homemade Carrot Cake recipe {with cream cheese frosting}

Get ready to treat your taste buds to the best homemade carrot cake recipe out there! This recipe comes straight from my Grandma’s recipe box of homemade cake recipes and has been baked countless times. We make it in the spring, for birthdays, and any other occasion that calls for a delicious dessert. Whether you prefer layer cakes, bars, or cupcakes, this carrot cake recipe won’t disappoint. Made from scratch and topped with rich cream cheese frosting, it’s the perfect sweet treat.

If you love carrot cake you might also love my Carrot Cake Scones with cream cheese frosting, Really Really GREAT Carrot raisin Cake, or the BEST Carrot Cake Cupcake Recipe.

recipe for carrot cake from scratch

This cake is one of my husband’s faves. Although, I think every time I make a new cake it turns into his “favorite”. He swears, though, that this has been his absolute favorite since the beginning of time (his time begins when he met me 26 years ago which, as a good husband, is exactly the right way to tell time! :)).

Did you know:

It’s believed carrot cake came from medieval carrot puddings in Europe, where sugar and other sweeteners were scarce and expensive, and carrots were used instead. In the UK, carrot cake became popular during World War II when carrots were used as a natural sweetener. Of course, today’s carrot cake is usually topped with cream cheese frosting and has little in common with the unsweetened World War II version.

If you like learning about the history of carrot cake you can find more from The Tasting Table.

the BEST Homemade carrot cake recipe that you will use again and again.

Key Ingredients for Old-Fashioned Classic Carrot Cake:

  • Carrots: Start with beautiful carrots. If you are making this with children it’s suggested the carrots with their tops still on. You know, the ones just like Bugs Bunny eats. Kids seem to better understand these as “real carrots” and simply adore working with them.
  • Flour. This recipe holds up well to Gluten-Free Baking Flour. I prefer using Bob Red Mill’s 1 for 1 Baking Flour.
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Oil. Use a neutral oil like veggie or canola oil.

What are some different ways to flavor a carrot cake?

  • Add crushed pineapple or raisins for extra sweetness.
  • Include shredded coconut for a tropical twist.
  • Mix in cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger for more spice.
  • Use brown sugar instead of white sugar for a richer flavor.
  • Substitute some of the flour with almond flour for a nutty taste. Try subbing 1/2 cup of AP flour for almond flour.

How to make old-fashioned carrot cake:

  1. Grease & flour two 9-inch round pans (one 9 by 13 works too!). Be sure to grease and flour your pan well so that the cake doesn’t stick. Really really well! Because of the moisture in carrot cakes, they can stick to the pans quite easily!
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together wet ingredients.
  3. Stir well.
  4. Add dry ingredients.
  5. Stir just until combined. But do not overstir. Just until moistened and mostly mixed.
  6. Stir in carrots and stir just until combined.
  7. Pour batter into pans, dividing evenly.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. After they come out of the oven, let them cool for about 15 minutes and then flip them upside down to cool completely prior to frosting.
homemade carrot cake recipe from scratch

How do I know when my carrot cake is done baking?

  • Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake, and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
  • The cake should be golden brown on top and spring back when touched lightly.

How long does it take to bake a carrot cake?

  • It depends on the size and type of pan, but typically 30 minutes for 9-inch round pans and 40 minutes for a 9-inch cake.
grating carrots

Tips for grating carrots:
Whatever you do, just don’t grate your fingers – that’s a real pain in the carrot! :)

  1. Use fresh carrots that are firm and unblemished.
  2. Peel the carrots before grating them.
  3. Use a box grater or food processor with a grater attachment to grate the carrots finely.
  4. If using a box grater, use the side with the smallest holes for a fine grate.
  5. If using a food processor, cut the carrots into small chunks that fit easily through the feed tube and use the grater attachment.
  6. Be careful when grating the carrots, as they can be slippery and difficult to hold onto. Consider using a kitchen towel to grip the carrot while grating.
  7. Don’t worry if the grated carrots release some moisture. Simply pat them dry with a paper towel before adding to the cake batter.
  8. Don’t make any of the carrot pieces too big, or they will sink to the bottom of the cake. 
  9. Alternatively, pop the carrots into a food processor (or use a blender) to get them into itty bitty bits. Save about 1 cup of carrots to leave in larger pieces (minced is about right) to give a great “carroty” texture to the cake.

Key ingredients for classic cream cheese frosting:

  • Cream cheese.
  • Sweetener. The classic sweetener is powdered sugar but I’ve included a recipe for cream cheese frosting sweetened with maple syrup.
  • Butter. Use good quality, unsalted butter.

