Carrot Cake Recipe | Super Moist and Absolutely Delicious

Chances are if you are reading this, you are looking for that perfect carrot cake recipe that checks all the boxes. You want a super moist cake, but don’t want an oily texture. The carrot cake should be full of spice notes, but not bitter or tannic in any way. You want a luxurious cream cheese frosting, but you want to avoid having to brush your teeth soon after from it tasting too sweet. And most importantly, you want it to live up to that one amazing carrot cake you had once that all others are judged against.

When developing this carrot cake recipe, those have been some of the standards that I have worked towards with each and every variation. In order to achieve all of those lofty goals in one cake we will need to take just a few extra steps. The difficulty level is still easy and these steps require very little time.

Slice of Carrot Cake showing the results of this Carrot Cake recipe
Coffee and this Carrot Cake Recipe make a perfect pairing.

To bring out all of the spice notes, lemon zest and a little additional salt are added. Rather than just employing vegetable oil, a variety of fats are used that each play their own important part. To maximize moistness while still having a suitable texture, an apple cider simple syrup is utilized. These additions, as well as a few others, make this carrot cake recipe absolutely delicious.

this carrot cake recipe s perfect in every bite.
Jump to Carrot Cake Recipe

Helpful Tips for Making this Carrot Cake Recipe

Before you start cooking, read through these tips to make sure your cake is a success.

Use Fresh Carrots and Grate them Yourself

You will want to use fresh carrots that are still firm for this carrot cake recipe. Do not use ones that have turned soft or rubbery.

Use the Fine side of a box grater to shred Fresh Carrots.

Also avoid using the shredded carrots that you can buy at the grocery store in the produce section. Typically these are thicker than you want to use. They run the risk of being undercooked in your finished cake. This can add an unwanted texture and taste.

Using the fine side on a box grater will give you the perfect size grated carrot. Also, make sure to compress the grated carrots when measuring for accuracy.

Browning the Butter

Making the brown butter for this carrot cake recipe is all about timing. I find melting the butter over a medium heat works best. You will want to watch the butter with your eyes and nose. Once the butter starts to bubble, that means the milk solids in it are starting to separate. This should take around 5 minutes, but can vary based on your heat and the pan.

If you look at the bottom of the pan you will start to see flecks of brown forming. Around the same time the butter will smell similar to toasted bread. When these two things happen, you want to remove your pan from the heat source. It is best to transfer your butter out of the pan and into a bowl or you will risk burning the milk solids.

Toasting the Pecans

Another important step is to toast the pecans. Otherwise you will have that raw flavor that is slightly bitter. You could bake the pecans the oven, but since we are making a brown butter for this carrot cake recipe, it makes sense to just cook them in that same pan.

In the batter for this carrot cake recipe, use finely chopped pecans.
In the batter for this carrot cake recipe, use finely chopped pecans.

I actually prefer this method as finely chopped pecans can go too far in the oven really quickly. As soon as you are done with making the brown butter, add the pecans and a good pinch of salt to the pan, before you clean it. The light coating of brown butter that remains in the pan is all you need for cooking the pecans.

Cook the pecans over low heat for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. If you taste one and the raw flavor is gone, they are ready. Then transfer them to a plate line with a paper towel to cool.

Mixing the Ingredients

As with any cake recipe you will want to mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately before combining them. This carrot cake recipe does have a few subtle nuances to pay attention to so that you have a more successful bake.

When you are finished making the brown butter, it will still be hot. So you do not want to mix this with the eggs until it has chilled or they risk cooking. What I suggest is that you mix the hot brown butter with the coconut oil first. This will melt the coconut oil and reduce the butter’s temp. Then go ahead and mix all of the wet ingredients together.

For the dry ingredients, you should sift them together or at least pass them through a fine mesh strainer. This will catch any lumps. I would also recommend using a whisk and stirring all of the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bow. There are a lot spices being used in this carrot cake recipe and you will want them evenly dispersed.

