I know there are hundreds of easy carrot cakes recipes on the internet (and recipe books). However, I can assure you that this recipe is full of information and practical tips that I have experience in my career.
This easy carrot cake is packed with the flavor of walnuts, chocolate chips, and of course, prepared with freshly grated carrots and brown sugar.
This home-style carrot cake recipe is simple, straightforward, without cream in between layers, only with cream cheese topping and make use of my glass casserole dish for baking.
I also simplify it by only using baking powder and keep the frosting to only four ingredients.
If you are looking for a simple homemade carrot cake recipe with great taste, this is it!
Let’s get started.
1. Start with combining the vegetable oil and sugar
Let’s start by mixing the vegetable oil and brown sugar in a large bowl.
There are different opinions on whether vegetable oil or butter is more suitable for carrot cake. Most of the recipes are using a vegetable oil which is milder to let the flavor of the carrot, nuts, and raisins come through. Besides, the cream cheese frosting does contain butter, and so it will be overkill to use butter in the cake recipe.
I tend to agree with this reasoning. However, I will use butter to replace the vegetable oil if I intend to serve the carrot cake without the frosting to give it a richer flavor.
Use only brown sugar
I use 72g of brown sugar for every 100g of flour in our easy carrot cake recipe. This quantity is by far the lowest among all similar recipes we have researched before deciding the formula.
The demand for carrot cake with less sugar keeps increasing over recent years. However, too little sugar can affect the softness of the cake.
Therefore, we need to strike a balance for this reason.
Base on our testing, 70 percent sugar yield an acceptable level of sweetness and yet produce the cake that remains soft and tender.
This reduced sugar formula works well for our customers, who are a bunch of more health-conscious people. It will not be too sweet even after adding the cream cheese frosting.
2. Combine the wet ingredients – oil, sugar, and eggs
Mix the oil, sugar, and eggs until homogeneous. You do not need an electric mixer for a small amount. A wire whisk is ideal as there is no prolonged mixing required.
I prefer to combine oil and brown sugar first, then add the eggs. Once it becomes homogeneous, it is done. Why? Because the cake will rise because of the use of baking soda or baking powder, not the air trapped in the batter by using the creaming method.
3. Sieve all the dry ingredients together
I find that sieving all the dry ingredients together yields a better result.
The following are the benefits:
- The baking powder and baking soda will mix well with the flour after sieving together. This step will ensure these leavening agents are distributed in the batter evenly. Therefore it can minimize the formation of large bubbles. The texture of the cake will be more homogenous, without any large holes formed inside the cake.
- Sieving the dry ingredients also eliminate any lumps and impurities that may exist in the flour.
Baking soda or baking powder?
The question of why using both baking powder and baking soda in most of the easy carrot cake recipe bewildered me. I prefer to simplify the recipe by using either one if the result is satisfactory.
There is only baking powder in this recipe. Since there are several solid ingredients in the batter, I have decided to use 3g of baking powder for each 100g of flour the get the maximum leavening effect. The result is identical to when I use a combination of baking powder and baking soda.
Since brown sugar is acidic, you can use baking soda as the leavening agent (which will react with the acid to form carbon dioxide) instead of baking powder. If you want to use baking soda, the quantity should be one-quarter of baking powder.
4. Add more ingredients
Use lots of carrots
Don’t be stingy on the carrot. The flavor of carrot is subtle, which is unlikely to be excessive even if you add a significant amount.
I always use a reliable kitchen scale for all my measurements, rather than a cup of spoon unless it is a tiny amount. There is 170g of shredded carrot (net weight after shredding) for every 250g of flour.
You can grate the carrots by hand with a box grater, or use the shredding attachment on a food processor. The outcome is the same base on my experience.
Enrich with nuts and chocolate
Add some walnuts and chocolate chips if you like rich cake. These ingredients are especially important if you intend to serve the easy carrot cake without frosting.
- Larger pieces of walnut embedded in the cake can make it hard to cut a clean slice of the cake. Coarsely chop the nuts before adding to the batter. You can roast the walnuts in the oven for five to ten minutes for extra flavor and crunchiness (optional).
