Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Celebrate the start of Spring with this layered carrot cake lightly frosted with brown sugar cream cheese. Minimally decorated with fresh carrots, this is an easy cake everyone can make!

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

The first official day of Spring is around the corner. We’ve got St. Patrick’s Day coming up, Easter in a couple of weeks, and the start of Daylight Saving Time this weekend.

Nothing gets me more excited about the upcoming change of seasons than cake. Let’s kick off flowers blossoming, birds singing, and picnic weather with carrot cake!

Cake decorating can be intimidating. It can be overwhelming and time consuming. I’m here to hold your hand and help you. This is a SUPER easy and fast way to decorate cake.

You don’t need a ton of tools, sprinkles, or gadgets. All you need to decorate this cake is fresh carrots and a plastic zip-top bag (or a piping bag).

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

What makes a great carrot cake?

  • In my opinion, a great carrot cake should have visible specks of carrots. I use a coarse grater to shred the carrots.
  • The cake should be soft and moist. To achieve this, most carrot cakes are made with vegetable oil instead of butter.
  • A variety in texture makes all foods more exciting. I like to add chopped walnuts to the cake batter. Chopped almonds or pistachios also make wonderful additions.
  • It isn’t complete without cream cheese frosting! The frosting for this carrot cake is sweetened with brown sugar and molasses and it’s spiked with a touch of sour cream for extra tang.

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

This cake is sweet enough on it’s own. Rather than drench the cake with a ton of frosting, I’ve opted to keep the sides of the cake bare. The brown sugar cream cheese frosting is quite soft, making it great for piping.

By using a piping bag (or plastic zip-top bag with a corner snipped off), you can evenly apply frosting to the cake layers. This allows you to add a distinct clean border of frosting along the outer perimeter of the cake.

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Once you’ve got your cake layers stacked, it’s time to decorate. Get some fresh bunch carrots with the top greens still attached. Wash and dry the carrots and greens.

While it’s tempting to simply stick the entire carrot into the cake, I don’t advise it. You risk splitting the cake. Slice off about 1 -3 inches of the top portion of the carrot and then attach it to the cream cheese frosting.

Add movement and texture by placing a few sprigs of the carrot greens on top and around base of the cake. VOILA! That’s it. Carrot cake complete.

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: four 6-inch layers, or three 8-inch layers

Author Maryanne Cabrera


Carrot Cake:

  • 3 cups (370 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons (7 g) ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups (295 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) brown sugar, packed
  • 4 large eggs (218 g)
  • 1 1/2 cups (328 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (303 g) grated carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups (150 g) toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 oz (240 g) cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 2 cups (212 g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sour cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and lightly flour four 6-inch round cake pans (or three 8-inch round cake pans). Tap out any excess flour. Line cake pans with parchment paper and set aside. 

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

  3. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat together sugars, eggs, vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla until smooth. 

  4. Add half of dry flour mixture to mixing bowl and stir together. Add grated carrots and continue mixing. Add remaining dry flour mixture and chopped walnuts. Mix until just combined and there are no longer any dry streaks of flour.

  5. Distribute cake batter evenly among prepared cake pans. Bake 6-inch cakes for 40-45 minutes (or 8-inch cakes for 35-40 minutes), until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Rotate cakes midway through baking. Allow cake layers in cool in pan for 5-8 minutes. Unmold cake layers and allow to cool completely on wire racks.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing. Add brown sugar, molasses, powdered sugar, salt, and sour cream. Beat until smooth and creamy.


  1. If necessary, level cake layers once completely cooled to room temperature. Place one cake layer on cake board (or serving plate). Pipe a ring of frosting along the outer perimeter of cake. Fill in the center by continuing to pipe spiral.

  2. Place second cake layer on top. Gently press cake layer down to secure. Pipe layer of frosting. Repeat with remaining cake layers. Use a mini offset spatula or the smooth end of butterknife, to smooth the top layer of frosting. Let assembled cake chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to allow frosting to harden.

  3. Allow cake to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to soften before serving. Decorate cake with sliced carrot and carrot top greens. 

