Everyone needs a super easy, super delicious carrot cake recipe in their repertoire! This recipe makes two cakes, one to enjoy and one to give away!
You'd laugh if you saw my freezer right now. You might be tempted to call it "the frozen carrot cake bakery". That's because it took quite a while to perfect this carrot cake recipe and there were a plethora of renditions. The test cases were all good but not great. Some were too thick and dry, some too thin, others too anemic in color and most of them were sunken in the center. But THIS carrot cake recipe is pure perfection. I think you're going to love it!
What makes a great carrot cake?
You might be wondering why I would try so many recipes. I had a preconceived idea of how I wanted my carrot cake to turn out, in other words, qualities my "ideal" carrot cake would include. Here's my list of what makes a great carrot cake:
- Moist and a little dense but tender at the same time.
- A beautiful deep golden caramel hue (with, of course, little flecks of orange carrot).
- A delicious blend of warm spices but not overpowering.
- Crushed pineapple. I love a carrot cake with tiny, almost imperceptible, bits of sweet, juicy pineapple.
- A nice flat or slightly mounded top... no sinking in the center.
- A simple glaze to lock in flavor and moisture.
- A really delicious icing that pairs beautifully with the flavors in the cake.
- And last, but definitely not least, it has to be EASY, actually ridiculously easy! I don't want to have to pull out my mixer or use a bunch of bowls. Both the cake and the icing need to be quick and easy.
Now you see why it took me a while to perfect this carrot cake recipe. In the end, I adapted a recipe from King Arthur Baking, one of my favorite recipe sites. I made lots of changes but the original recipe credit goes to them and it IS most definitely "a great carrot cake"!
No cream cheese icing?
Nope! I know that carrot cake and cream cheese icing go together like peas and a pod and I enjoy really cream cheese icing. But for this carrot cake recipe, I wanted something unique and also an icing that didn't need refrigeration. The rule of thumb (from the experts at Cook's Illustrated), is that cakes with cream cheese icing shouldn't sit out more than two hours to avoid any food safety risks. Unless you're a fan of cold cake that means a cake with cream cheese icing has to be brought to room temperature before it can be enjoyed. A little to much fussiness for me!
This carrot cake recipe actually has two options for icing. The first one isn't really an icing but instead is a super easy glaze that's brushed on after the cake is baked and turned out of the pan. The glaze seals in the moisture and gives the cake a pretty shine. You can stop right there and have a DELICIOUS carrot cake.
But if you want to indulge a bit more, there's an AMAZING brown butter caramel icing option. To keep things easy, you can brown the butter and stir up the icing (no mixer needed!) in the same pot.
Enjoy One, Gift One!
This carrot cake recipe actually makes two 8-inch round cakes. You can cut the recipe in half and just make one but why not make one for yourself and give the other away? I love to stash the second cake in the freezer so I always have a gift available for a neighbor, teacher, hairdresser or just to cheer up a friend in need.
We've created a pretty label for gifting this carrot cake. If you'd like to receive the free printable labels and links for the ribbon and boxes pictured (above and below), simply let us know in the comment section below this post and we'll email the labels and instructions on how to use them.
I've served this carrot cake to guests for dessert several times recently. Everyone who's tried it has LOVED it. I think you will too!
Café Tips for making this One-Bowl, No-Mixer Carrot Cake Recipe
- This carrot cake recipe calls for "neutral-flavored oil". What does that mean? It just means oil that doesn't have a strong flavor of its own. Canola, sunflower, safflower, avocado, vegetable and grape seed oil are all neutral-flavored oils. Although I'm a big fan of butter when baking, I wouldn't sub butter for the oil in this cake as it won't be as moist.
- You will need two 8-inch cake pans (with sides that are at least 2 inches tall for this recipe. Most cake pans these days have 2-inch tall sides but if your pans are older, they might not be that tall. If that's the case, it would be better to use 9-inch pans. Your cakes will be a little lower but no less delicious!
- If you're in the market for new cake pans, I LOVE these sturdy, easy-to-clean pans. I've had mine for years, put them in the dishwasher all the time and they still look like new.
- As mentioned above, this recipe makes TWO 8 or 9-inch cakes, one to enjoy, one to give away (or freeze for a rainy day). It's easy, however, to cut the recipe in half if you prefer just one cake.
