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You’ve found The Best Carrot Cake Recipe! The carrot cake the BEAT BOBBY FLAY! A professional pastry chef’s recipe for moist, tender, perfectly spiced carrot cake! Three things make this the most moist and flavorful carrot cake you’ll ever have.
Congratulations, you’ve found the Best Carrot Cake recipe! It is a moist, tender, cinnamon cake packed with carrots! Layer it with the best cream cheese buttercream (the secret is in the lemon juice!) and you have a sure winner.
The key to this cake is the mixing method. I whip whole eggs and sugar together until they triple in volume, then I slowly pour in the oil. This emulsifies the batter while keeping it light and fluffy. If you are more into the one bowl method, I hear you, and you can make this easy carrot cake instead. Or forgo the cake entirely and make carrot cake scones!
Table of Contents
- Why This is The Best Carrot Cake Recipe
- Professional Tips for Making Moist Carrot Cake
- Ingredients Needed for the Cake
- Ingredients Needed for the Frosting
- Possible Variations
- Possible Substitutions
- How to Make The Best Carrot Cake
- Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip
- Make the cream cheese frosting
- Frequently Asked Questions
- The Best Carrot Cake Recipe
- Before You Go
Why This is The Best Carrot Cake Recipe
- The mixing method matters. In this recipe whole eggs and sugar are whipped together until they triple in volume. Then the oil is slowly drizzled into the whipping egg foam. This emulsifies the batter making a light, airy, moist, but not greasy cake. That’s what up.
- Maximum carrots. There is just enough batter to coat the carrots and nuts. Don’t be scared. You’ve got this and it’s going to taste AMAZING.
- Generously spiced. There is a good amount of cinnamon in this cake because cinnamon is a delight. You could also substitute it for this pumpkin spice recipe for a fun Fall twist!
- The most versatile recipe. You can bake this same recipe into carrot cake cupcakes, a carrot cake roll, or into a sheet cake.
Professional Tips for Making Moist Carrot Cake
- Liquid fat, whole egg foam cake. I just threw a lot of pastry terms at you, but the oil in combination with the mixing method make this cake incredibly moist and tender.
- Shred your own carrots and squeeze them. Pre-shredded carrots are dryer and thicker than ones you do yourself. Peel, shred and squeeze for the perfect cake. Too much liquid will not make your cake moist, it will make it gummy.
- Use horse carrots if you can find them. They are bigger, juicier and more flavorful than the skinny ones in the bags! If your grocery store has loose carrots, chances are they are horse carrots. They just don’t call them that because no one would buy them. 😂
Ingredients Needed for the Cake
- All-purpose flour: All-purpose flour has just the right amount of gluten to make a tender, soft cake.
- Sugar: I use granulated sugar in this cake. It is here for the more obvious flavor reasons, but also to aid in leavening, moisture, texture and stability.
- Baking Soda: Do check the freshness of your baking soda! It does lose potency over time. If it’s not fresh, send it to the back of the refrigerator to absorb some odors, or clean your marble countertops with it!
- Baking Powder: Double acting baking powder will react instantly when it is mixed with an acid, which is sour cream here, and then again when it is heated. It allows for a much more even rise than baking soda alone. It creates an evenly risen and baked crumb.
- Cinnamon: I use Saigon cinnamon but any cinnamon will do.
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt will amplify all the other flavors and really make this cake stand out.
- Eggs: Whole eggs allow you to emulsify all that oil into the batter, resulting in a moist, not greasy, cake.
- Vegetable Oil: Vegetable oil makes this cake exceptionally moist. I emulsify it into the sugar and eggs to make the batter extra moist and not greasy. Be sure to choose a neutral oil because there is enough in this cake that you will taste it if you use olive oil or a blend.
- Lemon Juice: My motto for citrus juices is that fresh is always best. If you must use store-bought, try to find a frozen option that is frozen fresh lemon juice.
