This pecan carrot cake is a deliciously moist cake featuring shredded carrots and chopped pecans. Hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger give this cake a lovely flavor. An irresistibly rich cream cheese frosting provides the finishing touch to this decadent cake. This old-fashioned cake is perfect for any celebration and will quickly become a family favorite!
Carrot cake has always been my mother's favorite dessert. So it should come as no surprise that I've tested and perfected this recipe many times! It has her stamp of approval and quickly became a staple for celebrations in our family. If you enjoy this old-fashioned pecan carrot cake, you'll also like my apple praline cake, another decadent cake featuring carrots and pecans in the batter.
Why you'll love this recipe
A cake perfect for a celebration. This cake has a homemade taste and appearance, perfect for birthday parties, holidays... you name it! The ingredients are simple, and the frosting is applied easily.
An incredibly moist and decadent cake. This cake features canola oil, sugar, carrots, and eggs. All of these ingredients give this cake a very moist texture. In addition, the trifecta of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger make this batter reminiscent of a spice cake.
A super simple and easy batter to prepare. This recipe comes together really quickly. There's no creaming butter and sugar—only mixing ingredients by hand to make the batter.
Key ingredients and why we use them
Pecans: toasting your pecans in the oven will add a lovely depth of flavor to this cake. Totally optional but worth it if you have extra time! My pecan tart with bourbon and orange is another great dessert featuring pecans!
Canola Oil: This cake recipe uses oil instead of butter. Oil, which remains liquid at room temperature, helps make this cake extra moist. You could easily substitute vegetable oil if that's what you have on hand.
Cream Cheese + Butter: This fantastic duo gives you an absolutely luscious frosting. Use the cream cheese that comes in a block and not the whipped kind in a container. Make sure that both butter and cream cheese are at room temperature.
Carrots: I don't recommend using the pre-shredded carrots you can buy in a bag at the grocery store. It's best to peel and grate them by hand—this will give you the best flavor and moisture for this recipe. It's essential because carrots are the star of the show here! I prefer a thicker grated carrot in this recipe. However, if you want the carrots to disappear into the batter, use the thinnest grater option.
This recipe calls for two 9-inch cake pans. These are pretty typical pans that most of us will have in our kitchen. If you'd like to use a 9 x 13-inch rectangular pan, that's fine too! Your cook time will be about 40-50 minutes. For cupcakes, this batter will make approximately 24 cupcakes. The cook time will be about 18-22 minutes. I'd also recommend checking out my carrot cake cupcake recipe.
Frequently asked questions
I like to bake my carrot cake layers one day in advance. That gives the spices time to meld together overnight. I always frost the cake with cream cheese frosting on the day that I will serve the cake. You should not store cream cheese frosting at room temperature.
If you can catch an underbaked cake within 5-10 minutes of taking it out of the oven, you can totally fix it. I'd recommend loosely covering the cake with aluminum foil and baking it at a slightly lower temperature (325 degrees Fahrenheit). Depending on how undercooked your cake was, I would check on it in 2-3 minute increments. After the cake has cooled for more than ten minutes, it's best to discard and start again. Such a bummer... I know!
Absolutely! You can add up to ½ cup of add-ins to this recipe. I suggest pineapple, raisins, or sweetened shredded coconut as options. No other adjustments are necessary when making these additions.
HEATHER'S HELPFUL HINT
Investing in a pair of cake strips is an excellent purchase if you find yourself baking cakes often. Cake strips are pieces of fabric that you soak in water and wrap around your cake pan before baking. They correct uneven baking and will help your cakes bake level (with no domes).
You can print this entire recipe below and save it for later. But, before you get there, let's walk through it step-by-step, so you understand what you're doing beforehand.
In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Set aside,
In a large bowl, combine eggs, oil, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Whisk these ingredients together.
Mix dry ingredients into the wet and stir the batter until just combined. Do not overmix. Add the carrots and pecans, and fold them into the batter.
Pour even amounts of the batter into the two prepared round pans. Bake for 33 - 38 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then invert them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To assemble the cake, first use a serrated knife to cut off any domes on your cake levels. Next, place one cake layer upside down on your cake platter. Cover this layer with frosting. Top with the second layer (also upside down) and the remaining frosting. Use a spatula to smooth the frosting over the sides of the cake.