A Parchment Circle helps the Carrot Cake release clean after baking.

Preparing your Cake pans

Depending on what type of pan you plan on using for this carrot cake recipe you will want to prepare them differently.

  • Round Cake Pans: Spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray and line the base with a parchment paper circle. Watch this quick video if you have any questions on how cut the circles.
  • Bundt Pan: Spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray or rub with butter or coconut oil. Then lightly dust with flour.
  • Cup Cakes: Line cupcake pan with paper liners. A few grains of rice between the paper and pan will absorb excess grease.

Baking the Cake

When baking this Carrot Cake Recipe you will want your oven preheated to 350 F. Having your cakes on a middle or upper rack works best.

Make sure that you have equal amounts of cake batter in each pan if using more than one pan. You can either weigh the cakes as you fill the pans or use a measuring cup to evenly divide the batter.

It will take around 30 minutes for your carrot cakes to bake. But I suggest that you set a timer for 25 minutes in case your oven bakes fast. To check doneness insert a tooth pick or the tip of a knife into the center of your carrot cake. If it pulls out clean, your cakes are done. Be gentle when checking your cakes, slamming the oven door or aggressive movements can deflate your cake.

When you cakes are out of the oven. Set them on a baking rack to cook. Ones the pans are cool enough to touch remove the carrot cakes. Allow them to cool for at least an hour before adding frosting.

Running an Offset Spatula along the edge of the pan will help release the cake.

Use an offset spatula or a knife to help release the cakes from the sidewalls of the cake pans. Apply gentle pressure against the pan, not the cake, to break free any stuck sections. Use your hand or the baking rack to support the cake as you flip the pans over to remove the cakes.

Making the Frosting

The cream cheese frosting for this carrot cake recipe is a fairly simple and straight forward process, but there are a few things that will make sure you are successful.

Use a full fat cream cheese that is in block form. Avoid a low fat or whipped cream cheese.

Allow your cream cheese and butter to come up to room temperature. Otherwise they will not mix easily or evenly.

Add your powered sugar gradually, and make sure to have your mixer set a low speed when you do it. Otherwise you will get a dust cloud and a huge mess.

Accurately measure your powdered sugar ahead of time. Whenever you have an ingredient that you need to add in small batches to a mixer, it is easy to loose track of how much has been added.

Do not forget to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl down throughout the process.

Cream Cheese Frosting

And remember to be careful, stand mixers without a guard can be dangerous. They are powerful and it only takes a second to break or loose a finger.

Humidity can effect the moisture levels, so sometimes you may need to adjust the recipe.

If your cream cheese frosting is too thin, simply add additional powdered sugar. But if you frosting is too thick, adding a small amount of heavy cream or milk will thin it out. Be careful as a little goes a long way. I would suggest adding no more than a tablespoon at a time.

Making the Simple Syrup

The apple cider simple syrup in this carrot cake recipe is vital to achieving the super moist end result we are after. In order to make it, you simply need to mix two parts apple cider with one part brown sugar. Bring it to a simmer and then let it reduce for a few minutes.

It is important to make this ahead of time so that it has a chance to cool to room temperature before adding it.

Keep an eye on it as you are making it, it will reduce quickly and you want it to still be a liquid. If it takes on the consistency of maple syrup it has gotten too thick. Just add a touch more cider to dilute it.

You can use a brush to apply it to the cake or you can distribute it with a spoon.

The simple syrup will soak in better to a cake surface that has been trimmed to expose the sponge like interior.

Minimal cake decorating skills are necessary for this carrot cake recipe.
Minimal cake decorating skills are necessary for this carrot cake recipe.

Decorating the Cake

Before you can decorate your carrot cakes you may need to do some trimming. Often when baking a cake you will get a dome that forms when baking. This can be removed by holding your knife parallel to the counter and cutting across the cake.

