Let me introduce you to the Carrot Cake of my dreams, made with the perfect balance of spices, extra moist from buttermilk and crushed pineapple, and slathered in delicious cream cheese frosting.

We love sneaking carrots into baked goods like carrot muffins, or carrot zucchini bars.  If you love cake as much as I do, be sure to check out all of my homemade cake recipes.

A slice of carrot cake on a plate.

Of all the cakes in all the land, this Carrot Cake is the one I choose for my birthday each year. I share my birthday with my twin sister and my mom always spoiled us growing up by making both of our favorite cakes; German Chocolate Cake for her, and Carrot Cake for me. Our family members loved it because they got a little slice of both types of delicious cake.

Sometimes carrot cake can be dense and dull but this carrot cake recipe makes the most moist, light and flavorful carrot cake, EVER.

What makes this the BEST Carrot Cake:

  • Three Layers. That means extra frosting smoothed between not two, but THREE layers of cake.
  • It’s loaded with the good stuff, like buttermilk and crushed pineapple to give it that extra moist, tender crumb. You can add golden raisins and pecans, or coconut to the cake batter, as well.
  • The frosting is (almost) the best part. Carrot cake just isn’t carrot cake without the pairing of cream cheese frosting and this frosting is fool-proof, light and creamy, and compliments the cake flavors perfectly.

How to Make Carrot Cake:

1. Combine wet ingredients: Beat the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and pineapple together in a large bowl.

2. Combine dry ingredients: In another bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated.

3. Fold in carrots, pecans, and raisins just until evenly distributed throughout the batter

Four process photos for how to make carrot cake batter.

4. Bake.  Pour the batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350ºF for 25-40 minutes (see details in recipe card).  Allow cakes to cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes before inverting them onto a wire rack to cool completely.

A round cake pan with carrot cake batter next to another photo of the baked cake in the cake pan.

To assemble carrot cake:

  • Place the bottom layer on serving plate. Scoop about 2/3 cup of the cream cheese frosting onto the bottom cake layer. Spread the frosting thinly and evenly over the surface and out to the edge of the cake. repeat with remaining cake layers.
  • Spread frosting around the sides of the cake, adding more as needed, until it’s covered. Use the palm of your hand to cup chopped pecans around the edge of the cake, if desired.
  • Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Three process photos for assembling a three-layer carrots cake on a cake stand and adding nuts around the frosting.

Variations:

  • Pineapple substitute: The Crushed Pineapple adds a lot of moistness and sweet flavor to the cake, but you could use applesauce as a substitute. 
  • Nuts and Raisins: These are optional, so add what you like, or add walnuts or coconut. I prefer raisins in the cake and nuts only on the outside.
  • Make it in advance. I like to make the cake and cream cheese frosting at least one day in advance. Frozen cakes are easier to frost!
  • One layer cake: Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan and add batter, but don’t overfill the pan (you could use leftover batter to make a few cupcakes). Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Two Layer Cake: Pour batter into two lined and greased 9” round cake pans and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cupcakes: Line muffin pans with cupcake lines and fill ¾ full with batter. Bake cupcakes for about 18-25 minutes. Makes about 30 cupcakes cupcakes.
Carrot Cake served on a cake stand, with a slice removed.

Freezing Instructions:

After the cakes bake, allow them to cool completely, then wrap each layer in plastic wrap and place a ziplock freezer bag. Freeze for up to three months.  Frosting can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container. Remove the frosting from the fridge 1-2 hours before frosting the cake, to allow it to come to room temperature.

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Recipe

A slice of carrot cake on a plate.
Prep 20 mins
Cook 30 mins
Total 50 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Video

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar , firmly packed
  • 1 cup oil ,vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 4 large eggs , room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple*
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 cups carrots , finely grated (about 1 lb.)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans , optional
  • 1 cup golden raisins , optional

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese , softened
  • 3/4 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8 inch cake pans* by lightly coating with cooking spray and lining with parchment paper on the bottom.
  • Beat the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and pineapple together in a large bowl. 
    The wet ingredients for carrot cake batter added to a mixing bowl.
  • In another bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated. 
  • Fold in the carrots, pecans and raisins just until evenly distributed throughout the batter. 
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake on the center oven rack until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Allow cakes to cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes before inverting them onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
    A round cake pan with carrot cake batter next to another photo of the baked cake in the cake pan.

Cream cheese frosting:

  • Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Mix in vanilla. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until the frosting reaches consistency you want. You may not need to add all of the sugar.

Assemble:

  • Place the bottom layer on a cardboard round on serving plate. Scoop about ½ cup of the cream cheese frosting onto the bottom cake layer. Spread the frosting thinly and evenly over the surface and out to the edge of the cake. repeat with remaining cake layers.
    Three round layers of carrots cake stacked with frosting between the layers, and being smoothed around the sides and top.
  • Spread frosting around the sides of the cake, adding more as needed, until it's covered. Use the palm of your hand to cup chopped pecans around the edge of the cake, if desired. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

Notes

Crushed Pineapple: This ingredient adds a lot of moistness and sweet flavor to the cake. Applesauce would be a good substitute. 
One layer cake: Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan and add batter, but don’t overfill the pan (you could use leftover batter to make a few cupcakes). Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Two Layer Cake: Pour batter into two lined and greased 9” round cake pans and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cupcakes: Line muffin pans with cupcake lines and fill ¾ full with batter. Bake cupcakes for about 18-25 minutes. Makes about 30 cupcakes cupcakes.
Nuts and Raisins: These are optional, so add what you like, or add walnuts or coconut. I prefer raisins in the cake and nuts only on the outside.
Freezing Instructions: After the cakes bake, allow them to cool completely, then wrap each layer in plastic wrap and place a ziplock freezer bag. Freeze for up to three months.  Frosting can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container. Remove the frosting from the fridge 1-2 hours before frosting the cake, to allow it to come to room temperature.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 864kcalCarbohydrates: 126gProtein: 10gFat: 37gSaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 141mgSodium: 466mgPotassium: 561mgFiber: 4gSugar: 97gVitamin A: 8605IUVitamin C: 5.9mgCalcium: 157mgIron: 2.7mg

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*Cake Recipe adapted from The Essential Baker.

Have you tried this recipe?!
RATE and COMMENT below! I would love to hear your experience.

I first shared this recipe May 2013. Updated March 2021.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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  1. There are many carrot cake recipes out there, but this one is the absolutely the best one. Moist, combination of flavors!
    I used a cream cheese whipped cream frosting. Perfect! We enjoy it any time of the year. I have even had it requested as a birthday cake for my granddaughter.

  2. 5 stars
    My son has asked for this cake again for his birthday! It is the absolute best carrot cake recipe ever and the icing is amazing! Thank you for posting

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