you could use unsated butter if you prefer less salt

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