Old Fashioned Carrot Cake

This classic carrot cake is made with raisins, pineapple, and nuts, and then topped with a tangy creamy frosting.

My old fashioned carrot cake recipe is an adaption of the carrot cake my mom used to make when I was a kid.

She made hers in a large 9×13 glass dish and topped it with a homemade cream cheese frosting.

It was one of the few desserts she made from scratch.

It’s also my second most favorite cake flavor, right after chocolate of course!

It’s mildly spiced and super moist with bits of carrots, raisins, and nuts. Then it’s topped with a lusciously sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting.

What’s not to love?

sweetness

Since this cake gets extra sweetness and richness from carrots, raisins, and pineapple, I normally use the lower amount of sugar listed in both the cake and frosting. It is perfectly sweet for my family.

frosting

As for the frosting, I don’t have my mom’s original recipe though I’m sure it was a standard cream cheese frosting. In fact, cream cheese frosting is so simple and basic, most recipes only have minor differences.

However, a while ago I came across a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, which uses buttermilk powder. The frosting was sweet and slightly tart, and the consistency felt thicker and more stable than the typical version.

I reduced the amount of sugar to 1 cup and it’s now my go-to recipe for cream cheese frosting; just make sure to use buttermilk powder, not actual buttermilk.

Of course, if you don’t have any, the frosting will still be delicious but more on the creamy side. Nothing wrong with that!

how to make carrot cake

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease and flour a 9×13 inch dish or 2 9-inch round cake pans. Save any flour leftover from greasing and stir it into 3/4-1 cup chopped nuts and 1/2 cup raisins. Set the nuts and raisins aside. Coating them in flour will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pan.

Then in a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup each of all-purpose and wheat flours, 2 teaspoons each of baking soda and baking powder, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon each of ground ginger and nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon salt. Set this dry mixture aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the 1/2-3/4 cup oil and 1/3-1/2 cup each of granulated and brown sugars for 2-3 minutes until creamy and light in color. Then add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Next, add in the flour mixture in 3 parts, only lightly mixing after each addition. Finally fold in 2 cups grated carrots. Make sure it’s mixed well into the batter.

Then add in 1 small can crushed pineapple, and the nuts and raisins.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.

If you used two 9-in pans, bake for 22-25 minutes. If you used a 9 x 13 pan, bake 40-50 minutes. The cake will be done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake cool in the pan/s for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting or the buttermilk one below

how to make Buttermilk Cream Cheese Frosting 

In a large bowl, add 8-16 tablespoons (or 1-2 sticks) softened unsalted butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, 3-4 tablespoons buttermilk powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and ⅛ tsp salt. Beat for 2-3 minutes until creamy and smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

I usually use about 12 tablespoons of butter and I think I could even get away with only 8 tablespoons (1 stick) and the frosting will taste fine. If you prefer it to taste more like buttercream and less “cream-cheesy,” use the full 2 sticks of butter.

Now, add small cubes of cold cream cheese to the creamed butter, one at a time, beating after each addition. You will need an 8 ounce block. Once all the cream cheese is incorporated, continue beating the frosting for 1-2 minutes until smooth

Carrot Cake Fruit and Nut Variations:

  • Dried Cranberries + Walnuts
  • Dried Apricots + Almonds
  • Dried Cherries + Pistachios
  • Dates + Cashews
  • Apples + Pecans

What My Kids Say:
10 year-old: “It’s fluffy and sweet, the raisins are plump and the nuts are crunchy.”
8 year-old: “It’s sweet, crumbly, and delicious. I like it because it has raisins and cream cheese frosting. It’s one of my favorites.”

Here Are Some Other Cake Recipes to Try

Chocolate Cake
A simple chocolate cake recipe, perfect for a special occasion or just a regular day!
Check out this recipe
Simple chocolate cake with fudge frosting.
Simple Plum Cake
A mildly sweet, tender buttery cake, with swirls of tart plums.
Check out this recipe
Individual Strawberry Shortcakes
Fluffy buttery biscuits topped with fresh strawberries and sweet cream!
Check out this recipe
Joby's Test Kitchen individual strawberry shortcake with fresh berries, whipped cream, and mint.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Mildly spiced cupcakes with bits of carrots, raisins, and nuts, and topped with a luscious sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting. 
Check out this recipe
Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and grated carrot on top.

Joby's Test Kitchen slice of 2 layer Carrot cake slice with cream cheese frosting.

Old Fashioned Carrot Cake

Joby’s Test Kitchen
A classic fluffy carrot cake paired with sweet and tangy frosting.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 1 Double Layer 9-Inch Cake or 9×13 Cake

Ingredients
  

Carrot Cake

  • 1 cup (120g) whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 2 tsps baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • ¼ tsp ginger, optional
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, optinal
  • 4 whole eggs
  • ⅓-½ cup (64-96g) white sugar
  • ⅓-½ cup (64-96g) brown sugar
  • ½-¾ cup (120-180ml) oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 3-4, depending on size)
  • ½ cup (80g) raisins
  • ¾-1 cup (90-120g) chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 small (8oz) can crushed pineapple

Buttermilk Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8-16 tbsps (1-2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened*
  • 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar or more if desired*
  • 3-4 tbsps buttermilk powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • tsp salt
  • 8 oz (1 block) cream cheese, chilled and cut into cubes

Instructions
 

Carrot Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan or 2 (9 inch) cake pans. Save any flour leftover from greasing and stir it into the nuts and raisins (this will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pan).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flours, salt, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, spices, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat together the oil and sugar for 1-2 minutes until creamy. Add the eggs , one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, mixing until just combined. Fold in the carrots, then the raisins and nuts. Pour into prepared pan/s.
  • Bake for 22-25 minutes (9-in pans) or 40-50 minutes (9 x 13 pan), until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan/s for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  • Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting or the buttermilk one below.

Buttermilk Cream Cheese Frosting

  • In a large bowl, beat together the first five ingredients for 2-3 minutes until creamy and smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
  • Add cubes of cream cheese, one at a time, beating after each addition. Then continue beating the frosting for 1-2 minutes until smooth.

Notes

Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • Butter: I wrote down a range for the butter, 8-16 tablespoons or 1-2 sticks. I use about 12 tablespoons, but I think you can get away with 1 stick and it will taste fine. Or if you prefer it more buttery than “cream-cheesy,” use the full 2 sticks of butter.
  • Buttermilk Powder: Not only does it add more tanginess, it also gives structure to the frosting. If you don’t have any, the frosting will still be delicious and more on the creamy side. Nothing wrong with that!
  • Powdered Sugar: The cake is already naturally sweet from the raisins and carrots, so I didn’t want an overly saccharin sweet frosting to go with it. The cream cheese and buttermilk add a hint of tartness that complements the sweetness of the cake. For a sweeter frosting increase the sugar by several tablespoons.
Keyword cake, carrots, cream cheese

 

 

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