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Classic Carrot Layer Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Scott Phillips

Yield: Yields one 9-inch layer cake.

Servings: Serve twelve to fourteen.

This is the iconic, all-American layer cake that most of us picture when we think carrot cake: packed with shredded carrots, chopped walnuts, and raisins, warmed with sweet spice, and slathered with cream cheese frosting.


For the cake

  • 1 cup canola, corn, or vegetable oil; more for the pans
  • 2 cups (9 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1-3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups (8-3/4 oz.) lightly packed, finely grated carrots
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 1 lb. cream cheese, softened
  • 12 oz. (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 lb. (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 840
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 480
  • Fat (g): 54
  • Saturated Fat (g): 22
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 9
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 20
  • Cholesterol (mg): 150
  • Sodium (mg): 550
  • Carbohydrates (g): 86
  • Fiber (g): 2
  • Protein (g): 8


Make the cake

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and flour the sides of two 9×2-inch round cake pans, tapping out any excess flour. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment.

    In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the oil, eggs, carrots, brown sugar, walnuts, raisins, and vanilla on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just blended, about 30 seconds. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

    Bake until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed and a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes.

    Let cool in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pans to loosen the cakes, invert them onto the rack, remove the pans, and carefully peel away the parchment. Set the cakes aside to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting

  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter with the mixer on medium speed until very smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on medium high until blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cover the frosting and set aside at room temperature until the layers are completely cool.

Assemble the cake

  • Carefully set one cake upside down on a large, flat serving plate. Using a metal spatula, evenly spread about 1-1/2 cups of the frosting over the top of the cake. Top with the remaining cake layer, upside down. Spread a thin layer (about 1/3 cup) of frosting over the entire cake to seal in any crumbs and fill in any gaps between layers. Refrigerate until the frosting is cold and firm, about 20 minutes. Spread the entire cake with the remaining frosting. For more tips on how to frost a layer cake, watch our video.

    Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. The cake is best served slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Make Ahead Tips

The flavors of this moist cake only improve with time, so feel free to bake and frost the cake up to a few days ahead.


Rate or Review

Reviews (30 reviews)

  • Kimstewart1969 | 05/27/2018

    This cake was good, not great. I followed the recipe exactly as written. I find that for carrot cakes I tend to like them to have a lot of spice, flavor. Not that this cake was bland, I just want ed more flavor. There is another recipe for a carrot cake that has allspice and cloves along with the spices in this recipe - I'll try this one next time.

  • IslandAngel | 03/16/2018

    This is THE most awesome cake - this was the finish for our Sunday night dinner , I made it the day before and refrigerated - bringing it up to room temperature in the afternoon... it was a hit for sure.
    I have added this recipe to my ‘go to’ recipe collection. It is now a staple for me. Like other reviewers I added slightly toasted chopped pecans to the top - so pretty. But really , it’s a must try - it is exquisite.

  • franneh | 05/09/2017

    This cake is such a hit! I've made it twice already, and both times I've gotten so many compliments on it. The cake is has the perfect balance of carrot and spice, while being deliciously moist. And the cream cheese frosting is just superb. I followed recipe exactly and it turned out perfect every time. I also sprinkled chopped pecans to make the top of the cake look pretty.

    I've made this the day of, as well as the day before a party, and to be quite honest, the cake tastes even better the next day!! Such a winner. Will be using this recipe for years to come :)

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