Having a guide to run your knife along can be helpful. I typically use a piece of hardwood cut to the height I want my cakes to be. This also helps me get even layers. But you can also use a wire cake leveler, like this one, and get exact results.

If for some reason your cake’s edges got a little dark, there is no reason to start over. You can use a large ring cutter to slightly decrease the size of your cake. Otherwise you can always scrape away the any darker areas with a pairing knife.

Make sure to apply the simple syrup before you add any frosting. Using a pastry brush works best, but spooning it over the surface works as well.

Having a cake turntable makes decorating the cake much easier, but at the very least place your cake on a round plate that you can spin around.

Apply the frosting with either a pastry bag or a levered scoop. With either method a small offset spatula will be helpful for smoothing out and fine tuning.

Storage and Serving

Whenever I slice a cake I like to have a pitcher of hot water and a towel available. Prior to every cut with my knife I will dip the knife in hot water and dry it with the towel. Doing this keeps your knife clean and the sidewall of each slice looking perfect.

If you are not planning on serving this carrot cake right away, it should be refrigerated due to the cream cheese frosting. You will want to allow the cake to come up to room temperature before serving.

Any leftovers should be refrigerated and should last up to 5 days without any concern. Placing a piece of parchment paper over any exposed sides will keep the cake from drying out.

You can also freeze this carrot cake recipe. I suggest freezing the cake, then plastic wrapping it. When removing from the freezer, remove the plastic wrap before the carrot cake has had a chance to thaw. This will keep your frosting from being removed with the plastic wrap.

Equipment Needed to make this Carrot Cake Recipe

These are items I personally use and recommend. Any purchase made through the Amazon affiliate links below support this website.

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Carrot Cake Recipe

Carrot Cake Recipe | Super Moist & Absolutely Delicious

Chef Ben Mogren
Using Brown Butter, Vegetable Oil, and Coconut Oil Makes this Carrot Cake extra moist and full of flavor. It is loaded with spices and freshly grated carrot. The Apple Cider Simple Syrup and Cream Cheese Frosting at complimentary additions. It's an easy recipe that works great every time.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting Time/ Decorating 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 16


Carrot Cake Ingredients

    Wet Ingredients

    Dry Ingredients

    Filler Ingredients

    Cream Cheese Frosting

    Apple Cider Simple Syrup


    Browning Butter and Toasting The Pecans

    • Place a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add one stick of butter and allow it to cook for about 5 minutes. The butter will start to bubble and the milk solids in it will start to darken in color.
      ½ Cup Brown Butter
    • When the aroma takes on the smell of toasted bread and the milk solids look to be a mid tone of brown. Remove your pan from the heat.
    • Pour your Brown Butter into a bowl and set aside for later in the recipe. Then return your pan to low heat. A light coating of brown butter still in it.
    • Add your chopped pecans and a pinch of salt. Stir well and cook over low heat for 3-5 minutes. Taste the pecans to make sure the "raw" flavor is gone. Once cooked, place on a plate lined with a paper towel to cool. One cup will be used in the cake batter and a quarter cup should be reserved for garnish.
      1¼ Cups Chopped Pecan Pieces

    Making the Apple Cider Simple Syrup

    • Combine apple cider and brown sugar in a sauté pan. Stir together and bring to a simmer.
      ½ Cup Apple Cider, ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
    • Allow the syrup to reduce by half and then remove from the heat. Place in a bowl to cool. This will be used prior to frosting the cakes.