- We have added chocolate chips to our recipe and our customers like it. Keep the block of chocolate in the refrigerator until it is firm enough. Then use the knife to scrape the chocolate. The chocolate will break into pieces when you scrape it with the knife. Have a few cuts to break it into chips. Keep it in the refrigerator to prevent melting if you are not using it immediately.
The shape and the size of the cake
The size of the cake depends on whether you want to apply the cream cheese sandwiched in between the topping.
You can either bake two identical cakes to sandwich the frosting in between or only use the cream cheese frosting as the topping. Alternatively, bake a cake and cut it horizontally into half. The disadvantage is that it can be quite crumbly after cutting. You are likely to require to apply a crumb coat (mentioned in the following section) before applying the final coat.
The baking temperature
Bake the carrot cake at 175°C/350°F for forty-five minutes, or until the surface turns golden brown. It is quite easy to decide when to stop baking by looking at the cake if you are using an oven with a glass door with light inside.
Please take note that the actual temperature of different ovens is not the same. If you are baking it with a new oven, pay more attention to the cake once it passes the thirty-minute mark. The top of the cake will burst and crack if the temperature is too hot. Conversely, the center of the cake may not rise adequately to form a dome shape, if the temperature is too low.
Remove the cake from the oven to let it cools for ten minutes. Use a spatula to loosen the cake from the cake pan.
You can serve this easy carrot cake right away as it is full of flavor, but if you choose to frost it, below is how to make a simple cream cheese frosting.
6. Cream cheese frosting
We have sold our carrot cakes without cream cheese topping in the past few years. Our cake is enriched with butter instead of vegetable oil, together with walnuts and chocolate chips. That makes it a delightful cake without any frosting.
Why do we do that? Asians, especially the older generation, do not enjoy cakes decorated with a large amount of frosting. It is a familiar scene at a birthday party that the older Asian people will remove those frosting and eat only the cake. (You see, that is very hard to claim which is the best carrot cake recipe. It is all depends on individual palates.)
However, since our cream cheese frosting is relatively less sweet, it seems that my customers started to enjoy it when I reintroduce it with a lesser amount.
That is why we do not frost the whole cake, only the top.
Here are a few tips to make the cream cheese frosting
- Place the butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl in advance. Use a large bowl as the cream cheese tends to spin off during mixing with a small bowl. Butter and cream cheese are much easier to mix at room temperature and likely to become more fluffy and light.
- Beat the butter and cream cheese until it is smooth before adding the icing sugar. You will not get a smooth frosting if the cheese and butter do not blend into each other thoroughly.
- It is important to sieve the icing sugar before adding it to the butter and cream cheese mixture. Icing sugar is hygroscopic, which will form lumps easily. Sieving the icing sugar can assure that it is free from lumps (sometimes it will miss your visual inspection if the small lumps are buried underneath.)
- Add a teaspoon of lemon juice to add some flavor, if you wish.
- Combine the icing manually with the cream before turning on the mixer. Icing sugar is so light that it will fly off from the mixing bowl if you switch on the mixer without manually mix it initially.
- Mix until it is completely smooth. Check to confirm before removing it from the mixing bowl. There is no harm to mix it a little longer.
- I find that it is more manageable to frost the cakes when they are slightly chilled. Keep the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes before frosting if you have the time.
- Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture, This carrot cake is quite soft, and it will have some stray crumbs here and there. Set aside a small amount of the cream cheese frosting to use it for the crumb coat, so that it will not reintroducing any crumbs to the bowl of cream cheese frosting for the final coat.
- Keep the cake in the refrigerator until it is cold and firm before applying the crumb coat.
- After applying the crumb coat, keep the cake in the refrigerator until it is firm to touch.
- Now you can start to apply the final coat.
You can decorate the cake more creatively. I only add a few walnuts and chocolate chips for my delightful home-style carrot cake.
If you like thid cake recipe, check out our most popular article on how to make butter cake- the complete guide.
Easy Carrot Cake Recipe
This carrot cake is packed with the flavor of walnuts, chocolate chips, and of course, prepared with freshly grated carrots and brown sugar. If you are looking for a simple recipe with great taste that you make it at home all the time, this is it!
