This moist and flavorful carrot cake stands tall as the perfect layer cake. It’s extremely flavorful thanks to warm spices, brown sugar and vanilla. The texture is moist, spongy and perfect for layering. Tangy cream cheese frosting in between each cake layer is the perfect pairing – making this the perfect easy carrot layer cake.
If you want a carrot cake that makes for a beautiful centerpiece on your dinner table, but doesn’t require any fancy decorating techniques, then this carrot cake layer cake is the perfect option. You have layers of incredibly flavorful carrot cake sandwiched with cream cheese frosting that complements the warm spices perfectly. While I love my classic, moist carrot cake recipe – I wanted to adjust the recipe so that it wouldn’t be quite as dense and therefore better for layering. The result is this beautiful layer cake that’s rustic, homey and looks beautiful in all its simplicity.
Making the Carrot Cake
Below I’ve included step-by-step photos and tips to help ensure success.
- Start by preheating the oven to 350F (180C) degrees and preparing the pans. I always line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper and lightly grease the sides. You can grease and flour the bottom and sides, but I find lining the bottom makes it much easier for the cakes to slide out once cooled.
- If using walnuts, chop them finely and place on a cookie sheet. Toast in the preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, or until you can start to smell a nutty aroma.
- In a medium bowl, you’ll whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, ginger powder, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt. This step does a few key things – it helps to remove any lumps and ensures that the spices and leveners are evenly distributed. I prefer the flavor of using a combo of spices as opposed to just cinnamon – it really makes for a more flavorful carrot cake.
- Then in a separate very large bowl, beat together the oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar until frothy. This step helps to remove any lumps of sugar and aerate the eggs – which gives a slightly less dense texture than just whisking the eggs into the wet ingredients later.
- Beat the oil, applesauce and vanilla into the egg mixture. I like replacing some of the oil and sugar with applesauce in this carrot cake. It has nothing to do with health (for me at least) and everything to do with wanting the cake to be perfectly moist without getting too oily or sickeningly sweet (which I find is often the case with store-bought carrot cakes).
- Then mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. You can easily do this with a wire whisk or with your electric mixer. Just ensure that you stop beating/whisking as soon as everything is combined.
- Stir the grated carrots and toasted walnuts into the batter. I like to grate the carrots using one of the finer sides of the cheese grater because the carrot dissolves better into the batter.
- Distribute the batter evenly between the lined pans and bake in the preheated oven. They will need to bake for about 35 minutes (see below for different pan sizes and baking times).
Assembling the Cake
Whenever making a layer cake, ensure that the layers are completely cooled before getting started – otherwise the cake layers will melt the frosting. If your cake layers have domed tops – you’ll want to gently saw off the rounded tops. This ensures that the cake layers can sit flat one on top of each other.
You’ll place one cake layer bottom side up on the plate you plan to serve it on. Then frost with ½ of the frosting. You’ll then place the second cake layer on top and frost the top with the remaining frosting. If you’d like to frost the sides of the cake as well – feel free. You will simply frost with a thinner layer.
Cake Pan Sizes
For this layer cake, you have a few options for pan sizes:
- two 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans with 2.5 inch (about 5-6 cm) sides will bake for about 35 minutes
- two 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pans will bake for about 30 minutes
- three 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans will bake for about 30 minutes
**Note – if using two 8-inch cake pans it is imperative that they have very high sides. There is too much batter for two 8-inch sandwich pans (the ones that typically have 1.5 inch sides).
This carrot cake layer cake is great for Easter or whenever you’re looking for the perfect recipe that’s flavorful, moist, not too sweet and looks beautiful. If you’re looking for more carrot desserts & baked goods, then be sure to try:
- Carrot Cake Muffins
- Carrot Banana Bread
- Carrot Cake Sheet Cake – this version is made in a 9×13 inch pan
Carrot Cake Layer Cake
- Two 8-inch round cake pans (with high sides)*
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (250 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ginger powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- ½ cup brown sugar (105 grams) packed
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- ¾ cup vegetable oil (180 ml) or canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup applesauce I prefer to use unsweetened
- 2 ½ cups finely grated carrots about 4-5 medium carrots
Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened, but not starting to melt
- 12 ounces full-fat cream cheese slightly softened
- 1 ½ - 2 ½ cups powdered sugar if lumpy, be sure to sift first
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
- ½ cup chopped walnuts for decorating
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line the bottom of the cake pans with baking paper and lightly grease the sides. Alternatively, lightly grease and flour the bottom and sides of the cake pans.
- Place the chopped walnuts on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 6-8 minutes, or until you start to smell a nutty aroma. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl (this recipe has a lot of batter), beat together the granulated sugar, brown sugar and eggs until frothy.
- Then beat the oil, vanilla and applesauce into the sugar and egg mixture.
- Beat the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, starting with the mixer on a low speed and gradually increasing until combined.
- Turn off the mixer and stir in the grated carrots and chopped nuts.
- Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake in the middle of the oven (ensure both cake pans are on the same rack) for about 34-38 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. If using two 9-inch cake pans, the bake time will be about 30-35 minutes. If you are unsure if the cake is done, I recommend baking for a few extra minutes because this cake is so moist and unlikely to dry out.
- Cool the cakes in the cake pans for at least 15 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy.
- Beat in the cream cheese until you no longer see lumps.
- Add in 1 cup powdered sugar, the salt and lemon juice. Beat together, starting with the mixer on a low speed.
- Beat in the rest of the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time until the desired sweetness is reached.
Assembling the Cake
- Ensure that the cake layers are completely cooled first.
- If the cake layers have rounded tops, gently cut off the domed top either using a cake leveler or a knife.
- Place one cake layer, top side down on the plate that you plan to serve it on. Frost the cake with ½ of the frosting.
- Then place the second cake layer, top side down on top of the first cake layer. Frost the top with the rest of the frosting. Decorate the top of the cake with chopped walnuts (optional).
- Pan Sizes: Ensure that your 8-inch pans have sides that are at least 2.5 inches high (about 5-6 cm). Alternatively, you can use
- two 9-inch round cake pans - bake time about 30-35 minutes
- three 8-inch round cake pans - bake time about 30 minutes
- Nuts: Nuts are optional. Be sure that they are finely chopped - otherwise the cake can be more difficult to slice.
- Carrots: Peel carrots first, then grate with a fine grater.
- Raisins: If you'd like to add raisins, soak ½ cup in warm water for 15 minutes. Discard the water and pat dry the raisins. Reduce the walnuts to only use ½ cup.
- Cream Cheese Frosting: If you'd like to frost the sides of the cake as well, frost the middle with about ⅓ of the frosting, the sides with about ⅓ of the frosting and the top of the cake with about ⅓ of the frosting.
- Cream Cheese: Ensure that the cream cheese is full-fat, brick-style cream cheese.