Spicy and lush this carrot cake is filled with roasted walnuts, salted caramel, and pineapple then enrobed in a tangy cream cheese frosting
Look at those layers. The frosting to cake ratio, it's just on point, in my humble opinion!
Carrot cake is just such a health decision, carrots= veggies, walnuts= heart healthy. We won't mention the cream cheese, butter, and sugar. Or the salted caramel I just needed to add.
I made this on Easter and it was a huge hit, we had 13 desserts at the table and this along with the Espresso Cheesecake took the biggest hits. The best part was the leftovers for a treat at work. This cake is so spicy and moist, the cream cheese tang, the crunchy toasted walnuts, and the salted caramel, oh my it is heaven!! Check out my mini egg blondies to celebrate Easter too!!
While you could totally add raisins, I am not a fan. When it comes to baking, raisins have always been wanna be chocolate chips. And of course, I will always take chocolate chips. Used to tell people I was allergic to raisins to ensure I always got the chocolate chip cookie. I was a naughty kid!
I have made this cake with walnuts and pecans, I personally love both and will just use whatever I have on hand. To me, pineapple always is a great addition to carrot cake so I always add some!
What are the Ingredients for a Carrot Layer Cake?
For the cake, it is really quite easy, and you bake it in sheet pan so it's baked in just about 15 minutes! Score!! You'll need:
- All-Purpose Flour. The flour helps provide the structure to the cake.
- Baking Powder and Baking Soda. Both of these chemical leaving agents help the batter to rise and lift during baking.
- Spices. Ground Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, and Ginger. It wouldn't be a carrot cake without lots of spices. These are my favorite but feel free to adjust to your preference.
- Salt. A little salt balances everything out.
- Brown Sugar. I love the flavor you get from brown sugar as opposed to just using granulated sugar.
- Vegetable oil. Good ol' vegetable oil helps create an insanely moist cake.
- Large Eggs. Eggs help provide structure and stability in cakes.
- Pure Vanilla Extract. Love the flavor of vanilla. Make sure you use the good stuff, no imitation vanilla here please!
- Carrots. It wouldn't be carrot cake without carrots, I like to use my food processor with the grating attachment to quickly shred the carrots.
- Pineapple. Crushed and drained, I adore pineapple in my carrot cake. It helps again provide moisture but also a great texture and flavor.
- Nuts. I like to use roasted peans or walnuts.
- Raisins. I do not add raisins to my cake batter as I am not a fan but if you are, feel free to throw in ¼-1/2 cup.
For the cream cheese frosting, you'll need:
- Cream Cheese. Make sure it is at room temperature, this is crucial to achieve the luscious frosting texture.
- Unsalted Butter. Adding butter to cream cheese frosting does not take away the tang factor, but instead helps the frosting stay nice and smooth for frosting.
- Powdered Sugar. Since we aren't cooking the sugar as we do in Swiss Meringue Buttercream, we use powdered sugar here, this helps ensure the sugar is dissolved.
- Buttermilk Powder. I keep this powder on hand for all of my baking needs, I don't keep buttermilk in the house so this is the perfect swap. And in this recipe, it helps provide extra tangy flavor without adding liquid and ruining the texture if you would have used liquid buttermilk.
- Vanilla Extract/ Paste. Just a bit of vanilla goes a long way.
- Heavy Cream. Adding a bit of cream helps when you are whipping the frosting on high.
- Salt. Pinch of salt helps balance out the flavors.
To decorate the cake I like to drizzle my Homemade Salted Caramel and press nuts into the cake.
How do you make a carrot cake?
My favorite part of this cake is that it's baked on a sheet pan and then cut into 4 equal pieces. So the cake bakes quickly and cools quickly, it's perfect!
To bake a good cake it is imperative your oven is preheated properly. So preheat your oven then line a standard cookie sheet with parchment paper and heavily grease the baking sheet.
Like most recipes, let's start by mixing our dry ingredients in a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt together in a large bowl.
Then in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment add the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix together until the mixture is smooth.
Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Gently fold in the flour mixture and nuts until just combined.
Make sure to not over mix the cake batter, you do not want to activate the gluten, this will create a tougher cake.
Then pour the batter into a sheet pan, smooth so it's all even.
Bake until the center of cake is firm to touch, 15 to 18 minutes or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with no wet batter, moist crumbs are ok. Let cool on a wire rack. Then invert cake peeling off the parchment paper. Let cake cool completely, make frosting now.
