Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Total Time
Prep: 30 min. Bake: 35 min. + cooling
Cinnamon, nutmeg, carrots and a creamy, tangy frosting make this classic carrot cake a winner.

Updated: Dec. 12, 2023

With its mellow carrot sweetness, warm notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, and rich, tangy frosting, carrot cake is simply irresistible. This traditional carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is one of our favorites. Frost the layers and pipe on a charming decoration, and it’s special enough to serve for a birthday or other celebratory occasion. If you’re lucky enough to have any leftovers, enjoy a slice of this moist carrot cake the next day with a cup of coffee.

Ingredients for Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake ingredients:

  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • All-purpose flour
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Canola oil
  • Salt
  • Grated carrots

Frosting ingredients:

  • Softened butter
  • Softened cream cheese
  • Vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Milk
  • Chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Orange and green food coloring (optional)


Step 1: Combine the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients, separately

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and oil. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.

Editor’s Tip: For a hint of apple flavor, and less oil, replace the canola oil with an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce. You can replace half the oil, or all of it.

Step 2: Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients

Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture, a third at a time, until fully combined. Fold in the grated carrot.

Editor’s Tip: For a variation on this carrot cake recipe, add raisins, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts or well-drained crushed pineapple when you fold in the grated carrot. Any of these mix-ins will give the cake more texture and an extra layer of flavor.

Step 3: Bake the cake

Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Divide the carrot cake batter evenly between the two pans.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven and let the cakes cool for 10 minutes.

Take the cakes out of the pans, put them on a wire rack, and let them cool completely (the layers should not be stacked at this point).

Editor’s Tip: Here’s the best way to grease a cake pan.

Step 4: Make the cream cheese frosting

While the cake layers are cooling, make the frosting. First, cream the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl, until light and fluffy, three to four minutes. Don’t rush it—here’s more on how to cream ingredients.

Beat in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Beat in enough milk to make the frosting spreadable.

If you’re decorating the cake, set aside 1/2 cup of frosting. Then, if you’re adding walnuts to the frosting, stir them in now.

Editor’s Tip: You’ll often see walnuts in carrot cake, but you can use a different nut, such as pecans, almonds or pistachios.

Step 5: Frost the cake

After the cake layers have cooled completely, frost the top of one layer. Stack on the second cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the two-layer cake.

Editor’s Tip: We use an offset spatula for this step. It’s one of the frosting tools that makes producing a beautiful cake so much easier.

Step 6: Decorate

Carrot cake doesn’t need decoration, but we do love a carrot cake with squiggly carrots piped on top of each slice. To make the decoration, divide the reserved 1/2 cup of frosting into two portions. Use food coloring to make 1/4 cup orange and the other 1/4 cup green.

Next, cut a small hole in the corner of a piping bag or plastic bag and insert a #7 round pastry tip. Fill the bag with the orange frosting and pipe 16 evenly spaced carrots on the top of the cake, so each slice will have one. In another cut pastry bag or plastic bag, insert a #67 leaf pastry tip and the green frosting, and pipe a leaf at the top of each carrot.

Step 7: Store the carrot cake

Unless you’re serving the carrot cake immediately, store it in the refrigerator. Leftovers should also go into the fridge.

Carrot Cake Tips

How do you make a moist carrot cake?

Cakes made with oil, like this carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, tend to retain more moisture than cakes made with butter or shortening. Some carrot cake recipes call for sour cream or buttermilk—those will also help create a moist cake because they contain acids that tenderize the developing gluten in the flour.

What’s the best oil for carrot cake?

Canola oil is best for this carrot cake because it has a neutral flavor that won’t overpower the cake. If you prefer a butter-based carrot cake, try our three-layered carrot cake. To convert oil measurements to butter, the general rule is 1 cup butter to 3/4 cup oil.

What is a good substitute for cream cheese frosting?

If you want to replace the cream cheese frosting in this carrot cake recipe, whip up an easy American buttercream frosting instead. A Swiss meringue buttercream would also work well here.

How do you make the frosting less sweet?

If you want to stick with cream cheese frosting but make it less sweet, leave out some of the confectioners’ sugar. When you prepare the frosting, add the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time, tasting as you go. A few tablespoons less than the recipe calls for will make a difference.

Or, add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the frosting. The acidity of the lemon juice will counter the sweetness of the sugar.

If you’ve already made the frosting and it’s too sweet for you, just use less when frosting the cake!

How do you prevent frosting from getting runny?

Cream cheese frosting can become runny if overmixed. Once the confectioners’ sugar and milk have been incorporated, stop whipping. If needed, to thicken your frosting, put the bowl in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes to let the butter and cream cheese firm up.

Watch how to Make Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 35 min
Yield 16 servings.


  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons 2% milk
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • Optional: Orange and green food coloring


  1. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and oil. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; beat into egg mixture. Stir in carrots.
  2. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  3. For frosting, in another large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. Add enough milk to achieve desired spreading consistency. If desired, reserve 1/2 cup frosting for decorating. Stir walnuts into remaining frosting, if desired.
  4. Spread frosting between layers and over top and side of cake. If desired, tint 1/4 cup reserved frosting orange; using a #7 round tip, pipe 16 carrots around the top of the cake, one per piece of cake. Tint remaining 1/4 cup frosting green; using a #67 leaf tip, pipe a leaf at the top of each carrot. Store in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts

1 piece: 531 calories, 28g fat (7g saturated fat), 67mg cholesterol, 203mg sodium, 68g carbohydrate (54g sugars, 1g fiber), 5g protein.

A pleasingly moist cake, this treat is the one I requested that my mom make each year for my birthday. It's dotted with sweet carrots and a hint of cinnamon. The fluffy buttery frosting is scrumptious with chopped walnuts stirred in. One piece of this carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is never enough—it's better than all the other carrot cakes I've tried! —Kim Orr, West Grove, Pennsylvania