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A carrot cake sits on a white cake pedestal. The cake is frosted with fluffy cream cheese frosting and decorated with a few walnuts. A wedge of cake sits next to the stand ready to eat.
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4.5 from 8 votes

Perfect Carrot Cake and Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

This tender, moist carrot cake is spicy and delicious. Rich, whipped cream cheese frosting with a hint of lemon brings it all together.  Carrot cake is one of the easiest of all cake recipes which makes it perfect for beginning bakers.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: carrot cake, old fashioned cake recipe, whipped cream cheese frosting
Servings: 12
Author: Mirlandra Neuneker

Ingredients

For The Cake

  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots (from about 5 medium carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • 1 cup raisins or dried currants (optional - see note)

For The Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces cream cheese (2 standard 8oz boxes)
  • 1 cup salted butter (2 American sticks)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups powdered sugar (a 32oz bag)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3-5 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (or more to taste - don’t use bottled juice)

Instructions

  • Tip: A great cake is baked in such a way that it rises flat and doesn't need to be leveled! The sides and bottom will be more tender and the entire cake is taller and more fluffy. See the full tutorial here.

To Bake The Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of two 9” pans with parchment paper and grease the sides with butter. Dust sides with flour and tap out the excess. (I suggest using my towel wrapping method on the cake pans for a moister cake that rises more evenly.)
  • In a large bowl, use a spoon to stir together the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until well mixed. Add everything else except the carrots. Stir just until combined and only streaks of flour remain.
  • Add carrots, walnuts and raisins. Stir until incorporated and divide batter between the two pans. (See note on raisins if using.)
  • Bake 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Hint: The edges of the cake will start to pull away from the sides of the pan just a bit when it is done.
  • Let cakes rest in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn them out unto racks to cool the rest of the way.

To Make The Frosting

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the cream cheese, butter and salt. Whip on high for about 1 minute until thoroughly combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
  • Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Stir on low speed until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the mixer and then turn on high for 3-4 minutes until the frosting is creamy and fluffy. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired.

Notes

Baking with Raisins:  Raisins (especially ones that have been in the pantry for a bit) are often dried out by the time you use them for baking.  Before you add the raisins try plumping them up with water, apple juice, or spiced rum.  This means the raisins will be moist and juicy on their own so they won't absorb liquid from the cake and dry it out.  
Add the raisins and 1/4 cup of your liquid of choice to a small microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 1 minute.  Let the raisins sit and absorb liquid until you are ready to add them.  Drain any extra liquid and add the raisins as directed.  
Lemon Juice in Frosting:  A little fresh lemon juice in the frosting brings balance to the sweetness and gives the cream cheese frosting an amazing flavor. If you are not sure if you will like the flavor stir in one teaspoon of lemon juice at a time, tasting as you go.
Using Leftover Frosting:  The frosting in this recipe is enough to frost the cake with a bit left over to pipe pretty borders if you desire. If not, leftover frosting holds for weeks in the fridge or six months in the freezer. It is delicious on cookies or as a fruit dip!