- Carrots: I use freshly peeled, grated and squeezed carrots for carrot cake. I also use horse carrots if I can find them. They are bigger, juicier and more flavorful than the skinny ones in the bags! If your grocery store has loose carrots, chances are they are horse carrots.
- Walnuts: Walnuts are optional here. When I use them I lightly toast them first to bring out their best flavor.
Ingredients Needed for the Frosting
- Butter: I use unsalted butter for frostings and baking in general, because you want to control the amount of salt you are adding. In frostings and buttercreams, the butter is there for stability. It will firm up when cold.
- Cream Cheese: I use original Philadelphia Cream Cheese for all my baked goods including frostings and buttercreams. You can use reduced fat, but don’t use whipped cream cheese because it will make the buttercream too soft and it won’t be stable.
- Confectioner’s Sugar: Confectioner’s sugar is useful for frosting because it is a fine powder, so it creates a smooth, silky buttercream without the application of heat.
- Vanilla Extract: Vanilla Extract adds a beautiful flavor itself and together with the heavy cream is reminiscent of ice cream.
- Lemon Juice: This is the key to the best cream cheese frosting. Please don’t skip it! It cuts the sweetness and adds to the tang!
- Use different spices: I love a spiced carrot cake. I use a generous amount of cinnamon in this recipe but you could also substitute equal parts pumpkin pie spice or this apple pie spice recipe!
- Get nutty or fruity: Add chopped, toasted pecans, walnuts or even macadamia nuts! I do love this cake with raisins, so you can add up to a ½ cup if you like them too!
- Tropical twist. You could add a little pineapple and shredded coconut for a tropical variation.
- A different fat: Okay, real talk. There is a difference between what you *can* do and what you should do here. You can substitute oil for melted butter but the cake will not be as moist. You can also substitute a different oil but, if the oil has flavor, your cake will taste like that oil. One time in the restaurant I was in a pinch, and the only thing we had was blended oil, and the cake was inedible.
- Pre-shredded carrots: You absolutely can substitute pre-shredded, store-bought carrots. The cake will still be delightful. It will be EVEN BETTER if you shred them fresh.
- Different flours: You can substitute pastry flour but I would not suggest substituting cake flour. It doesn’t have enough gluten to support all that oil and carrots.
How to Make The Best Carrot Cake
Use these instructions to make the best carrot cake every time! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.
Prepare the ingredients:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350˚F convection or 375˚F conventional. Spray 2, 8-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom with a parchment circle. To make your own, trace the pan on a piece of parchment then cut out a circle.
Step 2: Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Step 3: Add the lemon juice to the vegetable oil and set aside.
Step 4: Peel and shred the carrots on a box grater on the medium size. Squeeze out the excess juice from your carrots using cheesecloth or paper towels; discard or drink it!
Don’t skip squeezing the carrots! Do you know what happens if you don’t? Goo happens! You will get a gummy, gooey cake no matter how long it bakes.
Also use gloves or you will have orange hands like me in the video 😂
Make the cake:
Step 5: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip together the eggs and sugar to the ribbon stage.
What is ribbon stage? Ribbon stage is when the whole egg foam (eggs whipped with sugar) will hold a ribbon on its surface before slowly disappearing.
Step 6: With the mixer running on high (still with the whisk attachment), slowly pour in the vegetable oil mixture and whisk until completely emulsified (i.e. you can’t see any oil). It will deflate a bit but it will still look like a light, yellow cloud.
Step 7: Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the dry ingredients all at once just until streaky.
Step 8: Fold in the walnuts and carrots until there are no more lumps of flour and the batter is just combined. Please don’t over mix. If you think it’s done, it is.
Don’t be stressed about the cake batter to mix-in ratio! Power forward with the knowledge that you are making the best carrot cake ever. You want to fold quickly and expeditiously so that you don’t deflate the batter that you just worked so hard to make.
Step 9: Divide between the two pans. If you are feeling extra or just want to ensure they bake evenly, use a scale to make sure the batter is perfectly divided.