    Mixing the Carrot Cake Batter

    • Before proceeding any further take the time to measure out all of the ingredients for the recipe and preheat the oven to 350° F / 175 ° C. Peel and shred the carrots with a box grater. Then organize your ingredients by dry and wet, this will make the process much easier.
      2 Cups Shredded Carrots
    • In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment add the coconut oil and the brown butter from earlier. Mix on low until the heat from the brown butter melts the coconut oil. Although, if they are both solidified, heat them in the microwave until they are liquid, but not hot.
      ½ Cup Coconut Oil, ½ Cup Brown Butter
    • Then add the vegetable oil, both types of sugar, vanilla, apple sauce and lemon zest. Mix these all together for one minute and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.
      1 Cup Apple Sauce, 1¼ Cup Brown Sugar, 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract, 1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest, ¾ Cup Cane Sugar
    • Finally, add the eggs and mix on a medium speed until the wet ingredients are fully incorporated with one another. Since the brown butter was still warm, we waited with the eggs so that they would not cook from the heat.
      4 Large Eggs
    • Now onto the Dry Ingredients. Sift the Flour, Spices, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, and Salt Together. If you do not have a "Sifter" using a mesh strainer works well to remove any lumps. Then using a whisk to stir the ingredients in a large bowl until the spices have tinted the flour brown will help ensure an even distribution.
      2½ Cups All-Purpose Flour, 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder, 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda, 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt, 2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon, 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger, ¼ Teaspoon Ground Cloves, ¼ Teaspoon Ground Allspice
    • Gradually add the Dry Ingredients to the Wet in the stand mixer. Mix on a low setting and intermittingly scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
    • Once the Dry and Wet ingredients are fully combined, add the Chopped Pecans from earlier and the shredded carrot. Mix on low speed.
      2 Cups Shredded Carrots, 1¼ Cups Chopped Pecan Pieces

    Baking the Carrot Cake

    • Prepare your baking pans. For cake circles, lightly coat with a non-stick baking spray and place parchment paper circles in the base. If using a baking dish or Bundt cake, spray with non-stick spray and lightly dust with flour.
    • Evenly Disperse your carrot cake batter between your baking pans and place in a preheated 350° F / 175° C oven. Bake for 25-335 Minutes.
    • When a toothpick or knife can be inserted into the center and comes out clean, remove cakes from the oven. Place on a wire to cool.
    • Remove cakes from pans once the pans are cool enough to handle. Running a small offset spatula or a pairing knife along of the edge of the pan will help to loosen any stuck areas.
    • Allow the Carrot Cakes to rest until completely cooled before the next step of trimming and applying the simple syrup.

    Making the Cream Cheese Frosting

    • You will want your cream cheese and butter at room temperature. Do not try to heat up either to speed up the process.
    • Place the cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on medium speed for a couple of minutes until they are completely combined. Remember to scrape down the bowl during this process using a rubber spatula.
      24 Ounces Cream Cheese, ¾ Cups Butter
    • Next add the lemon zest, salt, and vanilla extract and briefly mix to incorporate.
      1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract, ¼ Teaspoon Lemon Zest, ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
    • With the mixer on a low speed, gradually add the powered sugar half a cup at a time. Continue to scrape down the bowl during this process. You can intermittingly turn up the mixer's speed to reduce the time needed. Just make sure much of the powered sugar is worked into the cream cheese.
      6 Cups Powdered Sugar
    • If your frosting becomes too thick, adding a tablespoon of milk or cream will thin it slightly. If it is too thin, simply add more powered sugar.

    Finishing your Carrot Cake

    • Once the Carrot Cakes are fully cooled, you will want to level them off. Place your Cakes on a cutting board and cut horizontally across the cakes to make a flat surface. You may need to rotate your cake and make a series of cuts. Using a knife along with a guide or a wire cake leveler, like this one, helps get this step perfect.
    • With the cake leveled and the inner sponge exposed, apply the simple syrup using a pastry brush or a spoon. Evenly distribute the syrup between the two cakes.
    • Place one of your carrot cakes onto a cake stand or a large plate. Using a scoop, or pastry bag add a layer of cream cheese frosting. Using a spatula level off the frosting into an even layer.
    • Place the second carrot cake on top of the first. Repeat adding the cream cheese frosting and leveling off. If you wish to add frosting to the sides allow frosting to overhang the top. Then use a straight edge to smooth over the frosting while rotating the cake.
    • Once you have the frosting applied to the Carrot Cake, garnish with the ¼ cup or reserved Pecans.
    Keyword Carrot Cake, Dessert
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

    Questions you might have about this Carrot Cake Recipe

    If I only want to use one type of Oil or Butter, which should I use?