How do you make Cream Cheese Frosting?
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.
To achieve the smooth frosting it is crucial for your cream cheese and butter to be softened to room temperature. To do this quickly I will chop the butter and cream cheese into smaller chunks.
Another necessary step in making a smooth frosting is sifting your confectioner's sugar. No lumps for us!!
Once the cream cheese and butter is fully combined and fluffy add the remaining ingredients.
Mix on low until all of the powdered sugar is combined then turn the speed up and beat for 3-4 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the bowl halfway through.
How do you assemble the cake?
This tool is not necessary but I do find having a large cake lifter makes it much easier and less stressful when moving cakes.
Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the cake in half crosswise and then lengthwise to make 4 equal rectangles, about 6 by 8 inches each.
Place the first piece of cake on a cake board or serving platter.
Brush on a thin even layer of salted caramel, I don't always add the caramel but when I do add the caramel I fall in love all over again.
Place ½ cup of frosting on the first layer spreading evenly then repeat until you end with the last cake on top.
Use as little frosting as possible to create a crumb coat. As this cake is cut up you will end up with crumbs so I find a quick crumb coat really helps with the overall look of the cake.
Let the cake sit in the freezer for 30 minutes for the crumb coat to set.
Then use an angled spatula to frost the cake with the remaining cream cheese icing.
Once your carrot cake is completely frosted, use a spoon to drizzle salted caramel all over the top.
Next, I take a handful of chopped nuts and press them into the sides of the cake.
When you are done decorating take a wet paper towel to clean up the serving plate.
Then let the cake sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to set up before serving.
The best way to cut slices is to cut horizontal slices then cut those in half. IF you are cutting the whole cake at once then I would cut directly down the center (vertically) then just slice pieces off of each side.
More Cake Recipes
- Salted Caramel Tres Leches Cake
- Guinness Gingerbread Cake Recipe
- Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake Recipe
- Whipped Cream Cake
- Fluffy Yellow Cake
★★★★★ Please let me know if you make this recipe by leaving a star rating and comment below!Print
- 250 grams (2 Cups) All-Purpose Flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 ¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
- 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
- ½ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
- ½ Teaspoon Ground Ginger
- 1 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
- ½ Teaspoon salt
- 250 grams (1 ¼ cup) Brown Sugar
- 6oz (¾ Cup) Vegetable Oil
- 3 Large Eggs, at room temperature
- 2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
- 2 ⅔ cups Shredded Carrots (3-4 Large Carrots)
- 4oz (½ Cup) Crushed Pineapple, drained
- 4oz(½ Cup) Chopped Toasted Pecans/ Walnuts (pre-toast them in the oven for 7-10 minutes)
- 12oz Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
- 8oz (1 Cup) Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
- 360 grams (3 Cups) Confectioners/ Powdered Sugar
- 2oz Buttermilk Powder
- 2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract/ Paste
- 1 Tablespoon Heavy Cream
- Pinch of Salt
- 4oz (½ Cup) Chopped Toasted Pecans/ Walnuts (pre-toast them in the oven for 10 minutes & cool completely)
- 4oz (½ Cup )Homemade Salted Caramel or store-bought salted caramel
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C and grease an 18 X 13-inch baking sheet (a standard cookie sheet). Then line the baking sheet with parchment and grease the parchment.
- In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and salt together in large bowl.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment add the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together until mixture is smooth. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Gently fold in the flour mixture until just combined.
- Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth so even. Bake until center of cake is firm to touch, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Then invert cake peeling off the parchment paper. Let cake cool completely, make frosting now.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add in butter and beat for another minute. Add powdered sugar, buttermilk powder, vanilla bean paste, heavy cream, and salt. Beat on low at first then once powdered sugar is combined beat on high for 3 minutes.
- Using a sharp serrated knife, cut cake in half crosswise and then lengthwise to make 4 equal rectangles, about 6 by 8 inches each.
- Place the first piece of cake on a cake board. Brush on a thin even layer of salted caramel. Place ½ cup of frosting on layer spreading evenly then repeat until you end with the last cake on top. Use remaining frosting to frost the cake. Drizzle salted caramel on top and place toasted pecans on and around the cake. Store in fridge.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 18
- Category: Dessert
- Method: bake
- Cuisine: american
Keywords: layer cake recipe, cream cheese frosting recipe, carrot and pineapple cake
Recipe Adapted from Cooks Illustrated