Old Fashioned Carrot Cake

Topped with thick cream cheese icing, this old fashioned carrot cake is the same recipe my great grandma used to make! Made from scratch this carrot cake is moist, tender, and makes for a delicious dessert!

Carrot cake topped with pecans on a white plate with green leaves

This traditional carrot cake is one of those recipes that never goes out of style. Made with real carrots, crunchy pecans, and basic pantry staples, it’s a dessert recipe you can almost always whip up.

Though there are countless variations you can try, the base carrot cake has a dense, moist texture and tastes best topped with homemade cream cheese icing. From there, you can decorate it however you wish, and it’ll always be a hit.

Use this Southern carrot cake as your go-to recipe for Easter dinner, potlucks, or social gatherings. Everyone always comes back for a second slice.

Ingredients You Need

There are two parts to this carrot cake recipe. Both require ingredients you probably already have on hand which makes this recipe even easier to come together.

For the carrot cake:

  • White sugar: This works best to blend into the flour and give a traditional flavor to the cake.
  • Grated carrots: Make sure to grate them as small as possible.
  • Pecans: You want an added bit of crunch but not large chunks, so chop them finely so that they don’t create air pockets.
  • Self-rising flour: If you have the time, sift your flour before you use it. This way it blends evenly.
  • Baking staples: You’ll also need basic ingredients like eggs, vegetable shortening, and vanilla extract.

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • Butter: Allow the butter to soften at room temperature before mixing it.
  • Confectioners sugar: You’ll be using a mixer so there’s no need to sift the sugar.
  • Cream cheese: Just like the butter, it will blend best if it’s allowed time to get to room temperature.
  • Vanilla extract: The higher quality of your extract the more flavor it will bring out.
sliced carrot cake with pecans on top

Tips For Success

  • Cream Cheese: Use full-fat cream cheese for the carrot cake. Anything less and not only does it detract from the rich and delicious flavor of the frosting, but it won’t be as thick texture-wise either.
  • Grease Your Pan: Don’t overlook either lining your baking pan with parchment paper or greasing it properly before pouring in the carrot cake batter. Otherwise, it’ll get stuck trying to remove it.
  • How To Know When It’s Done: Keep an eye on the last 5 minutes of cooking for the carrot cake. You want it to be golden on top and a bit bouncy when you touch it, that’s how you know it’s done. Do a toothpick test when you think it’s ready and if it comes out clean remove the carrot cake from the oven.
  • Let It Cool: Do not try to frost a warm cake, the icing will melt. Let the carrot cake cool completely for at least 30 minutes (though an hour is better) before frosting.

Making This Cake Ahead Of Time & Storage

The best part about traditional carrot cake is that it’s actually more delicious when it’s had time to sit! This means that you can easily prep the cake the day before you need it.

To prep if ahead of time: Bake your carrot cake and let it cool fully. Then, wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. When you need it, let it come to room temperature before frosting it.

Storing leftovers: To store leftover carrot cake place the pieces in an airtight container. In the fridge, they will stay fresh for 5-7 days.

Freezing: You can freeze unfrosted carrot cake wrapped in plastic wrap and then place it into a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge when you need it. Frosted carrot cake should be stored only in the fridge as it does not freeze well.

carrot cake with pecans on top

Variations

This old fashioned carrot cake is delicious exactly as it’s made. However, there are some fun ways to change up the texture and decorations.

Nuts: pecans pair best with carrot cake but they’re not the only option. Chopped walnuts, almonds, and pistachios are all delicious substitutions.

Raisins: People either love them or hate them in carrot cake. If you love them, feel free to add a handful to the batter for a chewy texture.

Toppings: Normally I decorate carrot cake with crushed or chopped pecans. However, drizzling it in caramel sauce, and topping it with carrot sprinkles, or candied pearls are all fun twists.

sliced carrot cake with pecans on top
Can I add pineapple to carrot cake?

Yes! If you’re using canned pineapple, make sure to drain the liquid first. For fresh pineapple, cut it into small pieces. Know that adding pineapple will add lots more moisture to the cake and cooking times may vary.

Is it better to use oil or butter in a cake?

For carrot cake oil tends to work better as it helps keep the cake moist.

What is the toothpick test on carrot cake?

The toothpick test is when you insert a toothpick into the middle of a cake, if it comes out clean your cake is done. However, if it comes out with chunks of batter on it your carrot cake needs more time to cook.

Carrot cake topped with pecans on a white plate with green leaves
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4.67 from 3 votes

Old Fashioned Carrot Cake

Just like my great grandma used to make, this old fashioned carrot cake recipe results in a moist cake topped with thick, rich cream cheese frosting.

Ingredients

  • For the cake:
  • 4 eggs
  • cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups self rising flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • For the icing:
  • 1 stick of butter softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Chopped pecans to garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan.
  • In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes to 1 hour – or until completely cooled.
  • To Make Frosting- Mix together butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake. Garnish with chopped pecans.

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