This simple carrot layer cake is filled and topped with smooth cream cheese icing. One of my most popular cakes with friends and family!
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After taking a step back from working on Baker Jo for almost a year, I knew I had to come back strong with a thoroughly tried and tested recipe. I actually came second in a local “Bake Off” competition years ago with my carrot cake and have continued to work on and tweak the recipe since then. So this is a slight variation of that cake!
I went through a phase back then of making SO many carrot cakes because of requests from friends and family! I thought it was time to share the recipe here so someone can maybe make it for me instead 😉
Simple carrot cake recipe
No electric mixer is required for this recipe, it’s all mixed by hand in a big bowl so it really is simple to make. Both the cake mixture and the cream cheese icing are quick and simple to whip together, and even assembling the cake is straightforward as I simply use half the icing in the middle and half on top. I love how rustic and homemade it looks!
Carrot cake ingredients
To make this simple carrot layer cake you’ll need:
- Plain flour provides the main structure of the cake layers
- Baking powder to help the cake rise
- Light brown sugar adds sweetness and extra moisture to the cake
- Spices I use cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and mixed spice
- Salt to balance the sweetness
- Oil for added moisture
- Eggs to bind the ingredients
- Grated carrots well, it wouldn’t be a carrot cake without them, right? Carrot brings great moisture to the cake – don’t worry, you can’t taste the carrots!
- Nuts (optional) I love using pecans but you can use other nuts such as walnuts. If you’re not a fan of nuts you could substitute them for something else like raisins, or leave them out altogether!
- Butter creates the smooth buttery base of the cream cheese icing
- Full-fat cream cheese is added to the butter to make the creamy cheese icing
- Icing sugar sweetens the icing and helps firm it up slightly
How to make homemade carrot cake
You can find the full instructions with step-by-step photos are the bottom of this blog post, but here’s a quick summary:
- Preheat your oven to 170°C/150°C fan
- Add the flour, baking powder, spices, sugar, salt and chopped nuts into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine
- To the large bowl add the oil, beaten eggs and finally the grated carrot and mix with a spatula to combine
- Spread cake mixture into two 8in/20cm baking tins and level with a spatula
- Bake the cakes for around 25 minutes then leave on a wire rack to cool
- To make the cream cheese icing, beat the softened butter, cream cheese and icing sugar until combined and smooth. Place in the fridge to firm up before assembling the cake
- Once cooled, remove one cake layer from its pan and place it on your serving plate
- Spread half of the cream cheese icing on top of this cake layer, before placing the second cake layer on top
- Cover the top of the cake with the remaining cream cheese icing and decorate however you wish. I used these little carrots! 😊
Top tips for making the best carrot cake
- Grate the carrots just before adding them to the mix to avoid them drying out – we want all that moisture in the cake!
- Make sure your chilled ingredients (such as butter, cream cheese and eggs) are at room temperature before using. If they are too cold they won’t blend smoothly into the cake mixture or cream cheese icing
- If you don’t like pecans you can substitute them for another nut like walnuts, swap them for raisins, or leave them out altogether!
- Try not to overmix the cake batter when mixing everything together – this can make the cake dense inside
- Use full-fat cream cheese! Using a lighter/reduced-fat cream cheese will result in a thin, sloppy icing
- Leave the cream cheese icing in the fridge to chill for at least an hour before assembling, as it will be quite runny and soft when first mixed. You don’t want your top cake layer sliding off!
- Wait until the cake layers are completely cooled before assembling them with the cream cheese icing. This is to prevent the warm cake from melting the icing and making a mess!
Carrot cake FAQs
Why use oil instead of butter in a carrot cake?
Most carrot cake recipes call for oil instead of butter; it gives it that close, moist texture that carrot cake is known for. I believe you could substitute the oil for butter, but expect a drier, fluffier cake texture inside. I highly recommend sticking with oil for this recipe.
Do I need to store carrot cake in the fridge?
Yes, it’s recommended that carrot cake needs to be stored in the fridge, both with and without icing. This is mainly due to the cream cheese icing needing to be kept refrigerated, though even unassembled cake may spoil quicker out of the fridge due to the carrots so the fridge is the safest place!
Is carrot cake better the next day?
It is thought that it tastes better the next day, and I would agree with this! The flavours are thought to mingle and intensify after a day or so.
Can you freeze carrot cake?
Yes, it can be frozen assembled or unassembled. If unassembled, double-wrap the cake layers separately with cling film before freezing. If freezing fully assembled, I’d recommend chilling the cake for a few hours first so the icing firms up before gently double wrapping it in film and/or storing it in an airtight container. It should freeze well for up to six months.
To conclude, this carrot cake recipe is:
- quick and simple to make
- so moist and perfectly spiced
- topped and filled with smooth cream cheese icing
- a favourite of my friends and family – I hope it becomes a favourite for you too!
If you try this recipe I’d love to see! You can show me by tagging me @bakerjoblog or using #bakerjoblog!
Other cake recipes to try:
- Carrot Loaf Cake
- Carrot Cake Swiss Roll
- Lemon Drizzle Bundt Cake
- Chocolate Banana Loaf Cake
- Lemon Coconut Layer Cake
- Banana Loaf Cake
- Vanilla Layer Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
- Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake
- Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake
- Gingerbread Latte Cake
Simple Carrot Cake
- 2 20cm round baking pans/sandwich tins
- 1 Large mixing bowl
- 1 Medium mixing bowl
- 1 small mixing bowl
Carrot cake layers
- 230 g plain flour
- 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder level
- 1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 230 g light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 150 g pecans, chopped can be substituted for walnuts, raisins etc, or can be left out altogether
- 3 medium eggs room temperature
- 220 ml sunflower or vegetable oil
- 240 g grated carrots grated weight
Cream cheese icing
- 100 g unsalted butter room temperature/softened
- 250 g full fat cream cheese icing room temperature/softened. I use Philadelphia cream cheese
- 380 g icing sugar sifted to remove lumps
Carrot cake layers
- Preheat your oven to 170°C/150°C fan.
- Grease and line two 20cm sandwich/baking pans with butter/non-stick spray and baking paper.
- To your large mixing bowl add the plain flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, mixed spice, nutmeg, salt, light brown sugar and chopped pecans. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- To your medium bowl add the eggs and oil.
- Whisk to combine and pour into your large bowl of dry ingredients.
- Finally, add the grated carrots to the large bowl and mix with a spatula until evenly combined. Try not to overmix as this can make the cake heavy in texture.
- Pour the cake batter evenly into the two prepared cake pans and level with a spatula if necessary. Bake the cakes for around 25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
- Place the cake pans on a wire rack to cool. You can carefully remove the cakes from the pans after 5 minutes and place on the wire rack to cool more quickly.
Cream cheese icing
- To a smaller bowl add the butter, cream cheese and sifted icing sugar.
- Beat with a wooden spoon or spatula until smooth and creamy with no lumps.
- Chill in the fridge for around an hour to allow the icing to firm up before assembly.
Assembling the cake
- Place one cake on your chosen cake stand/serving plate. Add half the cream cheese icing on top and spread evenly with a spatula.
- Carefully place the second cake on top.
- Add the remaining cream cheese icing and spread evenly with a spatula.
- Decorate the top of the cake with whatever decorations you like, or you can keep it plain! I like to use these little carrots for my carrot cakes 😊
- This carrot cake is best stored in the fridge, but allow it to come to room temperature before serving. Eat within 5 days.