Best Ever Old Fashioned Carrot Cake

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My Old Fashioned Carrot Cake is loaded with fresh carrots, covered with an amazing cheesecake icing, and topped with delicious toasted pecans. Make this incredibly moist and easy carrot cake for Easter or any special occasion!

titled: Best Ever Old Fashioned Carrot Cake


Old Fashioned Carrot Cake

This is hands down the most incredibly moist and easy carrot cake you’ll ever make!

And with simple, elegant pecan decorations, everyone will think it came straight from a bakery.

Stack four layers for a gorgeous Easter or birthday cake, or cut the frosting in half and bake it in a sheet pan for everyday munching. Either way, it gets rave reviews!

I just love showstopping desserts, especially in the form of layer cakes. It’s a simple way to really impress, and you don’t need a ton of fancy tools to make them.

My Italian Cream Cake is another dessert that is often requested, but I have a particular soft spot for this tiramisu cake recipe.

And for the chocoholics? You can’t go wrong with a triple chocolate masterpiece!

ingredients for old fashioned carrot cake recipe

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Carrots – The star of our old fashioned carrot cake recipe! Peel first, then shred by hand or with the grater attachment on your food processor.

    Do NOT substitute pre-shredded or matchstick carrots — they won’t have enough moisture.
  • Vegetable Oil – I prefer using oil over butter for an incredibly moist and easy carrot cake with the most tender texture. Canola or avocado oils are the best replacements.
  • Baking Soda & Baking Powder – Use both to create the fluffiest layers! Between the oil and the veggie shreds, old fashioned carrot cake tends to be quite dense.

    Two leavening agents guarantee you’ll get enough lift and that the carrots will soften nicely.
  • Ground Cinnamon – A little spice tips the flavor into dessert territory instead of tasting more savory.

    If you really want the spice to come through, add some nutmeg, ground ginger, or ground cloves as well!
  • Butter & Cream Cheese – These are the base of a delicious cream cheese frosting.

    Bring both to room temperature — you’ll get a smoother consistency if they are softened first.
  • Pecans – Chop these to press into the sides of the cake, then use extra whole pecans to decorate the top. Easy peasy!
batter for old fashioned carrot cake recipe

Tips and Tricks to Make This Recipe for Old Fashioned Carrot Cake

  • Avoid overmixing the batter.

Once you add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stir until everything is mostly combined.

Some streaks of flour are perfect — those will get mixed in with the shredded carrots. If everything is completely blended beforehand, your cake layers may be too dense.

Fold in the carrots so they are evenly distributed throughout the batter. This also prevents pockets of dry ingredients from hiding at the bottom of the bowl!

  • Cool cake layers thoroughly before stacking and frosting.

It’s best to bake old fashioned carrot cake layers just until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.

The center will continue to bake slightly as the cakes cool.

Leave them in the pans for about 10 minutes right out of the oven, but place them on wire racks instead of the counter — you want the cooler air to circulate all around the outside.

Then, carefully flip the pans onto the racks so the cakes slide out. Finish cooling on wire racks until they reach room temperature.

  • Don’t forget to toast the pecans!

It really makes a big difference in flavor!

The easiest way to toast nuts is in a dry skillet on the stove. It requires constant attention, but that also ensures nothing gets burned.

Start with the chopped pecans first, stirring frequently so they toast on all sides. Then, toss in whole nuts and give the pan a shake every so often.

Look for a darkened color and a strong aroma.

You can also toast nuts in the oven or air fryer if you prefer. Just keep an eye on them and pay attention to your nose!

adding shredded carrots to carrot cake batter

Prep Ahead

  • Grate carrots
  • Bring butter and cream cheese to room temp
  • Chop and toast pecans
  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Grease cake pans

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • 8” Cake Pan – You’ll need two round cake pans to make this old fashioned carrot cake recipe.
  • Mixing Bowls – I like to have a variety of sizes on hand, and this set has them all.
  • Electric Hand Mixer – I’ve had this one in my kitchen forever, and it still works beautifully.
  • Bread Knife – A cake leveler will get you the cleanest, most even layers, but if you’re not well stocked with baking supplies, a long serrated knife will work too!
  • Offset Spatula – This spatula has so many uses, but it’s best for applying smooth layers of frosting to this old fashioned carrot cake!
baked and sliced old fashioned carrot cake recipe

Storing Leftover Carrot Cake with Pecans

Once frosted, store your layer cake in the refrigerator for up to a week. Keep in a covered container or wrap in plastic wrap for best results.

You can also freeze the cake layers without frosting for 1 to 2 months. Cool completely, wrap in several layers of plastic, and store in a freezer-safe storage bag.

Thaw frozen layers in the refrigerator, then frost and decorate carrot cake with pecans.

layered old fashioned carrot cake with cream cheese icing

Old Fashioned Carrot Cake Recipe FAQ

Can I use brown sugar instead of granulated sugar?

Yes, but you’ll actually want to use a mixture of both in this recipe for old fashioned carrot cake — 1 cup of each.

Brown sugar will add extra moisture and some caramel flavor to the batter, but using all brown sugar will cause your cakes to come out dark.

What is the best way to grate carrots for carrot cake?

