Looking for an easy carrot cake recipe that you can whip together in no time with no fuss? Look no further! This Simple Carrot Snack Cake is richly flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and brown butter and has a tender, moist crumb that perfectly offsets the velvety cream cheese frosting. It is, quite simply, carrot cake perfection.
And it really is as simple as it is delicious, I promise. No fussing around with multiple cake layers or pastry bags....just a simply sublime square cake topped with silky cream cheese frosting. Who knew that carrot cake was so easy and approachable? Keep reading for step-by-step instructions for making this unforgettable carrot cake!
Why This Recipe Works
- This carrot cake is the essence of simplicity....shredded carrots, the right amount of spice and luscious cream cheese frosting. No pineapple, shredded coconut or chopped nuts. Just the basics.
- This recipe uses a combination of brown butter (butter that has been melted and cooked until brown in color) and canola oil which creates a richly flavored cake with a moist crumb.
- The ratio of cake to frosting is spot on....just the right amount of silky cream cheese frosting in each bite!
For the Cake
- It's important to start with whole carrots and grate them yourself rather than using bagged pre-shredded carrots from the grocery store. The latter are lacking in moisture and will result in a dry cake with an unpleasant texture.
- As I mentioned above, his recipe uses a combination of brown butter (butter that has been melted and cooked until golden brown in color) and canola oil which creates a richly flavored cake with a moist crumb.
- Cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg bring cozy warm spice to the recipe.
- A combination of brown sugar and granulated sugar provides the sweetness in this cake.
For the Frosting
Cream cheese frosting is so delightfully easy to make. This simple combination of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and just a pinch of salt creates an unforgettably smooth and creamy frosting that goes perfectly with the spiced carrot cake.
How to Make This Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour an 8 inch square baking pan. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan or skillet over medium low heat. Once it is fully melted, continue to cook, swirling the butter in the pan frequently, until the melted butter begins to smell nutty and turns golden brown in color. Remove from the heat and immediately transfer to a small bowl to cool to room temperature.
- Whisk the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk the eggs, sugar and brown sugar together in a large bowl until completely smooth and no lumps of sugar remain. Whisk in canola oil, cooled brown butter and vanilla.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and fold together using a rubber spatula until just a few streaks of flour remain. Fold in carrots until evenly distributed throughout the batter.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely in the pan.
- Once the cake has cooled, mix the frosting: Combined the butter and cream cheese together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium until fully combined. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Mix on medium until the frosting is light and creamy, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Transfer the frosting to the top of the cooled cake and spread evenly over the surface. Serve!
- Grate your own carrots using the large holes on a box grater or the grating disk on your food processor. The carrots that are shredded and pre-packaged are dry and contain little moisture in comparison to freshly grated carrots. That moisture helps create a tender, moist cake and helps the shredded carrots soften and bake properly into the cake.
- Don't want to bother with the brown butter? Simply substitute ¼ cup of canola oil or plain melted for the brown butter instead.
- Don't over mix the batter once you add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. This can create a tough rather than tender final product.
- To ensure a perfectly smooth frosting, make sure your butter and cream cheese are at room temperature before mixing the ingredients together.
Oil has more fat than butter (butter is part water), and the oil gives the cake that moist, almost dense quality we associate with carrot cake.
Yes! It keeps nicely for a day or two covered in the refrigerator. Take it out an hour or two before you want to serve it so that it can come up to a cool room temperature. If you are serving it for guests, I would plan on serving it within a day of baking for best results. Any leftovers will continue to keep covered in the refrigerator for another couple of days, but the texture of the cake will become a little drier over time.
Yes! Tightly wrap the unfrosted cake and place in a freezer bag or wrap in a layer of foil. Stash in the freezer until you are ready to enjoy. Take the cake out and let it defrost to room temperature. Right before serving, make the frosting and proceed with the recipe as directed.
Yes! Double the ingredients and bake in a 9x13 pan. You may need a little extra baking time with a larger cake so plan accordingly.
Looking for more delicious and easy cake recipes? I've got several here on the blog:
Simple Carrot Snack Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Carrot Cake:
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup canola oil or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups packed grated carrots about 8 ounces
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 6 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 inch square cake pan. set aside.
- Place the butter in a medium saucepan or skillet (preferably not nonstick or cast iron so that you can more easily see the color change) and heat over medium low heat, swirling the pan frequently. Once the butter has melted, continue to cook over medium low swirling the pan frequently until the butter has a nutty aroma and is golden brown in color. Don’t walk away from the stove! Brown butter can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds. Transfer brown butter to a bowl to cool.
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom in a medium bowl. Whisk together and set aside.
- Combine eggs, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a large bowl and whisk until fully combined and no lumps of sugar remain. Slowly whisk in oil followed by cooled brown butter and vanilla extract. Keep whisking until the mixture is emulsified and cohesive.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just a few streaks of flour remain. Fold in carrots until the batter is just combined.
- Using a rubber spatula, transfer cake batter to prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a tester poked into the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached. Set cake aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting: Combine butter and cream cheese in work bowl of a stand mixer. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium until fully combined, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as necessary.
- Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Return the speed to medium and beat until the frosting is completely smooth, about 1-2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice, as necessary.
- Once cake has cooled completely, spread evenly frosting on top. Serve or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
If you loved this recipe, give it a star review! Also, snap a picture of your Simple Carrot Snack Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #truenorthkitchen and tagging me @true_north_kitchen.
So good! We doubled it for our Easter dinner this year (plus some extra frosting for a 2-layer cake). The browned butter made it extra nice. 🙂 Since I was out of nutmeg, I subbed a small amount of cardamom. Thank you, Kristi!
That's so great, Deb! Love the layer cake idea AND the addition of cardamom. So goad you enjoyed it! Brown butter is magical, I think. Thanks for your feedback!
My favorite carrot cake recipe!
This carrot cake looked so delicious. I will make on Mother's Day. Thank you for sharing recipe.
Thanks for your note! This will make a perfect Mother's Day treat. I hope you enjoy it!
I have not tried the recipe yet but I want to add pineapple and nuts. I'm just not sure how much of each. If you have any suggestions I would love your help! This is a recipe that is the closest to what my mom used to make for me before she passed away. Any help will be greatly appreci
Thanks for your question! I think I might try 3/4 cup of both crushed pineapple and chopped pecans or walnuts. Let me know how it turns out!
Wonderful recipe! I have a Q. What would be the baking temp and time for baking this recipe in a standard loaf pan? Plz advise
I haven't tried this in a 9x5 pan, but I think I would leave the temp the same and just add some time to compensate for the thickness of the cake. I would just keep an eye on it and do the poke test when it is starting to look done to make sure it is baked all the way through. Hope this helps!