Instructions for Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • Beat the cream cheese & butter well.
  • Add powdered sugar, or maple syrup and honey if making the naturally sweetened recipe, and beat again.
  • Add vanilla and beat until fluffy.

What are some different ways to decorate a carrot cake?

  • A cream cheese frosting topped with pecans or walnuts
  • Powdered sugar can be sprinkled on top
  • Sprinkle candied carrots or carrot shavings on top
  • Pipe buttercream frosting with a star tip
  • Drizzle with caramel or chocolate sauce

How do I frost a carrot cake?

  • Wait until the cake has cooled completely
  • Spread cream cheese frosting evenly over the cake with a spatula
  • Use a piping bag and tip to create designs or rosettes
  • Sprinkle chopped nuts, coconut, or candied carrots on top

Can I store the cake in the refrigerator?

  • Yes, store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Can I make the cake and frosting ahead of time?

  • Yes, you can make the cake and frosting up to 2 days ahead of time and store them separately in the refrigerator.

Can I freeze the cake?

  • Yes, wrap the cake in plastic wrap and store it in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
the BEST homemade carrot cake recipe from scratch

This homemade carrot cake is BETTER than any you’ll pick up at the supermarket. And it is just as fast to make this as it is to get in your car and run to the supermarket. AND…you KNOW the ingredients are good. Good stuff. REAL stuff. Tip: grab your favorite purchased cream cheese frosting to speed up the time it takes to get this cake on the table. 

This recipe will be your tried and true recipe for years to come. In fact, we suspect you’ll be passing this one along to your children. Please take an afternoon with your children and make this. Come back and tell us about the recipe. And about the lovely memory you created!

the BEST homemade Carrot Cake recipe

| 12
Prep Time | 20 minutes
Cook Time | 30 minutes
Total Time | 45 minutes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
this tried and true homemade carrot cake recipe is the BEST. If you want to make it from scratch, use this recipe!


For the Cake:

  • 4 eggs allow to stand at room temp for 30 min
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cups carrots grated
  • 3/4 cup oil

Cream Cheese Frosting -traditional

  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Cream Cheese frosting -naturally sweetened

  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Check out our Kitchen Reference Guide for help with unfamiliar terms.


For the Cake

  • Grease & flour two 9 inch round pans (one 9 by 13 works too-see notes for baking tip))
  • In large mixing bowl ,stir together wet ingredients.
  • Stir well.
  • Add dry ingredients.
  • Stir just until combined.
  • Stir in carrots and stir just until combined.
  • Pour batter into pans, dividing evenly.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting -traditional

  • Beat the cream cheese & butter well.
  • Add powdered sugar and beat again.
  • Add vanilla and beat until fluffy.

Cream Cheese Frosting -naturally sweetened

  • Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  • Gently beat in the maple syrup, honey, and cinnamon just until incorporated.



For a 9×13 inch pan just adjust the time of baking up about 10 minutes (be sure to check that the middle is done with a toothpick, knife, or chopstick!) to accommodate.


Calories: 515kcalCarbohydrates: 67gProtein: 10gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 513mgPotassium: 322mgFiber: 2gSugar: 48gVitamin A: 5682IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 188mgIron: 1mg

63 thoughts on “homemade Carrot Cake recipe {with cream cheese frosting}”

  1. Oh my goodness, this has become my go-to cake recipe and I am now starting to pass it on to my backing-loving-friends. I first made it for my 18th birthday/graduation party and it was a succes from the beginning!
    Making it today for my sisters sweet 16 birthday since she requested it!

  2. 5 stars
    First time to make homemade cream cheese frosting for my 1st homemade carrot cake a lil thin. It was very tasty.

  3. I was only able to yield 18 with this recipe, but I used a ice cream scoop and could have filled a little more than others.

  4. I believe someone else made them into cupcakes and had 24, if I remember correctly. And I’m soooo glad you liked the cake. We love it too!

  5. 5 stars
    Amazing carrot cake! I used to dislike carrot cakes but this is sooo good!! I would prefer to make cupcakes, have you any idea how many I can make with this recipe?

  6. Well I made this carrot cake for a Church function tomorrow. Accidentally used 1 cup regular sugar, when I caught the mistake added another coup of confections sugar. Made 2 9 inch cake layers. They all loved it. Came home with one slice left.

  7. I made this carrot cake tonight for an Church function tomorrow. I made an mistake on the sugar, put 1 cup regular sugar, caught myself and out another cup of powdered sugar. Tasted pretty good to me. Plus I added 1cup walnuts to the frosting. Let you know how everyone likes it tomorrow.

