Homemade Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

by Maris Callahan on May 19, 2009


I’m a strong supporter of the expression “time flies when you’re having fun.” A lengthy car ride can be excruciating yet a week of beachside vacation seems to be over as quickly as you can blink.
This past weekend, my younger brother graduated college.

I’m not especially weepy about the event in and of itself – graduations are a blast. The two-hour ceremony (which I correctly predicted would be similar in nature to the car ride I described above) is a small price to pay for a weekend of restaurants, parties and dorky photos of a few thousand cap-and-gowned entrants to the already sparse job market.

The part that gets me is the fact that if my little brother is old enough to graduate college than that makes me…well, not old, exactly but older. Older than I was three years ago when I walked across a stage, in the shortest heels I could find to decrease the likelihood of tripping, to receive my own diploma.

Graduating is both exciting (a time for celebration) and scary (what comes next?) Luckily, I can’t think of better remedy for nerves or a better way to celebrate than cake. My brother, who in his early youth sustained a strict, self-imposed diet regimen of hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and plain cheese pizza, has for some reason always loved carrot cake.

Why he would choose a vegetable-based cake over, say, a chocolate cake with chocolate on top of more chocolate, is beyond me, but what the graduate wants, the graduate gets.
And as a side note, did you know that carrot cake batter is really orange? Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting but my shock was palpable when I peeked over the rim of the bowl of my KitchenAid and saw what was going on in there.


Walnut Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


1 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 pound raw carrots (about 2 1/2 cups finely grated)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting:

¼ cup unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp. lemon zest (about one small lemon)
1 tsp vanilla extract



1. Preheat oven to 350F and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter or spray 9 x 2 inch cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper (I was out of parchment paper and had to wiggle the pans a little in order to remove the cakes, but they didn’t stick significantly.

2. Toast the pecans or walnuts for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely. Peel and finely grate the carrots. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the eggs until frothy (about 1 minute). Gradually add the sugar and beat until the batter is thick and light colored, about 3-4 minutes.

4. Add the oil in a steady stream and then beat in vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. With a large rubber spatula, fold in carrots and walnuts.

5. Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. After about ten minutes, invert the cakes onto the wire rack, remove the pans and let cool completely before frosting.


1. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese and butter on low speed, or until just blended or with no lumps (or in my case, a few lumps that you can cleverly disguise later with walnuts). Graudally add sugar until fully incorporated and smooth. Blend in vanilla and lemon zest.

2. To assemble: Place one cake layer, top side down on your serving plate (or use a level or serrated knife to remove cake’s crown). Spread with about 1/3 of frosting. Gently place the other cake, top side up, onto the frosting and spread the rest over the top and sides of cake. If desired, top cake with remaining toasted walnuts or pecans.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Kerstin May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Oops – was logged in under my hubby’s account – although, he loves carrot cake too! I’ve been doing this way too often lately, I need to get my own account!


Apolinaras Sinkevicius May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

I LOVE carrot cake – it’s my absolute favorite and we served it at our wedding (along with chocolate for those that did’t like it)! Your looks amazing :)
Congrats to your brother! I felt the same way when my little brother graduated.


Blond Duck May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Carrot cakes is one of the only cakes I inhale. :)


Rachel May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

I have fond memories of eating carrot cake as a child. It is one of the only cakes my mom makes from scratch, and it is my Dad’s favorite! Your cake looks wonderful! Oh…we are taking that long car ride this year to a beach vacation. :) Congratulations to your brother!


burpexcuzme May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

congratulations to your brother! the carrot cake look ginormous and hunky and delicious! love the chopped walnuts pressed on top!


Sara May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

All I can say is yum. This looks amazing! Carrot cake is my husband’s favorite.


bodelou May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

this looks so yummy. mmmmmmm.


Jamie May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

You think you feel old? What about when your SON starts college! Yipes!
LOL your post is so funny and so true : Time flies when you are eating carrot cake! Strange that your brother grew up eating like one of my sons yet he adores carrot cake? Somebody must have made one heck of a great carrot cake! Yours looks divine?


