I take my carrot cake very seriously, and I only serve up the best! This carrot snack cake is adapted from my all-time favorite recipe for homemade carrot cake from scratch. It's moist, perfectly spiced, and simply to die for. Plus this recipe includes not one but two toppings to choose from: classic cream cheese frosting or a unique and luscious orange citrus glaze.
Carrot cake is hands down one of my favorite cakes of all time. It's supremely moist, speckled with just a hint of texture (thanks to finely chopped nuts), and full of fresh, spiced flavor. I've lost track of how many times I've had carrot cake as my birthday cake, and I know I'm not alone in my love of this cake. I've adapted this carrot snack cake from the carrot cake recipe that I grew up on, and, while I eaten lots of different carrot cakes in my lifetime, this recipe is by far the best. And if you think you don't like carrot cake (does this type of person even exist?), I promise this carrot snack cake will change your mind!
This carrot snack cake is seriously simple to make, yet it packs big flavor and is 100% impressive enough to earn a spot on your Easter table! It takes just 30 minutes to whip up the batter, and, once the cake has baked and cooled, it's incredibly simple to decorate. Forget stacking layers or creating intricate designs with frosting; let the flavor and texture of this cake steal the show.
How to Make Moist Carrot Cake from Scratch
Making a perfectly-flavored, deliciously-moist carrot cake from scratch is easier than you think! This recipe requires simple ingredients and is mixed together by hand, no stand mixer necessary.
- We'll start by whisking together the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, and ground cinnamon.
- In a separate bowl, we'll combine flavorless oil (I recommend vegetable oil) and sugar. Oil is what makes this cake moist and tender, and is usually the fat of choice for dense, flavorful cake recipes. If you prefer you can substitute the same amount of unsweetened applesauce, though the resulting cake with be slightly less moist than one made with oil.
- Next we'll alternate adding the flour mixture and eggs to the oil mixture, stirring until all the ingredients are blended.
- Lastly, we'll add freshly grated carrots and finely chopped pecans. You can substitute chopped walnuts, if you prefer, but I do not recommend using pre-grated carrots. Freshly grated carrots will provide a lot more moisture for the batter, yielding a cake with a supremely moist crumb.
- This carrot snack cake can be baked in a 9 inch round cake pan or an 8 inch square pan - you decide! The bake time is the same for each of these pans, and you'll know the cake is finished baking when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs (but no raw batter).
TWO Options for Topping Your Carrot Snack Cake
In addition to two different cake pan shapes/sizes to choose from, I'm giving you TWO totally delicious yet very different options for topping your carrot snack cake:
- Cream Cheese Frosting - There's a reason that cream cheese frosting is almost always paired with carrot care. It's velvety smooth texture, lightly sweet and slightly tangy flavor, and delightful richness are the perfect complement to the moist, flavorful cake. This classic cream cheese frosting uses 5 simple ingredients, takes less than 10 minutes to make, and is ultra creamy. Make sure you bring the cream cheese and butter to room temperature before you begin for perfectly smooth frosting.
- Orange Citrus Glaze - If you're looking to put a unique spin on carrot cake with an unconventional yet crowd-pleasing glaze, look no further! This orange citrus glaze is the perfect flavor complement to the spiced carrot cake, and it has a lighter mouthfeel than rich cream cheese frosting. I actually grew up eating carrot cake with this citrus glaze, and I'm certain it will be a hit!
Add this recipe to your springtime baking list STAT!Print
This carrot snack cake is homemade from scratch, and it's the absolute BEST! It's moist, perfectly spiced, and simply to die for. Plus this recipe includes not one but two toppings to choose from: classic cream cheese frosting or a unique and luscious orange citrus glaze.
for the carrot cake:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 5/8 cup vegetable oil (can substitute unsweetened applesauce, though cake will be slightly less moist)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated raw carrots (about 2 large carrots)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (can substitute walnuts)
for the orange citrus glaze (choose one glaze/frosting):
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 T cornstarch
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 T unsalted butter
- 1 T grated orange rind
- 1/4 tsp. salt
for the cream cheese frosting (choose one glaze/frosting):
- 4 oz. full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 T (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- tiny pinch of salt
- 1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare your cake pan and set aside. (If using a 9 in. round cake pan, butter and flour the pan by first coat the interior of the pan with a thin layer of butter, making sure to coat the entire bottom, into the edge, and up the sides. Sprinkle some flour into the pan and shake it over the sink so that all of the butter is covered by a dusting of flour. Dump out any excess flour. If using an 8 in. square pan, line the pan with parchment paper (check out this post for a tutorial).)
- Make the carrot cake. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine vegetable oil and sugar and whisk to combine.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the oil mixture and stir to combine. Then add one egg, whisking to combine. Add the remaining flour mixture and stir before adding the final egg and whisking just until blended.
- Add grated carrots and pecans and stir until blended.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs (but no raw batter). Allow the cake to cool in the pan before removing.
- Make the orange citrus glaze (skip ahead to step #9 if using cream cheese frosting). Add sugar and cornstarch to a small saucepan and whisk to combine. Combine orange juice and lemon juice and slowly add the juices to the sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.
- Add butter, grated orange rind, and salt to the saucepan. Cook the mixture over low heat until thick and glossy, about 5 to 10 minutes. Allow the glaze to cool before spreading over the cake.
- Make the cream cheese frosting (skip this step if using orange glaze). In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer), beat cream cheese and butter on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add vanilla and salt and beat to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add confectioners’ sugar until all the sugar is added. Then beat on high speed until the mixture is well combined and creamy.
- Glaze or frost the cake. Once the cake has cooled completely, transfer the cake to a cake stand or serving platter. Use a small, offset spatula or a rubber spatula to spread the (cooled) orange citrus glaze or cream cheese frosting over the cake. Slice the cake into 9 pieces and serve.
Store leftover cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Carrot cake and orange citrus glaze recipes adapted from a 1978 cookbook by Fire & Ice Restaurant in Middlebury, Vermont.
Keywords: carrot cake, snack cake, Easter dessert, carrot snack cake, cream cheese frosting, orange citrus glaze
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