  8. 4 stars
    I’m making this carrot cake tonight as I type this up and it smells relish! Even made the cream cheese frosting and I keep “tasting” it before the cake is done. May not have any for cake… Lol I’ll update on how the cake came out. Thanks!

  9. I am so glad to hear that!! Your husband has good taste :). Thanks for taking the time to come back here and leave a comment!

  10. 5 stars
    I never knew I even liked carrot cake until I tried this recipe! It’s my husband’s favorite kind of cake, and I’ve made this recipe at least 4 times since i found it. Super easy and delicious! You’re right about heavily greasing the pans though, and I find that they pop out the best if I’m patient enough to let them cool completely. SO delicious. Thanks!

  11. You are just fine. And sorry for not getting a comment back to you in time for your cake, last night. Honestly, you just need to cool it enough to put the frosting on without melting the frosting. I often pop it into the freezer for a wee bit. Or, here in MN…just outside :). HOw did it go?

  12. Hi. The cake is in the oven!!! How long do you recommend to cool before frosting. I guess I should have let it cool overnight, then made the frosting. Darn it.

  13. 5 stars
    I’m not sure if I’ve made a comment already but thank you so, so much for sharing this recipe! I’ve made it severeal times, sometimes I make recipe and a half and bake in 3 times (only have one pan of the same size) for a bigger crowed. I’ve made cupcakes as well. I’ve made it with chocolate ganache and with a whipped cream/cream cheese frosting or just simple! And it is delicious! Everyone asks for the recipe! Thank you!

  14. 5 stars
    This is best carrot cake for my husband 30th birthday I ever made,☺ made more delicious and rich our party. Thanks for the detailed receipe with pictures made more easy to make..☺👍

  15. Good question. I need to update that. I would use canola or vegetable oil. Good luck and have a wonderful week!

  16. You should be perfect! In fact, the cake will probably frost up much better instead of being fresh out of the oven. I would recommend covering it in wrap, if you can, so it doesn’t dry out on the edges.

  17. Hi, I was wondering how this cake keeps overnight? I am going to be making this for a party tomorrow but wondered how I could make it the day before. I was thinking of making the cake and then frosting it tomorrow morning.

  18. Jeanie Stiegelmeyer

    Hi Nellie, I was wondering if I need to add 2 tbsp. of flour to the recipe for high altitude?

  19. Hmmm, I would take off about 8 minutes and check it. The temperature can stay the same, I think. Let me know!

  20. If you were doing this recipe in a 6 inch by 2 inch and an 8 inch by 2 in what would be the difference in baking time and temperature would you bake them at?

  21. Can these be made into cupcakes and, if so, how long do you bake them? Sounds so good!

  22. Because we made an error on the recipe! Thank you so much for catching that. We’ve added it. Thankfully many have had great success without that in the recipe. Imagine how much better it would have been :). Appreciate it and have a great monday!

  23. Hi Nellie,
    Thank you for sharing this recipe. Carrot cake is my favorite cake and my mother always made it for my birthday (going back to the 1970’s). I love this recipe because I don’t like extra things in my carrot cake like pineapple or coconut.

    I was wondering why there isn’t any salt in the ingredients?

  24. I would cook it a wee bit longer because it will be thicker. But it should be very similar! And yay…so glad to hear everyone loves it!

  25. Would the cooking time be the same if you made this in a 9×13? I’ve made this as a layered cake before and it turned out awesome, but my family loves it so much that they end up taking HUGE pieces and the cake doesn’t last longer than a couple of hours lol! Thanks!!

  26. Ooooh, what a great question! First, I’m so glad you had good success! I would try about 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans. Keep them chopped fairly small so they don’t sink to the bottom during baking. Add them into the batter last and you’ll get a good feel for if 1 cup is enough or if you want to go with more. I think you’ll end up with 1 1/2 cup. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  27. I tried you recipe and it is delicious, but I have a few people that LOVE pecans in their carrot cake and have asked me to make it again with pecans. Do you have any idea how much nuts can be added? Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  28. Isn’t it amazing! Dangerous stuff. This is my grandma’s recipe and I swear I haven’t had better :). Go glad you enjoyed like we do here at our house.

  29. Trevor's Gramma

    I made this tonight and OMG I’m on piece number three . I can’t stop eating. Thanks for posting the best carrot cake. I baked mine in 9×13 for about 7 mins longer and ikoalabearlover@hotmail.comt is wonderfully moist!!

