Best Carrot Cake Ever
Easter is coming up this weekend and am I the only one who is basically shook because it’s almost Easter?!! Like what?? One second it’s January and now it’s already Easter. This year is just flying by! I always find myself talking about the weather in the intros of my recipes but not today! All I have to say about this is this cake is. the. bomb. Moist, light, and layered with the creamiest cream cheese icing. I mean, seriously! It’s easier than you think and our recipe has all the perfect tips to make your cake a showstopper for any celebration.
There’s something so comforting and delicious about carrot cake. It’s rustic, unbelievably delicious, and schuuuuper easy! Well, that is, unless you’re not a carrot cake fan. You might want to stop reading this.
So light, airy, and coated in layers of cream cheese icing. Not as sweet and heavy as buttercream, but smooth and festively decorated for Easter or any occasion. It doesn’t just have to be Easter to have carrot cake, I’ll be dreaming about this everyday.
why is this the best carrot cake?
Now, there are about as many carrot cake recipes as banana bread, so which one is really the best? For me, I don’t need all those extra goods in carrot cake like dried fruit, nuts, coconut… I’m here for the moist cake and spice filled flavor!
This cake is extremely easy. Don’t worry about setting out butter to soften because this recipe just uses oil. The oil actually helps create a more tender and moist crumb. Exactly what we want!
This recipe also has plenty of spices to bump up the flavor.
When it comes to ingredients, less is more. Nobody wants to worry about buying 20 items just to make 1 cake. This cake has plenty of pantry staples and minimal steps.
ingredients you need
- Baking soda
- Chai Spice *Click here for our homemade chai spice recipe
- Brown Sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Sour Cream
- Cream Cheese
- Powdered Sugar
- Chopped walnuts/pecans (optional)
- Food coloring (optional)
boxed vs homemade carrot cake
I can attest that boxed carrot cake is delicious, but this carrot cake might just be my favorite. Now, not much can beat a boxed mix, but this carrot cake is effortless and better than any boxed icing or mix you’ll buy. Real ingredients, a little work, and the best accomplished feeling once you’re done.
Boxed mix contains all the good stuff like oil, eggs…etc, but what really is in there? Also, these carrots are real and fresh. Fresh carrots add extra moisture to your cake.
Warm, full of real spice, fresh carrots, and the creamiest homemade cream cheese icing. I don’t know about you but creating a cake and having it turn out is the best feeling ever! Look at that beauty and say, “Wow, I did that!”
If you’re taking the time to get your mixer out for a boxed mix, you might as well go all in, right? Yes!
spices in the batter
We all know carrot cake is full of warm spices, tender crumbs, and cream cheese icing, but what spices are really in there?
Most carrot cakes have ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, but ours is a little *spiced* up. 😁😁
Our carrot cake is filled with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little homemade chai spice. You read that right, a little chai spices. All of these mix together and create the best spice cake. Once you add the carrots, you’re on your way to a perfect carrot cake!
Although carrot cake is popular around Easter and spring, the ingredients are available all the time so it’s perfect for any celebration.
baking the cake + special tips
When it comes to cake, it’s probably one of the easiest desserts you can make. Here are some of the best tips to keep in mind to keep you on track.
- Don’t over mix the batter! – If you continue mixing forever after all the ingredients are added, the batter is going to not bake properly and will result in a denser and more dry cake. This is because the rising agent in the batter will start to work as soon as it’s applied so if you continue mixing, the rising agent will think it’s ready to bake.
- Measure your dry ingredients properly. – I probably say this in 98% of my recipes, but it’s really true! When you pack in flour or other dry ingredients too tight, it will not create the right batter. Flour should be spooned and measured, but you can also loosely scoop some and wipe off excess.
- Fully bake the cakes. – Once you think your cake might be done, poke it with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If it comes out wet with chunks, it needs more time. You don’t want to take them out to early, flip them out, then realize they’re not cooked, because they can’t go back in.
- Don’t rush your cooling process. – In the past I know as soon as the cakes come out I’m ready to decorate, but they have to cool and set before you can ice, otherwise it’ll be a melting mess. After the cakes come out of the oven, cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30-45 minutes until cooled and slightly hardened, but not frozen! Then, you’re ready to decorate.
- Always heavily grease your pans. – Whether you use non-stick spray or butter, make sure those pans are coated! You spent all the hard work making the cake just for it to stick and fall apart.
There are a few different ways to bake the cakes. You can bake them in 3, 6″ circle cake pans, or 2-3, 8″ circle cake pans. For me, I wanted a slightly larger cake, so my pictures have the 8″ size, but I do love a 6″ cake!
The 6″ size will have smaller but thicker layers, while the 8″ will have larger but slightly thinner layers.
If you don’t want to worry about trimming the tops of your cakes, you can wrap the outside of the pan in cake strips. This will keep a consistent amount of heat around all the edges and cook more evenly. Therefore, creating no hump.
secret ingredients to the carrot cake
Now, like I mentioned earlier, there are a billion carrot cake recipes out there and I’m sure 95% of them are great, but what about outstanding?
This cake 2 special ingredients that really make it stand out.
Oil and sour cream.
