This carrot cake recipe post is sponsored by Imperial Sugar! I’ve used Imperial Sugar for years and I am thrilled to be partnering with them. Thank you for supporting the partners that keep the bake offs coming!
If you’ve ever been on the hunt for the perfect carrot cake recipe, you are not alone. So many recipes out there to try, but the best carrot cake is typically a perfect combination of flavors and textures, with a moist and tender crumb, and a delicious cream cheese frosting. We’ve tested 12 of the best recipes to help you find your perfect match!
Looking for the best carrot cake recipe? My friend has a theory that carrot cake will always be good thanks to carrots and oil for moisture and spices for flavor. From there, it’s a matter of customizing: raisins? Coconut? Nuts?
My own preferences for carrot cake changed over the course of this bake off. Previously, as someone ambivalent towards/not wild about carrot cake, I would have always preferred a plainer cake with a sugary frosting that disguises the tang of the cream cheese.
But after tasting through this spectrum of cakes, I can now appreciate the moist background and tangle of textures in a traditional carrot cake recipe. Let’s take a look at which recipes rose to the top!
METHODOLOGY // RESULTS // FACTORS // ANALYSIS // RECOMMENDATIONS
- 32 total tasters
- All 12 recipes were baked the day of tasting
- All carrots were grated in a food processor using the shredding attachment except for the King Arthur recipe (carrots were grated finely by hand)
- All recipes were halved or thirded to make one cake layer. Most cakes were baked in an 8 or 9″ round aluminum cake pan as specified by the recipe. All Recipes and King Arthur were baked in glass 9×9 pans.
- All tasters ranked each cake and frosting on a scale from 0-10 for overall flavor, texture
- All ingredients were measured by weight according to King Arthur
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- Unsalted Land O Lakes butter
- Nielsen Massey vanilla extract
- Adams clear imitation vanilla extract
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and soda
- Diamond kosher salt
- Imperial granulated sugar, light and dark brown sugar, and powdered sugar
- Kroger buttermilk
- Kroger unsweetened applesauce
- Royalty Pecan Farms pecans
- Kroger sweetened flaked coconut
- Dole crushed pineapple
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
How I Selected the Carrot Cake Recipes
Here is a quick summary of each carrot cake recipe that was tested along with its categorization by ingredient (mostly fat + dairy). I tried to include a cross-section of recipes that used different fats like oil, butter and brown butter plus different mix ins like applesauce, pineapple, nuts, and coconut. I also include the “Similar Recipes” column for reference in case you’ve made and loved a similar recipe!
For the nitty gritty details, you can also view my recipe spreadsheet (first tab has all the recipes I scraped).
|Brown butter + oil||David Lebovitz||Jake Cohen|
|Oil||All Recipes||King Arthur, Spun Sugar Run|
|Oil + applesauce||Sally’s Baking Addiction||Zoe Bakes, Three Many Cooks, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe|
|Oil + buttermilk||Claire Saffitz||Bon Appetit|
|Oil + buttermilk||Southern Living|
|Oil + pineapple||Grandbaby Cakes||I Am Baker, Cleo Buttera, Ina Garten|
|Oil||Cook’s Illustrated||Cake by Courtney, Gimme Some Oven|
|Oil||King Arthur||Edna Lewis, Dorie Greenspan, Smitten Kitchen, Zoe Bakes, Inspired Taste, Mom on Time Out, Frog Commissary, The Food Nanny, Copycat J Alexa|
|Oil + baby food||Plain Chicken||Ocean Prime, Dan Pelosi|
|Allison Robicelli||King Arthur|
|Pappas Family||Silver Palate (uses pureed carrot instead of grated)|
I really debated whether to standardize the type of mix ins (nuts, raisins, coconut, pineapple) in these recipes given their polarizing nature. In the end, I decided to open the selection to all mix ins which led to a LOT of different opinions. Interestingly, the recipes containing the most mix ins (Southern Living, Pappas) or at least nuts (King Arthur, All Recipes) paired with very moist cake tended to rise to the top.
All of the plainer “spice cake” style cakes tended to score lower, as did cakes with untraditional frostings (specifically the brown butter frostings on Claire Saffitz/Grandbaby Cakes).
I always say to take the results with a grain of salt but in this case I particularly mean it! This group of tasters trended towards liking a very moist, loaded carrots cake, but carrot cake is truly a game of preference on mix ins. The simpler cakes towards the bottom of the chart are still EXCELLENT. There was only one cake I wouldn’t eat again (excessive currants is a no from me), but I think all other recipes are worth strong consideration no matter where they fall on the chart.
