Carrots have been included in sweet recipes in Britain since mediaeval times. Because carrots provided a cheaper and more easily available alternative to other sweeteners, their use was encouraged during the Second World War, at the time of rationing. Carrot cake however, didn’t really take off in popularity until the last quarter of the twentieth century; now you’ll find it in every coffee shop and tea room.
Apart from the fact that it tastes delicious, there’s an air of wholesomeness about carrot cake, a feeling that not only is it not bad for you but it’s actually doing you good! And if that’s your reason for baking it, far be it from us to disillusion you! There are probably as many recipes for carrot cake as there are people who make it, but we’ll try to help you consider the options, to allow you to experiment, as well as share our favourite recipe.
How to Choose the Right Ingredients
Fat - the fat you use will determine the method – creaming or all-in-one - as well. Butter or margarine is one option but more usually oil is used. Olive oil is too heavy; a light vegetable oil - groundnut maybe - is the best choice.
Flour - it’s got to be wholemeal – organic stoneground if you like – for the healthy option. Self-raising is best, with baking powder and spices (cinnamon, mixed, nutmeg) sieved in. Most recipes call for some extra bicarbonate of soda to help the raising process as well.
Sugar - dark and brown for a lovely rich colour as well as that moist sweetness that is so associated with carrot cake. Weightwatchers UK use runny honey as an alternative – yes, there is a diet version of Carrot Cake!
Carrots - find the easiest way you can to grate them! If you have a food processor, use that, otherwise it’s a time-consuming job...and take care not to grate your fingers! When you put the grated carrot in the bowl you might fear you’re going to end up with a cake full of bits, but don’t worry: they soften as they cook and become unrecognisable.
Eggs - last but not least, the number of eggs – free-range large are best – you can use from 2 to 4 range. Add to that a pinch of salt to draw out flavour.
And Now... the Perfect Carrot Cake
These quantities make a 9” round cake
350g (12½ oz) carrots
56g (2oz) pecans
110g (4oz) self-raising wholemeal flour
110g (4oz) plain wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
240ml (8floz) vegetable oil
170g (6oz) soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
Start off by grating the carrots and chopping the pecans. Put to one side. Sieve together self-raising flour and plain flour (both wholemeal) with cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg and bicarbonate of soda. (Tip the bran bits left in the sieve into the mixture.)
Whisk together the vegetable oil, sugar,eggs and golden syrup. (Heat the spoon first and the syrup will slide off easily.)
Add this to the dry ingredients and mix until it’s nice and smooth. Stir in the carrots and pecans. Tip the mixture into a greased lined tin and cook at 160ºC for an hour, or until cooked.
The zest and juice of a lemon or orange add their own distinctive zing to the cake, or you might prefer to drop in a teaspoonful of vanilla essence. Think of what flavour topping you want and use the same for the cake.
Desiccated coconut adds a distinctive taste and texture to the cake, as do ground almonds. Less intrusively you can add chopped walnuts or pecans to the mix, using the same nuts to decorate the topping. Less usual, but if you particularly like them, you could include sultanas or raisins. So much choice and we haven’t even looked at topping yet!
Most recipes agree on the topping: a mixture of cream cheese and Icing Sugar, sometimes with a little unsalted butter. Where the recipes disagree is on proportions. It really comes down to how sweet or creamy you like your topping to be.
Include a flavouring of your choice, beat it all together, adding a little milk if it’s too stiff and you’ve got your topping ready to spread on the cooled cake. Decorate with nuts, zest or leave simple. Of course, you can use low-fat cheese or leave the cake unfrosted. It will still be delicious!
Ingredients for the topping
200g (7oz) cream cheese
56g (2oz) softened unsalted butter
56g (2oz) sifted icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
For the topping, mix cream cheese, softened unsalted butter, sifted icing sugar and vanilla essence, until smooth. Allow the cake to cool and then add the topping. This cake will keep for a few days in an airtight container. That is, if you can resist it that long!
We're always happy to hear your results and suggestions. One of our readers, Giuseppe, has sent us his tips below:
"Well I tried it and I have to say that it was a big hit: the wholemeal flour, the spices, the brown sugar and the sweet carrots win over all my family and I as well. My only change I feel I can suggest is the use of coconut instead of nuts in the mixture and the use of a simple topping of cream, whipping or plain, instead of a cheesy one that in my opinion hides the delicate taste of this delicious cake. In order to preserve the delicate taste I also reduced the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon."
Another reader says she loved this recipe - here's her tip:
"Well done to you cake baker, the carrot cake recipe is perfect. I added lemon and lime to the topping and some lemon to the cake itself as you suggested matching the top with the cake and this worked really well".
And Jana suggests "use a honey for a topping, result is great!"
Want to Try More?
If you fancy experimenting and baking cakes with different types of fruit (or even vegetables), take a look at feature on how to adapt a fruit cake to your own tastes.
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This is the best carrot cake recipe ever. I've been using it for 4 years now. It is moist, flavoursome yet not too sweet. The topping is just right to compliment the cake. I also make slight adjustments in that I use walnuts instead of pecans (prefer the flavour) and I double the amount of cream cheese and sandwich it in-between the cake. So moreish! A hit in my house and I will never use another carrot cake recipe.
Dawnie - 12-Apr-13 @ 5:29 PM
The recipe is excellent - however the picture looks quite horrible. It doesn't look cooked!
Ducks - 28-Feb-13 @ 5:54 PM
I love this carrot cake I make it all the time my hubby and friends love it always there when I have guest and its always a success just since I change my oven to a gas oven its quite hard to cookit now it burn a bit or not cooked enough inside I don't know what to do to cook it fine please help me my oven gas mark are from 1 to 9 and i tried low or high but still nothing
Bella - 25-Jan-13 @ 11:43 PM
Hi, does all your recipes make deep 3" cakes, alot of recipes I seem to come across just make your average cake of just over 2" deep and wanting to make celebration cakes with more depth, thanks.x
Tri - 17-Dec-12 @ 9:06 PM
This is the BEST carrot cake recipe EVER!!!!
I had it written out and thought I had lost it but it is by far the best I have it on VERY good authority, once you use this recipe you will never use another trust me!!!
Lana87 - 4-Aug-12 @ 2:12 PM
I made this cake last weekend, added 100 grams of raisins and brushed it with orange syrup as soon as it came out of the oven. It tastes wonderful. My partner's favourite cake. Fantastic recipe.
Southam56 - 27-Jul-12 @ 2:00 PM
This is a full proof recipe for me!I modified it by using only wholemeal flour and also using walnuts.Pecans seem a bit sickly but may that's my British palate.
I used to do the topping with just some philadelphia cream cheese and a very small amount of butter and a very small amount of icing sugar and put in lemon and orange rind.I also put the rinds in the cake.My other ingredient is putting in dessicated coconut.
I get a very moist, wholesome cake which seems to keep for ages and freezes perfectly.I have also made muffins with it and have put in other fruit like apples and pineapples and used the syrup from the pineapple tin to replace some of the golden syrup and these are so moreish.Again, these freeze well and i just re-heat in a microwave and almost like a sponge pudding!
Thanks for this recipe.I have been making it for nearly 4 years now and I always make it for my birthday!
HForth - 23-Jul-12 @ 10:58 PM
Hi, has anyone used this mixture to make individual cupcakes ? If so would you use the same quantities or possibly half the ingredients ? I'd like to make about 10 cupcakes.
Sweetie Pie - 13-Jul-12 @ 9:46 PM
Hi Terry, Yes wholemeal in the UK equates to Wholewheat in the US.
Trying the recipe for the first time (its in the oven now) fingers crossed!!
Jake74 - 23-Jun-12 @ 8:33 PM
I'm from the U.S.... by "wholemeal"do you mean what we call "wholewheat" flour?
Terry - 19-Jun-12 @ 10:43 PM
Absolutely delicious.This is the carrot cake recipe I have been searching for.It's easy to make, soft, moist and has just the right hint of spices.I used walnuts rather than pecans, baked it in an 8 inch square tin and topped it with a lemon and cream cheese icing.The only complaint I have is that it's so scrummy my husband and I can't stop eating it.
FunBakin' - 15-Jun-12 @ 10:10 PM
I'VE MADE THIS CAKE 3 TIMES NOW AND I HAD SOMTHING DIFFERENT EVERY TIME. I REPLACED PECANS WITH WALNUTS AS THEY'RE EASIER TO GET HOLD OF. I ADDED THE JUICE AND ZEST OF AN ORANGE AND IT MADE THE CAKE SO MOIST.
I THINK NEXT TIME I MAKE IT I WILL SEPERATE THE MIXURE INTO 2 TINS AS THERE SEEMS TO BE A LOT OF THE MIXTURE.
MISSMAY - 15-Jun-12 @ 3:34 PM
This is a good moist cake, the mixture is quite runny and I used a 9inch spring form tin, well lined and it was fine. I used molasses sugar and found this gave it great depth, I also added orange zest, 100g of walnuts and 100g of raisins. It took around 1 hour and 30 minutes to bake. I found the topping recipe too runny so had to add quite a bit more icing sugar to the cream cheese and butter mix to make it thick enough to stay on top of the cake..
Grahame - 4-Jun-12 @ 11:03 AM
Hi I love the recipe but I'm not keen on the topping, it's to much cheese and not thick enough for me, could you put more butter and less cream cheese in to sweeten and thicken the topping? Whenever I have this cake out the frosting is always sweet and thick, addictive.
Jo - 30-May-12 @ 8:20 PM
The uncooked recipe is very runny and I (rather stupidly) made the mistake of puting it into a loose bottomed cake tin, which resulted in it leaking out! At this stage I thought I definitely won't be using this recipe again and rescued the rest of the gloopy mess into two smaller cake tins with fixed bottoms. I dumped the the tins in the oven, not expecting to be impressed with the end result- how wrong was I? This is the best carrot cake recipe I have ever used and intend to use it from now on. It produces a beautiful, moist and light textured cake. I modified the recipe slightly by using black treacle instead of syrup and double the amount of spices, as both myself and family like a more flavoursome cake. Thank you for a fab recipe.
Artyjaykay - 19-May-12 @ 1:54 PM
Hi Marg. Did you use full fat soft cheese? We've found using low fat makes it a bit runny.
CakeBaker - 19-Mar-12 @ 2:03 PM
Cake is absolutely gorgeous, and smells just like Druckers recipe.My only problem was the topping was quite runny, did anybody else find this and if so how did you cure it without using loads more icing sugar and making it too sweet?
Marg - 17-Mar-12 @ 2:58 PM
madethe carrot cake lots of times the only tip i will give is i use a pack of fresh grated garrot and leave a few bits to srinkle on top of cream top taste and looks good to.
chrissy - 25-Jan-12 @ 6:25 PM
Hello everyone ,Iv'e been making this carrot cake recipe for a long time ,It is adored by everyone ,the only thing I do different is that I omit the pecans & add 3oz of chopped up sultanas instead.Also when I make the topping I mix the ingredients very gently ,I found if I whisked them it would go too runny !x
sheila - 27-Dec-11 @ 8:02 PM
I cannot find wholemeal self raising flour . How much baking powder should I add into the plain wholemeal flour?
haluhalu - 22-Dec-11 @ 2:44 AM
I dont have a 9 inch cake tin, and it doesnt say how deep? Is it deep cake tin or sandwich tin or what, I have had to resort to 2 x loaf tins measuring 8 x 4 x 3 so not sure what temperature or time as tins different in oven now so finger crossed.
annie - 22-Nov-11 @ 6:43 PM
Hi Cruznv. No the only recipes we show in cups are those with USA origins. Here in the UK and most of Europe we use metric or imperial measurement. You could try using an online convertion tool to change measurements.
CakeBaker - 12-Oct-11 @ 10:44 AM
Haven't tried this recipe yet, but it looks like it would be delicious.I was wondering, do you ever, (or could you) publish your recipe ingredients measured in cups, instead of only milliliters/ounces. since cups is the measurements we use most in our country and for those who don't have a weigh scale or metric measurement tools.
cruznv - 11-Oct-11 @ 10:26 PM
Can you tell me if this carrot cake recipe is suitable for a 3 tier stacked wedding cake I need to know ASAP.thanksJOY
george - 19-Aug-11 @ 6:46 PM
This is the best carrot cake!!! I just baked it and tasted it. It is soo delicious, not too sweet, moisty, absolutely fantastic! Since I am not from the UK I used honey instead of golden syrup, and also I used ordinary flour and just added some bran. The brown sugar gives the cake this lovely colour, mmmm! Thanks for such a good and easy recipe!
Darina - 10-Aug-11 @ 10:13 AM
my first attempt at carrot cake and i must say it tastes AMAZING! think i messed up the topping though, i mixed it with the mixer and not by hand which caused it to go a bit runny :(
Yummy Mummy - 29-May-11 @ 1:34 PM
This carrot cake recipe is FANTASTIC! Thanks! :D
sami90 - 10-Apr-11 @ 7:07 PM
I make these into muffins and not only does my son (who HATES carrots) adore them. but so do all the women at playgroup and anywhere else I take them. Seriously the most fabulous recipe I have found and am now HOOKED onto this awesome website. The most perfect moist carrot cakes EVER! Thank you.
mummystreats - 5-Apr-11 @ 9:21 PM
We're onto our fourth today. For the topping you can replace cream cheese with curds - but do not include butter! I think we may be slightly addicted! We replaced pecans with walnuts - works just as well! Enjoy!