- I recommend spraying the cake pan(s) with baking spray AND lining it with parchment paper to ensure an easy release. Baking spray is different than non-stick cooking spray in that it contains flour in addition to shortening. I like the Baker's Joy brand of baking spray but have also used my local grocery store's generic brand with good success.
- To eliminate extra work, I love these parchment paper circles.
- It's super important to drain the crushed pineapple well when making this carrot cake. If it's not well drained, the cake can sink in the center.
- For those of you living outside the United States, you might not be familiar with half and half. Half and half is an American convenience product often used in coffee. It's a combination of half milk and half cream.
- I like to use a few drops of almond extract in addition to the vanilla extract in the icing. It adds a touch of delicious flavor however almond extract has a strong flavor so use a light hand (just a little bit). You can also skip it if you prefer.
Thought for the day:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations, and ideas for variations.
Everyone needs a super easy, super delicious carrot cake recipe in their repertoire! This Ridiculously Easy Carrot Cake Recipe makes two cakes, one to enjoy and one to give away!
- 8 ounces can crushed pineapple in pineapple juice not syrup
- 10 ounces shredded carrots (I use one 10-ounce bag) or you can use 3 cups of finely shredded carrots (3-4 average size carrots)
- 1¼ cups neutral flavored oil
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar (I use dark brown sugar but light brown will also work)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon cloves ground cloves
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- ¼ cup hot water
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick) I used salted
- 4 tablespoons half and half or milk maybe a bit more
- ½ cup brown sugar I use dark brown sugar but light will also work.
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon almond extract optional
- 3 cups powdered sugar maybe a bit more
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 8-inch cake pans (with sides that are at least 2 inches tall) with baking spray. Line each pan with a circle of parchment paper. Set aside. Place a piece of parchment paper or foil on a work surface. Place a cooling rack onto the parchment (or foil).
Place the crushed pineapple in a fine-mesh strainer and push on it with the back of a spoon until all of the juice has been removed. Set it aside (in the strainer) to continue draining while you prepare the batter.
If using bagged carrots, transfer them to a large cutting board and, using a long sharp knife, cut through them in several directions until all the shreds are fairly finely chopped. This should take about 1 minute. Set aside.
Combine the oil, sugars and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
Add the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the batter and whisk well until everything is well incorporated.
Add the flour, stirring until well blended.
Add the carrots, coconut and well-drained pineapple and stir until everything is incorporated. Divide the batter between the prepared pans.
Bake the cakes for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. You can also check the temperature (most accurate) with an instant thermometer. The temperature in the center of the cake should be 200-210˚F when perfectly done. (If you're using a 9-inch pan, the baking time will be slightly less. Check it at 32-35 minutes, then every few minutes after that.)
Cool in the pans for 10 minutes then turn out onto the prepared cooling rack and brush all over with the glaze. You can let the cake cool and serve it like this or add the optional brown butter caramel icing (directions below). Just make sure to allow the cake to cool completely before adding the brown butter caramel icing.
While the cake is baking, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, hot water and vanilla in a medium-size microwave-safe bowl. Stir with a fork or small whisk to combine. If there are any lumps in the glaze, microwave for 40-50 seconds then stir again. Set aside until the cake is finished baking.
After the glazed cake has completely cooled, make the icing. In a medium-large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue cooking, swirling the pan occasionally. At first, the butter will foam up and make a sizzling sound. This is the water being cooked off. When the sizzling sound stops, pay close attention. You’ll start to notice the foaming turning color.
As soon as you see a deep golden color remove the pan from the heat and add the half and half (or milk) and the brown sugar. Stir to combine, then return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously for 1 minute.
Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and almond extracts and the powdered sugar. Stir with a whisk until smooth and creamy. You want thick but spreadable icing. If the icing seems thin, add a little more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick add more half and half, just a teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Divide the icing between the two cakes and spread it to the edges, swirling it with your knife or the back of a spoon.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
If you prefer to use Metric measurements there is a button in each of our recipes, right above the word “Instructions”. Just click that button to toggle to grams, milliliters, etc. If you ever come across one of our recipes that doesn't have the Metric conversion (some of the older recipes may not), feel free to leave a comment and I will add it.
Adapted from King Arthur