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.
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! If you're on the hunt for a carrot cake icing without cream cheese, allow me to introduce you to this orange citrus glaze! It's seriously diving, with a light yet creamy texture and zesty orange flavor. It's a delightfully unexpected topping that perfectly complements the moist carrot cake. Of course, if you want to keep it classic and stick to cream cheese frosting, I have the best recipe for rich and creamy cream cheese frosting.
- 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!
Grating 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.
It's quick and easy to grate carrots for baking, and the article linked here will answer any questions you may have about how to do it!
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.
More Vegetable & Fruit Cake Recipes
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Carrot Snack Cake
- Box grater
- Metal cake pan (9 inch round or 8 inch square)
- Small saucepan (if making citrus glaze)
- Stand mixer or electric hand mixer (if making cream cheese frosting)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅝ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups freshly grated raw carrots (about 2 large carrots)
- ½ cup finely chopped pecans (can substitute walnuts)
Orange Citrus Glaze (choose one glaze/frosting):
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ cup orange juice
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 Tablespoon grated orange rind
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Cream Cheese Frosting (choose one glaze/frosting):
- 4 ounces full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- tiny pinch of salt
- 1 ⅔ cups confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Prepare your cake pan (either a 9 inch round pan or an 8 inch square pan) by lining the pan with parchment paper and greasing any unlined sides. Set the prepared pan aside.
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 for 10-15 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the orange citrus glaze (skip ahead 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 to room temperature 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 paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric hand 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.
- For a 2 layer 9 inch cake, double the cake recipe and bake it in two 9 inch round cake pans. Use one recipe of orange glaze between the cake layers and a double recipe of cream cheese frosting for the top and side of the cake.
- For a 3 layer 6 inch cake, multiply the cake batter by 1.5 and divide the batter evenly among three 6 inch round cake pans. The cake layers will have the same thickness as a 9 inch cake, and so the bake time is the same as noted in the recipe. Use one recipe of orange glaze between the cake layers and 1.5x recipe of cream cheese frosting for the top and side of the cake.