Always, always grate carrots yourself! The small shredding side of a box grater creates the best shreds for baking, though the small shredder on a food processor is a bit less effort.

If you prefer larger pieces of carrot throughout your carrot cake with pecans, use a mixture of large and small shreds for the best texture.

Can I add raisins to this recipe for old fashioned carrot cake?

Sure! Add no more than 1 cup of dried fruit to the batter, and stir it in with the shredded carrots so it’s evenly distributed.

Crushed pineapple or shredded coconut are other popular additions, though you’ll want to replace some of the carrots or oil with the pineapple so your batter isn’t too wet.

sliced old fashioned carrot cake

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slice of old fashioned carrot cake

slice of old fashioned carrot cake on a white plate

Best Ever Old Fashioned Carrot Cake

Donna Elick
Old Fashioned Carrot Cake is coated in an amazing cheesecake frosting and topped with delicious toasted pecans. Perfect for any occasion!
5 stars from 2 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Method Oven
Servings 12


  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups grated carrots


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks, room temperature
  • 16 ounces cream cheese , 2 – 8 ounce packages, room temperature
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cup pecans, Chopped Finely and toasted



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 – 8 inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy.
  • Mix together the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl.
  • In a medium bowl add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon, whisk to combine.
  • Add dry mixture to wet mixture and combine.
  • Add carrots and mix well.
  • Pour into prepared cake pans and bake until done, 40 to 45 minutes.
  • Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack, then invert on cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  • While the cakes are cooling prepare the icing.


  • In large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and vanilla and blend.
  • Spread on cooled carrot cake.


  • Using a cake leveler or a bread knife, slice cakes in half to make 4 cake layers. Put a dab of frosting in the center of your plate. Place the first layer, cut side up on a plate. Slide cut 4″x4″ pieces of parchment or aluminum foil under your cake layer to protect the plate from getting frosting on it.
  • Frost bottom layer and add the second layer, repeat until you have the top layer on the cake. The top layer should be bottom side up, cut side down. The smoothest layer. Frost the top and sides with the remaining icing. Press the chopped toasted pecans on the sides of the cake. You can add a decorative touch by trimming the top in toasted whole pecans.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 1078cal | Carbohydrates: 131g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 60g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 141mg | Sodium: 385mg | Sugar: 111g | Fiber: 3g | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 2mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Best Ever Old Fashioned Carrot Cake - PIN

Originally published September 2011, updated and republished April 2024

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  1. what are you trying to do to me? I feel like baking everytime I step foot on your blog! This cake looks magical. simply delicious and since my husband's favorite cake is a toss up btw chocolate cake and carrot cake I know I must make this for him soon!

  2. Jessica, you crack me up. I am very happy that I have this effect on you though… It means my spell is working… baaahaaaahaaa ; )

  3. Donna, you are killing me. Here I thought it was the perfect carrot cake when I make it in a full sheet pan. Now you have to go and kick it up several notches with FOUR layers! Very pretty cake. (You should expect nothing remotely that gorgeous next week. Just saying… however, it will be made with love, so I PROMISE you will eat it and pretend it is fabulous!)

  4. This cake looks amazing!!! Seriously I love carrot cake and have never ever made one, but if I did and it looked like this I would be patting myself on the back lol. YUM!

  5. Oh, Donna, this looks incredible! More layers means more frosting! YUM…one of my favorite cakes!

  6. Holy moly, I've seen this cake in my PW cookbook as well and looks just as impressive. Ship me a slice please???

  7. I just absolutely, positively, most definitely rank carrot cake, any carrot cake, as my very very very favorite! And when it's layered like this especially so. I trust you when you say it's the best ever. I will definitely try this version. (I'm glad it doesn't have pineapple in it, and real carrots, no purees.)

  8. I saw this cake on Pinterest and knew that I had to make it. Let me tell you that it is truly the BEST cake that I have ever made and probably the BEST cake that I have ever eaten. My husband and his sister do not like cake and when I made them try it they each had to have a slice. THANK YOU! This recipe will stay in my cook book and be treasured for years to come.

  9. I altered the icing recipe by adding a couple tbs of lemon juice. The icing seemed too firm, so adding the lemon juice helped the consistency and added a nice taste to the icing. Cake was delicious!

  10. The icing seemed too firm, so I altered the recipe by adding some lemon juice, @ 2 tbs. This helped the consistency and added a little extra zip to the taste. Thanks for the recipe, it was delicious!

  11. I altered the icing recipe by adding a couple tbs of lemon juice. The icing seemed too firm, so adding the lemon juice helped the consistency and added a nice taste to the icing. Cake was delicious!

  12. 5 stars
    I made mini cupcakes with this recipe for a friends wedding and everyone loved them. I am not a fan of carrot cake but this one is different than any other recipe I have tried. I changed my mind and I loved these cupcakes. The frosting was also amazing! Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

  13. I have been using this recipe from another source for a while and can definitely guarantee its the best, I always have the best compliments and it such an easy one to make. I’ve also done cupcakes and a traybake using the same recipe. Never fails to 👍

  14. 5 stars
    Just made this carrot cake and it’s absolutely divine! So easy to follow, thanks Donna and Chad!

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