This was a tricky bake off to analyze in terms of recipe composition because the mix ins affect the taste and texture of the actual cake quite a bit. Nevertheless, my best attempt at an explanation of some of the trends is below!
- Carrots: There aren’t any visible correlations between the percentage of carrot in the recipe and its ranking. Most tasters were looking for a “carrot-y” element in the cake, but I think moistness helped serve for a proxy for carrot content in some of the highly-rated cakes with a low carrot percentage like Southern Living. Note that cakes with the highest proportions of carrot (David Lebovitz (27%) and Cook’s Illustrated (25%)) had other factors like raisins and currants that may have demoted their rankings.
A note on texture: King Arthur was the only recipe to specify “finely grated” carrots vs a coarser grating. While I couldn’t tell a big difference between the carrot texture in this cake vs others, a finer texture will help the carrots disperse more evenly through the batter. This could be one factor that helped bumped KA into the #1 spot!
- Spices: Cakes with more spice tended to do better. I didn’t do an official analysis, but if you compare King Arthur vs. Grandbaby Cakes, KA has nearly double the amount of spice. The top 4 cakes used almost exclusively cinnamon (except KA) which perhaps gave them a bump given the familiar spice profile.
- Fat: Carrot cake is typically made with oil, so it’s no surprise that the oil-based cakes generally fared better than the all butter cake (Bravetart). KA snagged the top spot with the highest percentage of oil (20.5%). Southern Living came in second with a much lower 10% oil, but I think the buttermilk syrup added additional fat/richness that would have been missing from the cake. It’s safe to say cakes with more fat tended to do better, likely due to the moist texture that a high fat proportion ensures.
Bravetart: a nutty, brown butter-based cake with an airy, whipped cheesecake-esque frosting
Stella incorporates whole wheat flour into her recipe (to help absorb excess moisture from the carrots) and uses all brown butter as the fat. Between toasting the pecans, browning the butter and making the elaborate pudding-based cream cheese frosting, this is quite a laborious recipe. Luckily, Stella has many tips for prepping ahead of time to cut down on work, but even the frosting is quite the project.
I couldn’t detect much brown butter flavor as there were a LOT of nuts in the way of the cake. Texturally, I found this cake on the drier side–and while it’s possible I overbaked this cake, a slightly drier texture is also to be expected from a butter-based cake. Brown butter in particular can lead to drier texture as browning the butter leads to some evaporated moisture. Though I didn’t mind the drier texture, the dryness was the main critique from other tasters and the main reason I think this cake scored so low. While I liked this flavor of this cake, I’d prefer a moister texture and fewer nuts.
The star of this cake was the vanilla bean-speckled frosting: lush with fresh lemon juice, which helps enhance the tang of the cream cheese, this whipped frosting is luxuriously silky. If you’re looking for a lighter-textured alternative to traditional cream cheese frostings, this would be a great option!
- Earthy, nutty cake flavor, almost a brown butter aftertaste? Frosting was great, airy and vanilla bean was perfect texture flavor combo. I’d assume this was more of a muffin “cake” than an indulgent dessert.
- An nice airy cake, but the best thing is the cream cheese frosting.
- Nutty, cinnamon cake with a very buttery and cheesecake-y frosting, could be more carrot forward
- This is the first cake that felt and tasted ‘carroty’ which I loved
- Has a “toasted” taste and the frosting is smooth and buttery
- Could use a little more sugar, not very sweet for a cake
- Very sturdy cake that seemed like it would be dense but it’s still moist. Nut haters are going to complain about the abundance of chunkage. I love the body of the frosting, very light and airy
Grandbaby Cakes: a simple, fluffy cake with a brown butter cream cheese frosting
With its deliciously toasty brown butter cream cheese frosting, Jocelyn’s carrot cake recipe won The Kitchn’s carrot cake bake off. I was shocked to see it score so low in this bake off, especially since this cake is nearly identical to Sally’s Baking Addiction (except SBA uses applesauce and GBC uses crushed pineapple and self-raising flour).
I loved the fluffiness and light cinnamon sweetness of this cake, though I can see how some might view it as plain or slightly drier compared to other recipes. I did add the optional crushed pineapple and while I thought it added a subtle sweetness, others picked up on a “citrus note” or “acidity” that proved divisive (which I think is why GBC ended up scoring lower than SBA).