Step 10: Bake 25 minutes or until you can gently press on the center and feel resistance. It shouldn’t feel like liquid under there! There is too much oil to use the cake tester. I know, the stress! But you’ve got this.
Step 11: Cool 5 minutes in the pan then turn out onto wire rack and cool upside-down. Yes, upside-down! Let cool completely before frosting.
Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip
This cake is so light, fluffy and moist that it can be difficult to determine when it is done. This the ONLY cake that I bake by time over testing. Since there is too much oil for the cake tester to work properly, you’ll need to test for doneness by feel. The cake should provide a little resistance when lightly pressed in the center.
When in doubt, bake it 2 more minutes. She’ll be fine.
Make the cream cheese frosting
Step 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until smooth.
Step 2: Add lemon juice and vanilla extract. Beat to incorporate.
If the buttercream gets too warm and seems loose, put the whole thing in the refrigerator. Frosting, mixing bowl and attachment. Chill and then beat it again. Breathe. You’ve got this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Carrot cake is an excellent cake to fully prepare ahead of time! The flavors improve on the second day and this carrot cake recipe is so moist that it will taste perfect for 3 days! Freeze it whole, if making further in advance.
Store fully prepared cakes at room temperature for one day, in the refrigerator for up a week or frozen for up to 2 months. Make sure it is well wrapped so as not to take on the flavor of the fridge or freezer.
The oil in carrot cake keeps it more moist than the same cake made with melted butter.
Your carrot cake might be dense because it was underbaked, or the batter deflated when mixing in the dry ingredients, or the oil was not emulsified into the batter properly.
When carrots come in direct contact with unreacted baking soda, they turn green. To avoid this, simple whisk together the dry ingredients thoroughly before incorporating into the batter.
If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!
The Best Carrot Cake
- 2 cups all purpose flour or pastry flour if you have it
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 eggs
- 1 ⅔ cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup shredded carrots packed
- ½ cup toasted walnuts chopped, optional
- 21 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 18 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F convection or 375˚F conventional. Spray 2, 8 inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom with a parchment circle. To make your own, trace the pan on a piece of parchment then cut out a circle.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Add the lemon juice to the vegetable oil and set aside.
- Peel and shred the carrots on a box grater on the medium size. Squeeze out the excess juice from your carrots using cheesecloth or paper towels; discard or drink it! Don't skip squeezing the carrots unless you are using store-bought, pre-shredded carrots.
Prepare the cake:
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip together the eggs and sugar to the ribbon stage. This is when the batter will hold a ribbon on its surface before slowly disappearing.
- With the mixer running on high, slowly pour in the vegetable oil mixture and whisk until completely emulsified (i.e. you can’t see any oil). It will deflate a bit but it will still look like a light, yellow cloud.
- Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the dry ingredients mixture all at once, just until streaky.
- Fold in the walnuts and carrots until there are no more lumps of flour and the batter is just combined. Please don’t over mix. If you think it’s done, it is.
- Divide between the two pans. If you are feeling extra or just want to ensure they bake evenly, use a scale to make sure the batter is perfectly divided.
- Bake 25 minutes or until you can gently press on the center and feel resistance. It shouldn’t feel like liquid under there! There is too much oil to use the cake tester. I know, the stress! But you’ve got this.
- Cool cake layers 5 minutes in pan then turn out onto wire rack and cool upside-down. Yes, upside-down! Let cool completely before frosting.
- Cream together cream cheese, butter, and sugar until smooth.
- Add lemon juice and extract. If it gets too warm, chill it. Just pop the whole bowl and attachments in the fridge and give it an hour.
- Beat with a paddle until light and smooth.
- Add about a ⅓ cup frosting on the first layer and spread until evenly covered. Layer on the second cake. Use as much buttercream as you want to cover the outside!
- Slice and serve!
Before You Go
I hope you enjoyed this professional chef tested recipe. Check out our other delicious, chef-developed cake recipes!