A classic carrot walnut cake, made with oil (no butter needed) so it's super moist and stays that way for days. Topped with a classic cream cheese icing.
✓ EASY✓ DAIRY FREE (Cake)
Simple pleasures. These days, it gives me some comfort to know we can still enjoy some simple pleasures, like this comforting, classic carrot cake. If there was ever a time I needed a bit of cake, this is pretty much it :)
For the times, I've adjusted my usual 9x13 recipes to make a smaller 8x8 cake, to use less ingredients and to make sure we won't be wasting any. Plus, I have lots of carrots that need using. If you have more people to feed, lots of carrots to use up or lots of space in your freezer, you can simply and easily double the recipe to make a larger cake.
This carrot cake recipe is my favourite. It's made with vegetable oil (no butter needed), so it's super moist and stays that way for days. It's a classic combination of carrot and walnuts, though you could sub pecans or even omit the nuts completely, if you like. No raisins, coconut or pineapple in this cake, either. Simple. Classic. Comfort.
And of course, no carrot cake would be complete without a cream cheese icing. That said, if cream cheese isn't handy, you can opt for a simple buttercream, maybe flavoured with cinnamon, lemon or orange.
For the cake, you will need:
- Carrots - You will need about 2 medium carrots to make the 1 1/2 cups of grated carrot.
- 2 Eggs
- Vegetable Oil - or substitute a similar neutral-tasting oil such as canola or sunflower.
- White Sugar
- Flour - use regular all-purpose flour here.
- Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Salt and Cinnamon
- Walnuts - I love walnuts in carrot cake, personally, but you can use pecans if you prefer. You can also omit nuts altogether, if you like.
For the icing, you will need:
- Cream Cheese, butter, vanilla and Icing/confectioners' Sugar - If you don't have cream cheese, you can make a basic buttercream instead. Maybe flavour it with a bit of cinnamon, lemon or orange.
Step by Step Photos
Easy steps for making this carrot cake:
Easy steps to make the cream cheese icing:
- What sized pans can I use? You can use an 8x8-inch square or 8-inch round pan. You can also double the recipe and bake in a 9x13-inch pan (Increase baking time to 40-45 minutes)
- Can I make a layer cake with this? Sure. Simply double the recipe, bake in two 8-inch round pans and double the frosting recipe (Should be enough for a naked-type cake. You may need more than double for a thick frosting over the entire cake.
- Can I skip the nuts? Sure. Just leave them out.
- Can I add raisins, pineapple or coconut? Yes you can, but be mindful of how much of these things you are adding to the mix, so as to not weigh down the cake too much. Honestly, if you want that type of carrot cake, you might be better to seek out a recipe that includes those things already.
- Can I double this recipe? Absolutely! Double all the ingredients to make a 9x13-inch cake or two 8-inch round cakes.
- Can I reduce the oil and/or sugar? You probably can, but I haven't tested any of these options myself. Do so at your own risk. Generally speaking, you can reduce sugar by 1/3 in baking recipes without serious consequences other than to the flavour. Generally speaking, you can replace some of the oil with something like applesauce. Again, I haven't tested this.
- Can I use another type of oil? Vegetable oil is the oil of choice for baking, as it is light in texture and flavour. You can certainly substitute another similar neutral-tasting oil such as canola, sunflower etc. When you get into other oils such as coconut, avocado etc. you will begin introducing other flavours. Again, I haven't tested alternative oils, so I can't offer any specific guidance.
Storage and Freezing
Storage: Carrot cake once iced with the cream cheese frosting should be refrigerated. If you enjoy your cake at room temperature, simply cut a piece and let it stand for a bit at room temperature before eating.
Freezing: This cake will freeze well either before or after icing. Wrap tightly and use within 1-2 months, for best flavour. Due to the icing, thaw your cake in the refrigerator.
Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or other neutral tasting oil)
- 1 1/2 cups carrots (grated)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (or pecans or omit, if you prefer)
Cream Cheese Icing:
- 4 oz cream cheese (at room temperature)
- 2 Tbsp butter (at room temperature (add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter))
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan and set aside. An 8-inch round pound would also work. *Reduce baking temperature by 25F if using glass pans.
- In a large bowl with an electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the white sugar and oil for about 1 minute. Add the grated carrots and eggs and mix to combine. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan and level batter.
- Bake cake in preheated 350F oven for 30-35 minutes (for 8-inch pans. 9x13 cake will take 40-45 minutes) Note that darker pans will cook more quickly, so check your cake earlier if your pan is dark. My cake in my light pan took about 33 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool completely in the can before icing. Don't rush it. Any bit of warmth in the cake will cause your icing to melt.
- When ready to frost the cake, beat together the room temperature cream cheese, butter and vanilla until creamy. Add the icing sugar and mix on low until combined, then increase speed and beat for a minute until light and fluffy. Spread onto cooled cake. *Cover tightly and refrigerate cake at this point, due to the cream cheese icing.