I also think the brown butter frosting was unexpected and most tasters were looking for a classic frosting. As someone who doesn’t love classic cream cheese frosting, I loved the way the caramelized brown butter flavor adds a rounder, buttery flavor distracts from the tang of the cream cheese. Overall, I enjoyed the fluffy crumb and lightly sweet flavor of this cake and would happily make it again for people who I know would appreciate a brown butter frosting!
- Cake is light and fluffy, pleasant spiced aftertaste. Frosting tastes like butterscotch surprise!
- This was a cinnamon cake with carrots! Very good but not the carrot I’m looking for
- Cake is good…but it almost doesn’t taste like a carrot cake? Texture is more like a regular cake.
- I’d easily make the brown butter frosting again paired with a moister cake
- Frosting was super brown buttery, and it overpowered the cake flavor. Brown butter is great but not sure I like it with carrot cake
- Can’t place the flavor of the frosting. If you like spices then you’ll like the frosting. Cake is too dry for me
Allison Robicelli: a moist, mildly spiced, close-crumbed carrot cake with a tangy, not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting
Another similar recipe to Grandbaby Cakes, Allison’s carrot cake recipe differs in that it uses both brown and white sugar and has more oil (nearly 20%, second only to King Arthur’s recipe with 20.5% oil). The result? A moist, close-crumbed cake that is quite simple but somehow still luscious. Spice cake lovers will love this cake–it’s mildly spiced with a relatively low percentage of carrot (~14.5%). While I’d like a slightly more carrot-forward flavor, I preferred the slightly more tender, closer crumb of this cake to similar spice cake-style cakes.
Allison’s cake really stood out for its unique frosting. Similar to Bravetart, it starts with a slurry of flour, cornstarch and sugar cooked with half and half until thick–then cream cheese and just a little powdered sugar are whipped in. This technique makes for a custardy, tangy frosting that’s cream cheese-forward and far less sugary than others. Most found this frosting a little sticky-textured and less appealing compared to Bravetart’s, but it’s an unusual, tangy alternative to the typical buttercreams.
- Very classic spice cake with tangy frosting.
- Pleasant, I like the simplicity
- Light and moist cake, gingerbread/spice cake vibes more than carrot but still tasty. Thick creamy decadent frosting
- Very uniform cake with a good spice profile. The frosting is veryyy dense and way too sweet. I’d eat the cake again but not the frosting.
- Could do without the frosting, but that’s just because the cake is so good! Slightly more structure which is nice and not as sweet
- Frosting is sticky and a little goopy, kind of coats the mouth
Claire Saffitz: a ginger-forward, heartily-textured carrot cake with a brown butter cream cheese frosting
Claire’s carrot cake recipe stood out for the strong punch of ginger thanks to the use of fresh and powdered ginger. This recipe calls for soaking the carrots in buttermilk and ginger to help tenderize the carrots. It didn’t seem to make a big textural difference, but the ginger flavor was quite prominent. The recipe also called for toasted pecans, both crushed into a nut meal and coarsely chopped.
With a hearty nut-fortified crumb, this cake is topped with a brown butter frosting very similar to Grandbaby Cakes (Claire’s recipe doubles the amount of butter and I honestly couldn’t tell a big difference in taste). I think this cake was also demoted thanks to the untraditional frosting. Personally, I loved the frosting but would have preferred a slightly moister, less nut- and ginger-heavy crumb. But if you love ginger, nuts, and brown butter frosting, this is your cake!
- Very spiced — seems very appropriate for a fall/winter season carrot cake. Not too sweet, which is a plus for me. Very moist but still light and fluffy. Frosting has a bit less heft than I’m used to for a carrot cake, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. overall, it’s enjoyable and doesn’t seem overly rich or overwhelming
- I’m conflicted because this cake is good but doesn’t taste like carrot cake. The cake tastes like cardamom to me and the frosting tastes like caramel graham crackers or toffee
- Cake was smooth and moist. I loved the ratio of nuts to cake. Good flavor and sweetness
- This has extra flavors that I can’t name. The combo is better than the some of its parts.
- Cake had a strong spice taste to it that was a little overwhelming; texture was a little too dense
Plain Chicken: a fluffy, smooth-textured spice cake made with carrot baby food with a sugary buttercream
This carrot cake recipe is extremely straightforward–with just nine ingredients, this cake stood out for its use of carrot baby food. Which is not as off-putting as it may sound! Other popular recipes like this Ocean Prime carrot cake use pureed carrots, and baby food is really just a shortcut to the puree. This was perhaps the easiest recipe to throw together and the result is a satisfyingly simple and fragrant carrot cake.