- 180g vegetable oil
- 180g brown sugar
- 200g egg (4 large)
- 250g cake flour
- 7 g baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2tsp nutmeg
- 170g carrot EP (shredded)
- 50g chocolate chip
- 50g walnut
Cream cheese frosting :
- Butter 90g
- Cream cheese 135g
- Icing sugar 95g
- Lemon juice 5g
- Mix the oil and brown sugar in a large bowl until homogenous.
- Add the egg slowly and combine it with the oil and sugar.
- Sieve all the dry ingredients together. (cake flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg).
- Combine the dry ingredients with the oil/sugar/egg.
- Add the shredded carrots and chopped walnuts.
- Finally, add the chocolate chips. Mix well.
- Bake the carrot cake at 175°C/350°F for forty-five minutes, or until the surface turns golden brown.
- Remove the cake from the oven to let it cools.
Cream cheese frosting.
- Beat the butter and cream cheese until it is smooth.
- Add the sieved icing sugar and lemon juice. Mix until it is completely smooth.
- Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture. Keep the cake in the refrigerator until the coat is firm to touch.
- Now you can start to apply the final coat.
- Decorate with more walnut and chocolate chips.
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Utopia Kitchen Stainless Steel Whisk Set - Wire Whisk - Balloon Whisk Set - Egg Frother, Milk & Egg Beater - Kitchen Utensils for Blending, Whisking, Beating & Stirring - Set of 3
Cuisinart CTG-00-BG Boxed Grater
Snack Nuts (Raw Black Walnut pieces 14oz. 2 pack)
Kraft Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese Pouches (50 Pack)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 622Total Fat: 41gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 27gCholesterol: 119mgSodium: 308mgCarbohydrates: 59gFiber: 2gSugar: 34gProtein: 7g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 8/30/2019
Tuesday 1st of September 2020
I made this recipe twice following your recipe to the dot, just without frosting. But I feel my cake looks wet, not really being wet physically. I have check the center after bake, the pick does come out clean and the top looks brown already. Not sure how to describe the "wet" as I could not share any picture here. Might it be my cake is over moist?
Wednesday 2nd of September 2020
Hi Chris, This recipe yields a moist cake, and I can understand what you mean. I use the maximum amount of carrot that the cake can handle as I want more carrot flavor. You can make it less 'wet' by reducing the amount of carrot. (+/- 90% of carrot is water). KP Kwan
Wednesday 1st of July 2020
Hi Kwan, Can I use coconut oil to replace veg oil? If yes, should I reduce the amount of the coconut oil? Thanks, Boon
Friday 3rd of July 2020
Hi Boon, You can swap in an equal amount of coconut oil with the vegetable oil. KP Kwan
Saturday 6th of June 2020
Hi, If I use butter to substitute vegetable oil, should I melt the butter first under heat or I can just use the soften butter under room temperature?
Sunday 7th of June 2020
Hi Chris, I suggest you melt the butter first. KP Kwan
Saturday 6th of June 2020
Hi, I have read on other baking guides that in carrot cake the baking soda is not for a leavening effect but to soften the carrots. Does that sound right to you. I do notice that most American style recipes use both. Thank you for your wonderful cake baking guides. I have never seen anything like them. I am working my way through all the baking recipes beginning with Butter Cake.
Sunday 7th of June 2020
Hi Bina, I am not sure how baking soda reacts with carrot, but I will not purposely soften the carrot in this recipe. This is because the carrot is shredded and bake, and it will be very soft without any additional treatment. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which will be broken down to release carbon dioxide during breaking. Therefore it is a leavening agent. Thanks, KP Kwan
Saturday 6th of June 2020
Hi Kwan, thanks for your carrot recipe. I had bake by following exactly your ingredients and method and it’s turn out nice but a bit dry. Can I use salted butter instead? Can I use all purpose flour for my next carrot cake baking.
Sunday 7th of June 2020
Hi Janet, 1. You can add another 30ml (2 tbsp) of milk next time if it is too dry. The cake will still be stable. 2. If you used salted butter, please omit the salt in the recipe. 3. You can use all-purpose flour. The difference will be insignificant. I hope this information is useful. Best regards, KP Kwan