You might be thinking, “Sour cream??!!” Yes! The sour cream helps create an extra moist and tender cake. Nobody wants to eat dry crumbs.
The oil is substituted instead of butter. In fact oil is 100% fat while butter is 80% fat, so the oil adds to the moistness of the cake. *Sorry about the word.*
Many cakes use butter, while others use oil. If the flavor was something generic, we would use butter, otherwise you could taste too much of the oil.
how to decorate
Congrats, you’ve made it to the most exciting part of the process; decorating! There are so many ways to decorate a cake, but for this one I decided to go with a basic outside, with some piped carrots and chopped nuts. It creates that fun rustic look that in my opinion, all carrot cakes deserve.
You could also choose to do a naked cake, which is just a thin layer of icing around the outside that still exposes some of the layers. I do love a good naked cake!
You could also try a fully iced cake with some splatter to look like a robin’s egg. You can do splatter by mixing black/brown food coloring with vanilla extract/vodka.
The options are endless, but here’s how I did mine:
- Use a cake spinner or cake stand that you are going to place your cake on. Put a drop of icing on the spinner, then a parchment square on top of that. Then another drop of icing and your first cake layer. The icing drops will help keep the cake in place while the parchment will make it easier to remove from the cake stand if you have to.
- Set aside 1/2 cup of icing in 2 bowls. Dye 1 orange and the other green.
- Spread an even layer of cream cheese icing over your first cake layer. I used an offset spatula for this. Spread the icing all the way to the edges and leave a little bit hanging out. (Do this for each layer.)
- Lastly, lay your third cake layer on top and spread another even layer of icing on top of that. Since this is the top and it will be visible, try to make it as smooth as you can. It’s easier to do this with an offset spatula or cake scraper.
- Spread little dollops of icing around the sides of the cake and in cracks. Spin the cake in one hand and scrape it with the other so that it becomes smooth. This is your crumb coat. Crumb coat means it’s a very thin layer of icing that locks in all your crumbs. Now, chill the cake for 15-20 minutes until the icing has slightly hardened.
- After cooling, spread more icing around sides and smooth until it’s smooth with no holes and you can’t see through it.
- Use some of your set aside colored icing and place it in piping bags. Pipe little carrots and leaves on your cake however you like.
- Lastly, throw on some chopped nuts (I used pecans) and chill in the fridge to set.
Want more spring dessert ideas? Check out our:
- Spiced Pistachio Coffee Cake
- Strawberry Blossom Swiss Cake Roll
- Mini Lemon Cheesecakes
- Zesty Blood Orange Macarons
Did you make this recipe? Let me know below or on Instagram @tuesday.treats or use #tuesdaytreats2016. I love seeing your creations!
P.S. – Don’t forget to sign up for my spring cookie decorating class on April 17th. Limited spots available! Register here.
Best Carrot Cake EverCourse: Cakes and Cupcakes, FavoritesCuisine: DessertDifficulty: Easy
Spring is among us, and so is Easter. This carrot cake is insanely moist, easy, and perfect! 3 airy layers with cream cheese icing and festive decorations. Make this for any celebration!
- Carrot Cake
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp homemade chai spice
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup canola/vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups carrots, shredded (4-5 large carrots)
- Cream Cheese Icing
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
4-5 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Orange and green food coloring (optional)
Chopped pecans (optional)
- Carrot Cake
- Start by pre-heating your oven to 350 F. Line 3, 8″ circle pans with non-stick spray or butter. Set aside.
- Wash and shred your carrots into a bowl. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, chai spice, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together your sugars and oil. Next, add in your eggs, vanilla, and sour cream. Continue whisking until combined.
- Add in your dry ingredients and fold with a spatula until just a few streaks remain. Then, add in your carrots and fold until evenly combined.
- Evenly pour into your cake pans and bake for 35-37 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Once baked, let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan. Cover in plastic wrap and place in the fridge or freezer for 30 minutes – 1 hour until cooled and slightly hardened. *Notes
- Cream Cheese Icing
- While the cakes are cooling, let’s make the icing. Cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth and light.
- Next, add in your powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing in between. Lastly, add in your vanilla extract and mix.
- Set aside 1/2 cup of the icing in 2 separate bowl. Dye 1 orange and the other green. Place into piping bags and set aside.
- Once the cakes are cool, place a dab of icing on a cake spinner or cake stand. Place a piece of parchment on top of that with another dab of icing. Place your first cake layer on top of that. *Notes
- Spread an even layer of icing onto the cake spreading it all the way to the edges. I used an offset spatula and cake scrape for this. Continue this for the rest of your layers ensuring the top one is very smooth since it will be visible.
- Spread little amount of icing across the sides of the cake and smooth out. This is your crumb coat. Chill for 15-20 minutes to slightly harden the icing.
- Once cooled, spread the remaining icing around the edges of the cake and smooth until it’s not see through and there are no holes.
- With your reserved icing, pipe little carrots and leaves around the top and sides for decoration. Lastly, sprinkle some chopped nuts on the cake. (optional) Chill for 45 minutes – 1 hour until set. Then enjoy!
- Placing them in the freezer will help them to become sturdy for assembling.
- The dab of icing will help keep the cake in place while decorating.