    For this Carrot Cake Recipe, I suggest using all three types as they each add something. But I have had my best luck with melted coconut oil over just vegetable oil or just butter. Butter will give you the driest cake. While just vegetable oil tends to give a super moist cake, but leaves a greasy mouthfeel.

    carrot cake recipe with toasted pecans

    Can I add Pineapple to this Carrot Cake Recipe?

    I know this is something some recipes strongly recommend. Personally, I am not a fan. If you were to do this, you would want to use fresh pineapple and pulse it in a food processor. Avoid using canned as it is packed in syrup and it could easily throw off your ratios.

    You would want to omit the apple sauce and substitute it for pineapple. Since this carrot cake recipe calls for 3/4 cups apple sauce, you would want to use 3/4 cups pineapple.

    Can I add Shredded Coconut to this Carrot Cake Recipe?

    You can, but it will start to taste more like a coconut cake if you do. I would recommend adding no more than one cup of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut. The sweetened coconut will make your carrot cake too sweet. Add it at the same time as you add your shredded carrot. The one cup should not make a big impact on the overall volume in your baking pans or cooking times.

    A super Moist Carrot Cake recipe with brown butter toasted pecans.

    Does this Carrot Cake Recipe work for Cup Cakes?

    Yes, it makes delicious cup cakes. You will still want to bake at 350 F, but your cooking time will be closer to 15 minutes. Just use the same method of inserting a tooth pick or knife into the center to see when they are fully baked.

    Also, if making cup cakes, at 10 minutes gently rotate your pan for even baking. You will also need less frosting. So adjust the recipe to 16 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup of butter, 4 cups powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon of lemon zest.

    How Should I Store this Carrot Cake?

    This carrot cake recipe eats best at room temperature. But if you plan on eating it the next day, you should place it in the refrigerator over night. Make sure you take it out a few hours ahead of serving so that it can come back to room temperature. Same with any left overs. They should be kept refrigerated and will safely last 5 days.

    You can also freeze this carrot cake recipe. I suggest first freezing the cake or individual slices for a few hours. then wrapping it plastic wrap and place back in the freezer. This will keep the cream cheese frosting from getting messy. Your carrot cake will stay at a high quality for up to three months stored this way. Just remember to unwrap the plastic while the cake is still frozen or your frosting will come off with it.

    How Would I add Raisins to this Carrot Cake Recipe?

    If you wanted to add raisins to this carrot cake recipe, I would first suggest rehydrating them. To do this you would take one cup of raisins and let them soak for at least ten minutes in hot water or another liquid. Ciders, Spirits, or Fruit Juice would all work, just make sure the liquid is near boiling. Once they have plumped back up, strain them and gently pat them dry.

    Since you have reintroduced some moisture you will want to slightly adjust the carrot cake recipe. Reducing the apple sauce by one quarter cup would be my suggestion.

    If I do not have parchment paper, can I substitute something else to line the cake pans?

    I would not suggest using another type of paper. You could use coconut oil or butter to grease the pans and dust them with a light coat of flour. Since this carrot cake recipe is super moist, the chances of some sticking taking place are likely. Otherwise you could use silicone cake pans, like these, and never have to worry about sticking.

    Choosing Ingredients for this Carrot Cake Recipe

    This Guide is intended to help you make sense of choosing the right ingredients for this recipe. Any purchases made from affiliate links support the content of this website. Or just use them as a reference when selecting your own ingredients.


    Use fresh whole carrots and grate them on a box grater. You want to grate them fine so that they will almost dissolve into the cate batter. You want to avoid a bought shredded carrot as it will likely be too thick and may add an unwanted texture to your carrot cake.

    Also avoid frozen carrots or ones that have become soft.


