What is there to say about this carrot cake? It’s sweet, moist, packed full of flavor and every bite has the perfect balance of bright carrot goodness and warm spices.
Carrot cake is traditionally served with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting, but don’t let tradition stop you from giving this option a try. There is no need to run to the store when a simply lovely cake can be made without cream cheese.
This carrot cake recipe is endlessly versatile, I will provide some suggestions to mix things up, but I really think this classic carrot cake smothered in a vanilla buttercream frosting will please any crowd.
Carrot Cake Ingredients and Instructions
To begin, preheat the oven to 350 and prepare two 6 inch cake pans with grease (such as butter or oil) and flour, or line with parchment paper. You could also use a 10 inch round cake pan with high sides.
In a large mixing bowl combine the oil and both sugars. This can be done with an electric mixer or by hand.
For the oil in this recipe, I’ve used vegetable oil but any neutral tasting oil will do (you might try avocado or canola depending on what you have on hand).
The carrots can be purchased pre-grated, done quickly in a food processor, or simply grated by hand as I have done here.
In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients; flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Be careful not to overmix!
Carefully stir in the grated carrots and any additions you choose to add.
Evenly distribute the batter between your two prepared cake pans and place in the oven on the center rack.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the center springs back with a gentle push with your finger. The top will have a nice layer of color.
Vanilla Buttercream Ingredients and Instructions
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together the butter, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla until the mixture looks like small crumbs. Scraping the bowl as you go to make an even texture. If the frosting is too thick, you can gradually add some milk until a thick but easily spreadable frosting forms.
How To Assemble Frosting On A Cake
Take each of your round cakes and give them a quick slice across the top if they did not bake flat. You don’t need fancy cake tools to achieve this step, simply a large serrated or sharp chef’s knife can give you two flat cakes for stacking.
Place one cake down, cover the top in frosting, and place the second on top. I suggest placing the second cake bottom up for the flattest surface.
Spread a thick layer of buttercream all over your two layers of cake. Make sure the sides and top are completely covered.
Next, in one motion around the whole cake, make a smooth spread with your knife. Do the same across the top. You may want to do this a couple of times to get your desired look.
I added a light sprinkle of chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and raw sugar to add some interest and edible decor to the final product.
The Best Cake Decorating Tools
If you’d like to elevate your cake decorating skill, or simply add ease, there are a few inexpensive tools you can purchase including:
- Turntable – Some can be expensive, but this turntable is low profile and affordable.
- Scraper or Icing Comb – If you’re looking for variety, these icing combs come in three shapes so you can add different textures to your cake with ease.
- Cake Leveler – The purpose of this is to allow you to cut the cake evenly. This helps it look especially beautiful! This simple cake leveler is a good choice.
- Frosting Tips – This 33-piece frosting tip design allows you to make unique designs with your frosting.
Carrot Cake Mix-Ins
You can do all steps of this recipe in one day if you allow enough time for the cake to cool completely, or you can spread it out between two days.
I prefer to bake the cake one day, wrap tightly in saran wrap when still slightly warm, and place in the refrigerator or freezer overnight.
Your cake needs to be completely cool or it will melt the frosting and make the final appearance very sloppy.
Cold cake the easier it is to work with; frozen cake just slightly thawed makes a wonderful canvas to frost on with very little crumb.
Some optional add-ins for this carrot cake:
- Walnuts – Or any nut you like, chopped finely would make an excellent addition.
- Raisins or Craisins – A sweet and chewy option very commonly added to carrot cakes.
- Shredded Coconut – Coconut flavor pairs so nicely with these spices and shredded carrot for a more complex flavor.
- Pineapple or Mandarin Orange – For a tropical spin on carrot cake add some crushed, canned fruit like pineapple or mandarin oranges.
This recipe can be made into lots of different forms!
- Double for a larger or taller cake to serve to a crowd.
- Bake in a large pan and serve these as carrot cake bars.
- Bake them in 12 muffin tins for cupcakes.
This carrot cake without cream cheese frosting is perfect for any occasion!
How To Make Carrot Cake Without Cream Cheese Frosting
Step 1: Gather your ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Step 2: Grate the carrots. Set aside.
Step 3: Whisk together oil and sugars until combined. Add in the eggs and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
Step 4: In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and mix with the wet ingredients including the grated carrot.
Step 5: Divide into two baking pans. Bake for 35 minutes. Wait for about 5 minutes before transferring the cakes to a wire cooling rack.
Step 6: Make the buttercream frosting. Beat together powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt until completely combined.
Step 7: Frost the carrot cake in layers.
Step 8: Decorate the carrot cake and enjoy!
- ¾ cup canola oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ pound (about 3 large) carrots, shredded
- 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 cups powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour, or line with parchment paper, two 6 inch round cake pans.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and both sugars until combined. Add in the eggs and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until combined.
Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring until smooth and uniform.
Fold in the grated carrots to evenly distribute. If you would like to add any of the suggested additions, stir them in with the shredded carrot.
Pour the batter into prepared cakes pans, evenly distributing between the two. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean, or the cake easily springs back when pressed with your finger.
After 5 minutes, transfer the cakes to a wire cooling rack. Let the cakes cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream frosting. Beat together powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt until completely combined, but more of a dry crumb texture than frosting.
Gradually add milk while mixing until the desired texture is achieved. You want a thick firm frosting, but easily spreadable.
Plate and frost the cake as desired.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 316Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 314mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 1gSugar: 39gProtein: 3g
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