This single-layer carrot snack cake recipe makes the best small carrot cake from scratch! It's moist, perfectly spiced, and simply to die for. The recipe includes two frosting options: classic cream cheese frosting or a unique and zesty 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 chosen carrot cake as my birthday cake, and I know I'm not alone in my love of this classic cake. This carrot snack cake is adapted from the carrot cake recipe that I grew up on, simply because this recipe is by far the best. And trust me... I've eaten enough carrot cake in my lifetime to be an expert on the subject.
The Best Carrot Cake Recipe
This carrot snack cake is seriously simple to make, yet it packs big flavor and is definitely 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!
This simple, single-layer cake can be baked in two different sizes: 9 inch round or 8 inch square. The recipe and bake time is the same for each pan, so choose whichever cake shape you prefer!
Two Frosting Options: Cream Cheese Frosting or Orange Citrus Glaze
This recipe comes with not one but two options for frosting your cake!
- Cream Cheese Frosting - There's a reason that cream cheese frosting is almost always paired with carrot cake. 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 classic carrot cake, this glaze is the answer! This orange citrus glaze is the perfect flavor complement to the spiced carrot cake, and it's refreshing alternative to the richness of cream cheese frosting. It may seen a bit unconventional, but it's sure to be a hit!
How to Grate Carrots for Baking
Carrots do more than just impart delicious flavor and beautiful orange color in our carrot cake; they also add essential moisture to our cake batter. This is why freshly-grated carrots are a must for moist carrot cake. Pre-shredded carrots are lacking in moisture content, so be sure to grate your own carrots if you want a deliciously moist cake.
Grating carrots for carrot cake is easy and quick. Just follow these simple steps:
- Remove the carrots' outer layer using a vegetable peeler
- Use the grating side of a box grater (the side with large holes) to grate the peeled carrots
Step-by-Step Recipe Instructions
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.
- First, prep your pan. This carrot snack cake can be baked in a 9 inch round cake pan or an 8 inch square pan - you decide! Line your pan with parchment paper, and - if you're using a round cake pan - be sure to butter and flour the pan as well to prevent the cake from sticking. (See step 1 of the recipe for how to do this.)
- Whisk together the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, and ground cinnamon.
- In a separate bowl, combine 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, alternate adding the flour mixture and eggs to the oil mixture, stirring until all the ingredients are blended.
- Lastly, add freshly grated carrots and finely chopped pecans. (If you prefer, you can substitute chopped walnuts.)
- Bake the cake at 325°F for about 50 minutes. The bake time is the same for both pan sizes (9 inch round or 8 inch square), 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).
If you find yourself with dry carrot cake, there are two likely culprits. First, be sure to measure all ingredients properly. Measuring ingredients - especially flour - incorrectly can lead to too much flour being added to the recipe, which will result in a dry cake. Second, be sure to use freshly grated carrots in this recipe. (If you missed it, I explain why this is important further up in the post.)
Yes! Since it contains fresh carrots (and especially if it's frosted with cream cheese frosting), carrot cake should be stored in the fridge. However, cake will taste best at room temperature, so let the cake sit at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes before serving.
Absolutely! Carrot cake can be baked a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Be sure to let the cake cool completely at room temperature before storing. If you really love moist cake, you can even frost the cake the day before serving.
Can I Adapt This Recipe to Make a Layer Cake?
So you’ve fallen in love with this cake recipe and want to know all of the different ways you can use it? I don’t blame you! And I have great news… this recipe makes a delicious carrot layer cake! I love to spread the orange citrus glaze between the cake layers and frost the top and side of the cake with cream cheese frosting. Check out the notes at the bottom of the recipe to help you adapt this snack cake recipe into a layer cake.
Can I Adapt This Recipe to Make Cupcakes?
You sure can! Check out my recipe for carrot cake cupcakes.
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This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been updated to include new recipes photos and additional recipe details.