Interested in other carrot desserts? Here are some favorites:

  • These carrot cake cinnamon rolls are frosted with whipped cream cheese and topped with toasted walnuts. It’s the iconic flavors of carrot cake injected into sweet rolls!
  • Made with ground flaxseed, grated carrots, raisins, dried pineapple chunks, and pumpkin seeds, it is a medley of flavors and textures. These whole wheat morning glory muffins are healthy breakfast treat.
  • This carrot nut cake features two layers of carrot cake sandwiched with brown sugar cream cheese frosted with caramel buttercream. 

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

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Kristin Nichole Byerly

I would LOVE to know where you purchased that dark wood Cake stand from

    Maryanne Cabrera

    I bought it a few years ago from Anthropologie. The brand of the cake stand is Be Home.


Would like to make this for Easter… I love pineapple in Carrot Cake…would I be able to add crushed pineapple to the recipe?


Thanks!!! This recipe looks amazing also…think I will use it with your Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting…yum!

Lorraine Parente

I made this cake last night. The taste was outrageous but a failure. I did not have four 6 inch round pans so I split the batter figuring I could then split each one to make the four. The center on both caved in while the crust was quite brown and hard. I even used a heating rod on the second pan and still the middle was raw. Other than that my only variance was adding 1/2 cup raisins. I wish I could figure out what I did wrong…Any thoughts?

    Maryanne Cabrera

    How tall are your 6-inch cake pans? If you are trying to split the batter between two standard 6-inch cake pan that are 2-inches high…yes, the cakes will sink and fall in the center. This carrot cake is very soft and moist. It does not have the strength to bake above the cake pan without support. Similar to how angel food cake or sponge cake attaches to the sides of the pan for support to rise, this carrot cake needs that help.

    I split the cake batter between four 6-inch cake pans for that reason. You can also split it among three 8-inch or three 8-inch cake pans.

Cindy Rodriguez

What a simple yet gorgeous cake. I absolutely love the cake toppers of real carrots. Adorable and looks incredibly delicious!


Hey! this is soooo pretty and simple yet elegant! i was wondering in the cake do you use dark brown sugar? Thanks!

    Maryanne Cabrera

    Thanks! You can use either light or dark brown sugar in the cake batter. However, use light brown sugar in the frosting.

Kerry Macaulay

Should it be refrigerated?

    Maryanne Cabrera

    The cake can be left out at room temperature for 8 hours or so. I suggest refrigerating leftovers due to the cream cheese frosting.

Ashley Garner

I made this tonight but the flavor is so soapy that it’s inedible which is really unfortunate since a 3 layer cake is a lot of ingredients. There’s no acid in the cake itself only in the frosting so I think including baking soda is the issue? Hopefully others will omit or adjust.

    Maryanne Cabrera

    I’m sorry to hear the recipe did not work out for you. I have made this carrot cake recipe several times without fail. It is an adaptation of this earlier Carrot Nut Cake.


Just made this cake for Easter tonight and the icing is soooo runny!! It ruined my cake! Ugh what a fail! Warning to others…


I love it. I had made it several times. For the frosting, I omitted the brown sugar and I love it! Could this recipe be used for cupcakes?

Debbie gilliland

Terrific recipe!!! It never fails!


Hi. Could I use 9” pans and if so will it be better 2 layer or 3 layer. Also would the cooking time be reduced to 30-35 minutes? Unfortunately I don’t have 6/8” pans and would like to try your recipe, it looks delicious.

    Maryanne Cabrera

    You can bake it using three 9-inch cake pans. The layers will be a bit thinner than what is photographed in the post. Bake for 28-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

    You could also bake it in two 9-inch cake pans for about 35 minutes.


This recipe is so amazing I’ve already made it twice! This will be my go to for carrot cake anything in the future. The walnuts are a must – they give the cake the perfect bite. I’ve made this both in 6” and 8” pans and both turned out without fail. Made the cake as instructed no changes but for the frosting I first browned the butter – this is an obsession of mine, I just can’t get enough of that toffee nutty note it creates. I also omitted the sour cream – I’m sure it would give it a nice tang but it’s not an ingredient i keep in the house. Also I have made this frosting (with browned butter both times) with light brown sugar the first time and dark brown sugar the second time. Both turned out amazing but not surprisingly the dark sugar frosting had a more robust flavor.

    Maryanne Cabrera

    Thank you for trying the recipe! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Adding the brown butter is a nice touch! :)

Maddie saphire

Do you have to use the molasses?

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