To garnish, sprinkle the pecans on the top. Enjoy!
Make ahead and storage tips
Storage Instructions: You can store this cake in the refrigerator, uncovered, for up to one week. I don't recommend leaving it out at room temperature due to the cream cheese in the frosting. Before serving, let the cake sit at room temperature for one hour.
Freezing Instructions: You can easily freeze your carrot cake frosted or unfrosted. If the cake is unfrosted, wrap the layers in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Place them in a freezer bag and store them for up to three months. For a frosted cake, I like to slip the cake into the freezer for one hour to allow the frosting to harden. Then, remove the cake and wrap it in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. They actually have cake boxes that you can use for storing larger frosted cakes.
- You can add up to ½ cup of add-ins to this recipe. I suggest pineapple, raisins, or sweetened shredded coconut as options. No other adjustments are necessary when making these additions.
- If you're not a fan of carrots, you can actually substitute zucchini in this recipe (in equal amounts) for a very similar flavor and texture. My zucchini muffins are another recipe that you will enjoy with this summer vegetable.
- If you want a cake that is mildly spiced, omit the nutmeg and ginger, and you can reduce the cinnamon to one teaspoon.
Pecan Carrot Cake
- 9-inch round cake pans
- parchment paper
- bake-even cake strips
- 4 eggs large, room temperature
- 1¼ cups canola oil
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 cups carrots peeled and grated
- 1 cup pecans chopped
- ½ cup butter room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 4 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup pecans optional, for garnish
Baking the Cake
- Place a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit 20 minutes before baking your cake. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with baking spray, and line them with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with baking spray again. Set aside,
- In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Set aside,
- In a large bowl, combine eggs, oil, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients into the wet and stir the batter until just combined. Do not overmix. Add the carrots and pecans, and fold them into the batter.
- Pour even amounts of the batter into the two prepared round pans. Bake for 33 - 38 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center, comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then invert them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Frosting and Decorating
- First, ensure that butter and cream cheese are at room temperature—this is essential to prevent lumps in the frosting. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth (approximately 2 minutes). Add all the confectioners' sugar and vanilla to the bowl. Beat on low until sugar is incorporated, then increase to medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth and creamy.
- To assemble the cake, first use a serrated knife to cut off any domes on your cake levels. Place one cake layer upside down on your cake platter. Cover this layer with frosting. Top with the second layer (also upside down) and the remaining frosting. Use a spatula to smooth the frosting over the sides of the cake. To garnish, sprinkle the pecans on the top.
Notes and Tips
- Pecans: you can substitute walnuts in the cake if you don't like pecans. You can also completely omit nuts from this recipe.
- Carrots: Use fresh peeled and grated carrots in this recipe. Don't use the pre-packaged carrots that are already sliced from the store.
- Spices: You can omit the ginger and nutmeg if you prefer a carrot cake that is on the milder side.
- Slicing the Cake: Before serving your cake, pop it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. This will make it easier to slice!
- Cake Additions: You can add up to ½ cup of add-ins to this recipe. I suggest pineapple, raisins, or sweetened shredded coconut as options. No other adjustments are necessary when making these additions.
- 9 x 13-inch pan: You can bake this cake in one single layer. The cook time will vary from 40 to 50 minutes. It's done when a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cake Strips: It's optional to use bake-even cake strips which are fabric bands that wrap around your cake pan so that your batter bakes evenly. If using, secure them to the pan after inserting the parchment paper.
- Recipe inspired and adapted from All Recipes.
Try these other cake recipes
Did you make this recipe? First, let me say THANK YOU for giving it a try! Please leave us a rating and leave any feedback in the comments section at the bottom of this post. I love to hear your thoughts and ideas on what went OK — and what didn't — with a recipe! Also, be sure to check out some of our other recipes linked below!
Amazing old-fashioned carrot cake recipe. We used raisins as you suggested and loved the overall flavor profile of the cake. We did use a 9 x 13 pan and it took about 42 minutes to cook.