    I suggest using an All Purpose flour for this carrot cake recipe. Alternatively, you could use a cake flour if you wanted.

    But since cake flour is typically more expensive and used when you are after a light and airy cake I find it to be unnecessary in a carrot cake recipe. The addition of shredded carrot and apple sauce will negate most of the benefits that a cake flour would have contributed.

    Having not experimented with alternative flours with this particular recipe, I cannot say how they would fair.

    This Carrot Cake Recipe is made up ingredients that you can find at any grocery store.


    This carrot cake recipe calls for both white and brown sugars. The ratios used were tested in different variations of this recipe.

    I found that dark brown sugar added more flavor and moisture to the cake than a light brown sugar. But either dark or light brown sugar worked.

    I found no difference between using a white cane sugar and a white granulated sugar. Either works well.

    For the Cream Cheese Frosting, you will use almost an entire two pound bag of powdered sugar. Since Powdered sugar can absorb moisture and form clumps, I suggest using a freshly opened bag.


    Most any smooth apple sauce will work in this carrot cake recipe. I have good results using unsweetened varieties. If you were to use a sweetened apple sauce, you might want to reduce the white sugar by a tablespoon.

    Avoid using a flavored apple sauce in this recipe. Also note that apple sauce is often labeled by weight and the recipe measures in volume.


    All of the spices in this carrot cake recipe are purchased ground for convivence purposes. Ground spices start to lose their flavor over time and after a year they should be replaced.

    If you want to make sure your spices have intense flavor I would recommend at the very least placing them in a dry pan over medium heat for thirty seconds. This will wake them up, just be careful not to burn them.

    To get the most amount of flavor out of spices, toast whole spices in a pan and then grind them with a mortal and pestle or spice grinder. If you go this route you will want to decrease the amounts in the carrot cake recipe slightly.

    Cream Cheese

    Use a full fat cream cheese that comes in block form. Do not use a low fat, whipped, Neufchatel, or flavored cream cheese for this carrot cake recipe. They will not give you the desired results.


    Pecans are often sold at different prices based on whether they are chopped, pieces, whole and whether they are raw vs cooked. For the cake batter, using a chopped and raw pecan is going to be your least expensive option. Since you do not want to have larger pieces of pecans in the cake itself anyway, these make the most sense.

    The carrot cake recipe does call for reserving one quarter cup of pecans for garnish. If you wanted to use a whole or candied pecan, this is where it would make sense to use those more expensive varieties.

    Coconut Oil

    Choose a coconut oil that is solid at room temperature for this carrot cake recipe. Most coconut oils sold are this way. But many coconut oils that are basically the same thing have different adjectives to describe them (raw, virgin, cold pressed, unfiltered, etc). So it cab be a little confusing. Look for one similar to this one.

    You will need to melt it in order for it to mix with the wet ingredients and to get an accurate measurement

    More Recipes for Real Good Food at Home

    Hello!- I'm Chef Ben
    Hello!- I’m Chef Ben

    I am a professional Chef with over 20 years of Culinary Experience. I trained at the Culinary Institute of America. My career has been spent working throughout the Napa Valley, The Four Seasons Resorts, The American Club, Lambeau Field, The Mayo Clinic, and as a Corporate Chef in Manufacturing Sauces and Sous Vide Items.

    My recipes focus on creating absolutely delicious food from easily sourced ingredients. They focus on proper technique and extracting as much flavor as possible out of common ingredients.

    Published by Chef Ben Mogren

    I am a professional Chef with over 20 years of Culinary Experience. I trained at the Culinary Institute of America. I spent my career working throughout the Napa Valley, The Four Seasons Resorts, The American Club, Lambeau Field, The Mayo Clinic, and as a Corporate Chef in Manufacturing Sauces and Sous Vide Items. My recipes focus on creating absolutely delicious food from easily sourced ingredients. They focus on proper technique and extracting as much flavor as possible out of common ingredients.

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