A classic carrot sheet 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.

carrot sheet cake in pan with slice out

I love a sheet cake. They are so simple to make, frost, cut and store. And when sheet cake meets carrot cake, it is a deliciously wonderful thing.

This carrot cake recipe is my favourite. It’s my Mom’s and the one I grew up eating. 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.

Ingredients

For the cake, you will need:

  • Carrots – You will need about 4 medium carrots to make the 3 cups of grated carrot.
  • Eggs (4)
  • 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.

Cook’s Notes

This cake is even better on the 2nd day, so don’t hesitate to make ahead.

FAQ

  • Can I make a layer cake with this batter? Sure. Simply bake in two 8-inch round pans for about 25-35 minutes. The icing 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 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.

carrot sheet cake in pan with slice out

carrot sheet cake with cream cheese icing

Get the Recipe: Classic Carrot Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

A classic carrot cake with walnuts, topped with a cream cheese icing. Makes a 9x13-inch cake (or halve ingredients for an 8x8-inch cake.)
5 stars from 7 ratings
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Yield: 20 servings

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, or other neutral tasting oil
  • 3 cups carrots, grated
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts, or pecans or omit, if you prefer

Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature (add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups icing sugar

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan and set aside.
  • 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 40-45 minutes or until evenly golden on top and the cakes is pulling away from the sides of the pan. Note that darker pans will cook more quickly, so check your cake a bit earlier if your pan is dark.
  • 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.

Notes

Once frosted, store your cake in the refrigerator.
Cake freezes well before or after frosting, for up to 2 months.
You can replace the walnuts with any other add-in, such as raisins, coconut or pineapple, if you prefer.
Be sure to read the Ingredient Notes and FAQ above the recipe card for more advice/tips to make this recipe.
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Course: Dessert
Author: Jennifer
Calories: 408kcal, Carbohydrates: 51g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 56mg, Sodium: 195mg, Potassium: 173mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 39g, Vitamin A: 3486IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 50mg, Iron: 1mg
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