Nothing screams spring like Carrot Cake! This one is simple to make, super moist and flavorful, and is finished off with the creamiest cream cheese frosting! I’m also sharing all my tips and tricks for frosting a naked cake in this post – it’s so easy, so never fear if you’ve never decorated a cake before!
Just call me Peter Rabbit because I have been eating and loving carrot cake all week long! This cake required a few rounds of testing to get it just right but I am so pleased with the results! The cake layers are thick and moist, the frosting is creamy and sweet – but not overly so, and the whole thing is so flavorful and delicious.
I frosted this cake in the “naked” style. They scream fancy and beautiful while actually being one of the simplest ways to decorate a cake! Even if you have little to no cake decorating experience or skill, I’m confident that you can produce a lovely naked-frosted cake. I’ll tell you exactly how I do it.
How to Frost a Naked Cake:
Start by placing one cake layer on your cake stand, using strips of wax paper to protect the cake stand from getting messy. (Simply pull them away when you’re finished!) Frost a layer, making sure to spread the frosting over the edges of the cake a bit. Repeat with the next two layers! (I like to divide my frosting into 3 equal portions, giving slightly more to the portion that will cover the top and sides of the cake, with a food scale to make sure I don’t run out, but you can eyeball it too!).
Once you have frosting on the top of the 3rd layer, use the remaining frosting to dot the sides of the cake, in random places. Use a cake smoother (I love this one – best two dollars I’ve spent on a kitchen tool!) to smooth the frosting blobs – hold it against the side of the cake, and slowly turn the cake while pulling the scraper towards you. You’re essentially making a cleaner version of a crumb coat! Add more frosting in any places you feel need it. Use the back of a spoon to create swirls on the top – we’re going for artsy here, not perfect!
Another tool that makes frosting a breeze is an offset spatula! A regular silicone spatula works too, but an offset one speeds things up and I find it an incredibly worthwhile tool to have!
Sprinkle some chopped walnuts around the base of the cake for some simple decor – and that’s your naked cake.
Oh, I suppose we should talk about the rest of the cake as well!
How to Make Carrot Cake:
This cake batter comes together so quickly! We’re combining wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl and then alternating mixing in the dry ingredients and milk in thirds. Chopped walnuts and grated carrots get added last.
How to keep cake layers from sticking:
Grease your cake pans with shortening – use a paper towel to rub it all around, getting in every little nook of the pan. Then, add flour and tap it around until the shortening layer is completely coated. Tap out the excess flour. This method is foolproof – the cake layers release cleanly every time.
The elements of this cake, or the whole cake, can be made in advance! That makes life a little easier, especially when you’re entertaining. The cake layers can be made, cooled, and kept at room temp (wrapped up) for 1 day. Any longer, I’d store them in the fridge. The frosting can be made and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Happy Baking and Hop to It! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)
More Easter Desserts:
Easter Egg Blondies – These festive Easter blondies are thick, buttery, caramel-y, and topped with a robins egg candy frosting – just try to stop at one!
Perfect Classic Cheesecake with Homemade Strawberry Sauce – Light and creamy, with a crisp crust, and luscious strawberry sauce on top.
Easter Egg Seven Layer Bars – A graham cracker crust is topped with layers of coconut, pecans, sweetened condensed milk, semi sweet & white chocolate chips, and your favorite easter candy!
Raspberry Lemon Sweet Rolls – A jammy raspberry filling is baked inside a sweet, pillowy brioche dough.
Did you make this recipe? Snap a photo and leave a comment!
The Best Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Cake
- 3 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 and 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 and 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 5 large eggs
- 1 and 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 and 1/4 cup milk I used 2%, any kind should work
- 3 large carrots, finely grated
- 1 cup chopped walnuts Can omit if allergic or if you really hate nuts
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- 18 tbsp salted butter
- 18 oz cream cheese
- 7 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- pinch of salt
- extra walnuts, for garnish optional
- Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 9 inch cake pans well with shortening and coat with flour, tapping out the excess. Set aside. Grate your carrots and chop your walnuts.
- Make Cake Batter: Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through cloves as listed above) in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs, sugars, vanilla, and oil and mix with electric mixer until just combined. Add a third of the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Add a third of the milk, mix until just combined. Repeat two more times with remaining dry ingredients and milk, scraping the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated. Mix in the carrots and walnuts last. Divide batter evenly between the three prepared pans.
- Bake: Bake for 24-27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs, not wet batter. Let cakes cool in pans on cooling racks for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen and invert onto cooling racks to cool completely.
- Make the Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, cream softened butter. Add cream cheese and mix until well combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, 2 cups at a time, and mix until well combined. Add the milk in between powdered sugar additions to help keep things from getting so thick that the mixer struggles.
Mix in vanilla and salt last. Add up to 1/2 cup additional powdered sugar if the frosting is too thin or could use a little extra sweetness. Divide frosting into 3 equal parts (making the part for covering the top and the sides of the cake a little larger) using a food scale, if desired, to ensure even layers. This is totally optional - I usually eyeball it!
- Assemble Cake: Lay a thin strip of wax paper going in each direction on your cake stand, with the edges hanging over (forming a square with an opening in the center). Place one cake layer down, and frost, spreading the frosting a bit over the edges of the cake (see photo in post above). Repeat with second layer. Use remaining frosting to cover the top of the cake and dot the bare sides of the cake in random places, all the way around. Use a cake smoother/scraper to smooth the dots of frosting by holding it against the side of the cake, and slowly turning the cake and pulling the cake smoother towards you while turning the cake the opposite direction. Continue until desired effect is reached. Use the frosting removed by the cake smoother to add back to spots where you want more frosting. Create swirls on the top of the cake using a spoon. Remove wax paper strips when finished. Decorate the base of the cake with chopped walnuts if desired.
- Serve + Store: Enjoy immediately! Cake can be sliced into anywhere from 16-20 slices. Store leftovers tightly covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead Tips: The frosting and cake layers can be made a day in advance. Make cake layers and let cool completely. Place each on a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Store at room temp for a day or in the fridge for more than one day and up to three days. Cover frosting tightly and keep in fridge - let it sit out a little bit before frosting the cake so it's not solid as a rock and un-spreadable.
Order my new book: