This simple carrot cake is how I imagine a farmer celebrates late season Fall carrots – a simple sheet cake packed full of incredible flavor.
Carrot cake and cream cheese are such a classic combination, cream cheese adds richness while cutting down on sweetness for a luxurious cake that doesn’t end in a headache. Plus, it’s loaded with wholesome ingredients like carrots, golden raisins, and chopped walnuts with unrefined coconut sugar, making this a healthier dessert!
There’s an abundance of large, sweet carrots in the Fall so this is the perfect way to use them up. You can also use them to make Healthy and Moist Carrot-Parsnip-Zucchini Bread or Immunity-Boosting Turmeric Vegetable Soup which are both incredibly hearty and warming.
Do you have to peel carrots for carrot cake?
You don’t need to peel washed and scrubbed carrots, but you might want to anyway. Late season carrots – the kind that are perfectly sweet for carrot cake – develop a slightly bitter skin. When in doubt, taste the carrot and decide if it’s too bitter for you.
Easy Carrot Cake Steps
With this recipe, it’s all about simplifying things. Start by lining a rectangular baking dish with parchment paper to prevent the cake from sticking to the pan. Pull the butter and cream cheese from the refrigerator to come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
Use a stand mixer to cream the butter and sugar, then incorporate the wet ingredients. Add the dry and just mix a bit to combine. Then fold in the carrot, raisin, and walnuts. While the cake bakes, you can cream the frosting using a whisk attachment.
Before frosting the cake, let it cool a bit on a wire rack. Lay the frosting on in thick gobs and gently spread with a spatula (see photo above).
Dive into this cake while it’s fresh. This is by far the best part.
*Refrigerate leftover carrot cake, covered for 5 days.
I serve this carrot cake by the slice for a simple dessert but if you want to decorate it a bit, try adding chopped walnuts around the outside.
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Top Tips for Making Carrot Cake
- Use the small holes of a box grater for finely shredded carrots.
- Measure and use only 3 level cups of grated carrot (from 4 medium carrots).
- You can use either large or small golden raisins. Their tart, sweet flavor and chewy texture adds something unique (unlike regular raisins).
- Use room temperature butter, melted coconut oil, and room temperature cream cheese in this recipe.
- If you are unable to find refined coconut oil, then a neutral oil (like canola) is a fine substitute, indeed.
- I love the savory, sweet flavor and golden color of light golden coconut sugar, but you could also use granulated cane sugar.
P.S. If you don’t own a stand mixer, then I absolutely think you can still make this recipe with excellent results! Your standard egg-beater gadget will work wonders on the parts where you want to cream the ingredients. Now, if you have zero equipment, you can melt the butter instead for step #1 and mix everything by hand. Particularly for the frosting, you will have to use elbow grease for a smooth consistency.
*Are you making this recipe? Let me know if you had any trouble creaming the butter with the sugar in the comments below! I’m happy to troubleshoot anything with you.
Farmer’s Carrot Cake
- 2 cups light golden coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (half a stick), room temperature
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup refined coconut oil (melted), or canola oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 3 cups finely grated carrot, 4 medium carrots
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1 1/4 cup walnuts (4.75 oz), roughly chopped
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9 by 13-inch metal cake pan with parchment paper, leaving the ends hanging over the edges of the pan.
- Cream the sugar with the butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add remaining wet ingredients and mix until emulsified.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix briefly. You don't want to see dry flour at this point, but you also want to avoid developing the gluten – hence the "don't over-mix" phrase.
- Fold in carrots, raisins, and walnuts to distribute evenly. Pour into cake pan and tap on the counter to release air pockets. Bake 40 minutes until the cake is deeply golden, springs back to the touch, and a toothpick comes out crumb free.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Mix all the cream cheese frosting ingredients in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment for several minutes until very smooth and lump free. Apply the frosting to the carrot cake after it is cool in gobs. Spread gently with a flat spatula. Serve fresh and refrigerate leftover cake, covered for up to 5 days.