  30. ACtually, it was the other way around. She was subbing cake flour for the regular flour. Cake flour would give it a bit more height and lighter texture. Sometimes not preferred with a carrot cake but certainly not a bad thing. Usuall,y it depends on how the recipe reads. If it says 2 cups of sifted flour than you sift and measure. If it says 2 cups flour than you measure, then sift. Does that make sense?

  31. The recipe just says flour, not cake flour. As I was reading reviews, someone was was asking about replacing the cake flour with regular flour. Also, if you do use the cake flour, do you sift then measure?

  32. Adding coconut and walnuts sounds fabulous! I’m glad you had success on your first time out. Get a little confidence to try it again :).

  33. This was my first time baking a cake from scratch and it came out great! Absolutely loved the frosting. I topped it with coconut and walnuts, and would definitely include them in the batter next time if you’re about that crunchy life. Great recipe!

  34. Hi Nellie,

    I’m a food lover but I’m not good at baking cake ! I want to do your cake for this Sunday’s brunch as it looks delicious.
    As I’m not native english speaker I would like to know what do you mean by Baking soda ? and you use cup as weighting reference, is this the correct reference in gr that we use in continental europe ?
    (flour) : 1 cup = 130 grammes (g)
    (sugar) : 1 cup = 245 grammes (g)
    (butter) : 1 cup = 240 grammes (g)
    thanks a lot !

  35. I’m going to admit that either way works and I do it differently each time. I do think that adding the carrots at the end is the best but honestly, it isn’t going to matter terribly.

  36. From the pictures, I see that you’ve mixed your carrots with the eggs and probably oil, then added in the dry ingredients.
    But the instructions mention to stir in the carrots at the end.
    Could you please clarify when it should be added?

  37. Yes! Otherwise you will have a messy cake. Delicious, but terribly messy. Good luck and Happy Birthday to your mom. What a sweet gesture!

  38. Sure…parchment paper is always a good idea for non-sticking purposes! I’m using 8oz cream cheese packages (good question!)

  39. Oh! One last question I forgot in my last post. Do you allow the cake to cool entirely prior to frosting?

    Thank you!

  40. Hi Nellie!

    I plan to make this tomorrow for my mom’s birthday. It looks amazing! A couple of questions:
    1. Would you recommend parchment paper at the bottom of the round pans to aid in non-sticking? I’ve gotten paranoid since making a layer cake that stuck to the pan as I was trying to remove it and it all broke!
    2. How large of cream cheese packages are you using? 8 0z?

    Thank you!

  41. Yay!! I’m so glad you tried it and loved it as much as we do. Now you reminded me to make a cake this weekend :)

  42. Simply the BEST carrot cake and so easy to make and the yummy cream cheese frosting, delish :)

  43. allie @ Through Her Looking Glass

    Delicious. Glad you are not good at EVERYTHING!!!! (Makes me feel better.) Your cakes are fab-u-lous! Cheers!

  44. Sure, you can. Cake flour has been ground much finer and allows the cake to rise a bit better. But all-purpose flour works just fine. Another cheat, to make your own version of cake flour… for every 1 cup of all-purpose flour remove 2 tablespoons of the flour and replace it with cornstarch. Give it a beating with a mixer or sift it about 5 times before using. The cornstarch gives the flour extra rising power. But honestly, use All-Purpose flour :). Good luck and don’t forget to let me know how it goes!

  45. My son loves carrot cake and I would love to make I with your recipe. Would you please tell me if I might be able to substitute all of the regular flour for cake flour?

    I’ve not used it before so I bought some to try. I’ve now run out of all-purpose flour, but will go buy some if it would be better for this recipe.

    Thanks for your time! :)

  46. This cake was awesome, and I will be making it for my daughter’s wedding. I’ve been looking for a good cream cheese frosting recipe too and have definitely found it! Thanks for sharing!

  47. Thanks so much Evelyn for the freezer information! We’ve never had enough left over to freeze yet…but someday we will :) And we have had the same problem in the past, most carrot cakes have all sorts of extras in them that we think are just unnecessary. Classic is best in this case, we think.

  48. I have not used your recipe but the ingredients are exactly like my Carrot Cake recipe that I have made
    for at least 50 years, so I know it makes an excellent cake. (I make mine in three layers.) This is the first
    time I have read a recipe like mine. All others have nut, pineapple, coconut or what ever. My Carrot Cake is on demand for every birthday or family-get-to- gather. I am happy to have found that it freezes beautifully and slices beautifully after having been frozen. Blessings.

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