Elyse May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Congrats to your brother! I, like you, cannot think of a better way to celebrate than with cake. This carrot cake looks especially divine. Chock full of wonderful nuts and topped with deliciously creamy frosting. Fabulous!


elra May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Congratulation to your brother. What a delicious cake to celebrate his happy day. It look delicious!


Rosa May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

What a beautiful carrot cake! very tempting and delicious looking!


Pearl May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

congratulations to your brother!


Sophie May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Congrats to your brother!! Congrats to you for such a beautiful cake!


Liz May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Wow that looks delicious. Admittedly I’m a sucker for carrot cake too. I’m not a huge fan of sweets so I like the way the spices cut the sweetness of the frosting. I’ve never tried making it though, which is probably a good thing. I’m not sure I could have just one piece!


Erin May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Great job!


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

I’ve never been a fan of carrot cake, no matter how gooey the icing, but your brother deserves one last bit of pampering before going out into the real world!


kelly61 May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Looks great! We had one of those graduation weekends too, with a super cake and BBQ. Graduation is all about food and drink, lots of it ;-)


Erica May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Congrats to your bro! Very exciting :) mmmmmm this carrot cake looks awesome! I bet her was super excited- what a great way to celebrate the big day!


kat May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

A good carrot cake is really the best!


mandy May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Congrats to your brother. I once made carrot cake cupcakes, they were delicious. This looks equally delicious.


Matt May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Wheres the raisins? You cant make carrot cake without the raisins!


grace May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

maris. you slay me. i love your writing–it reminds me of what goes on in my own head. :)
congrats to your little bro, and i can definitely empathize with you. mine chose to go back for more in pursuit of his phd…i can only assume it’s because he wanted another cake at the end. :)
oh, and i guess i should note that carrot cake is my favorite too (especially the cream-cheese-frosted variety), and this one looks STELLAR.


thatShortChick May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

for me the best (and only) part of carrot cake that I enjoy is the frosting.
and that looks like it would not disappoint.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

Fabulous cake Maris! This is exactly how I love my carrot cake-with cream cheese frosting, moist centre and walnut on top! You’re making me drool as I haven’t had carrot cake in years!


Jenn@slim-shoppin May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

Congrats to your brother!!!
I absolutely love carrot cake, but I hardly ever make it because I’m the only one in my family who will eat it, and that’s not a good combo!
Thanks for sharing the recipe!


Bridgett May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

My goodness, this cake looks absolutely divine! Very impressive and gorgeous cake.


Venus May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

You should sell these. For people like me who are too lazy or too inept to produce such goodness. :) It looks lovely and delicious as always!


RebeccaC May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

I am amused by your assessment of yourself as “older” having graduated 3 years ago. Mine was 8 years ago and I still get laughed at as the “baby” among colleagues and friends. You have many cake-eating days left my friend….good thing with that cake around!! Yum!


doggybloggy May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

congratulations to the graduate and kudos on the cake….


Juliana May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

Great way to celebrate…love carrot cake even more with walnut. The pictures are really nice.


Sunny May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

mmm… carrot cake is one of my favorites, especially with the cream cheese frosting!! I’ve been feeling old lately too, but I’m 30 so I think I really am old! hahaha :)


prettyneato May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

I think carrot cake is calling to me … 3rd site in a row, carrot cake recipe. yummmy … Maybe instead of lemon desert for Monday, it’s gonna be carrot cake! whee
thanks for sharing.


Liz May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

The cake looks amazing! I love how you use canola oil vs. butter. My husband’s birthday is in two weeks. Hmmmm.


Melissa May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

ooooh looks so good.
I made carrot cake last week too for my husband’s birthday.YUM!


Hayley May 21, 2009 at 3:00 am

My brother graduated last weekend too! This cake looks great. I hope you all enjoyed!


Food Hunter May 22, 2009 at 3:00 am

Must make carrot cake! Love carrot cake!


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