Complaints mostly centered around this cake being too plain and the sugary frosting being too sweet. But as a former carrot cake hater, I can see how this one could convert people to liking carrot cake. It’s basically a delicious spice cake that happens to have carrots with a frosting that’s mostly a buttercream and just a hint of cream cheese. I stan!
- I wanted more carrot flavor; this cake had less carrot and tasted more cinnamon-y than I expected. Frosting and cake together was better than the cake or frosting separate
- Loved the icing texture and how light the cake is
- This cake with a different frosting would be so bomb
- Reminds me of pumpkin bread, very uniform texture
- Frosting was way too sweet, not enough cream cheese
- No thank you. Is this buttercream frosting? Carrot cake needs cream cheese frosting. My carrot cake loving palate is offended
- Too sweet for me, which I think was driven by the sweetness and sheer magnitude of the frosting. Cake was unremarkable — perfectly fine, but nothing stood out
Cook’s Illustrated: a fragrant, coarse-crumbed carrot cake studded with currants and a tangy frosting
This carrot cake recipe is similar proportionally to Southern Living but uses nearly 40% less sugar, omits the buttermilk glaze, and adds a generous amount of currants in lieu of pineapple, coconut, and nuts. I found the resulting cake to have quite a coarse, open, slightly chewy crumb with a flavor that was overwhelmed by slightly tart currants.
While I love the approach of baking this cake in a sheet pan for a quick bake time and stacking squares of cake into a towering layer cake, I didn’t love the cake itself. I personally would opt for a cake with more sugar in the batter and no currants. This was the only frosting to use buttermilk powder, an interesting move that I assume is designed to add more tang. I didn’t find the frosting especially memorable–I found Bravetart’s frosting far tangier with the addition of lemon juice. But if you don’t like lemon, give buttermilk powder a try in your frosting!
- Fluffy cake with great warm spices. A tangy, marshmallowy icing that is a great compliment without being too sweet
- Nice moist softness in the cake with subtle fall spices. The frosting is very cream-cheese forward, almost savory, which is great. Together its a great less-sweet option with perfect levels of nuttiness.
- Cake was more dry and not sweet enough for me to want to indulge again
- Very much what I imagine when I think of a carrot cake. Frosting has a nice tang. Cake doesn’t have the most flavor on its own, but the overall package is very enjoyable. Doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but certainly doesn’t disappoint.
- Cake is chewy. Icing is light and not too sweet with a tang
- Okay cake but too many currants. If you close your eyes it doesn’t really taste like carrot cake. Not a lot of spices or flavor
David Lebovitz: a non-traditional cinnamon-forward brown butter and oil cake with a lemony cream cheese frosting
David’s carrot cake recipe uses a combination of mostly brown butter with a small amount of oil (option to use all brown butter). I was interested to compare this against Bravetart’s recipe with all brown butter. With nearly 27% carrot, this cake managed to stay much moister than Bravetart as the higher proportion of carrot balances out the moisture lost from browning the butter. I would omit the raisins next time but liked this cake overall (I’d also bump up the spices as David suggests to better match American palates). Interestingly, most taster complaints centered around how this cake didn’t taste carrot-y enough (perhaps the spices and brown butter overpowered the carrot flavor).
This was the only cake to use lemon zest in the frosting and this proved shockingly divisive among tasters. I love lemon in cream cheese frosting, but obviously if you hate it, you can easily omit it. To be frank, I liked this cake but would be less inclined to make it again simply due to the extra work of making the brown butter–I think there are plenty of oil-based cakes that are just as good.
- This was like a really good spice cake and I loved it but I almost think it’s unfair because there’s not really a carrot component that’s noticeable
- One of the more interesting contenders. Frosting tasted lemony which was surprising, but it worked. Cake was denser and pretty moist. If I was craving classic carrot cake, this wouldn’t be the one I’d reach for, but it was a tasty cake
- Very moist, uniform cake, good for people who don’t want to “know” there are carrots in the cake
- Ummm this wasn’t a carrot cake. I think it has a lot of lemon??? Great cake but didn’t have the “eat your carrots” vibe I would have liked
- Darker colored cake, gingerbread flavors. Frosting is lemony–delicious but would put it on a different cake. Overall good but not what I’d consider carrot cake
Sally’s Baking Addiction: a fluffy carrot cake supplemented with applesauce, paired with a soft cream cheese frosting
While the top 4 cakes are more of a “loaded” style, Sally’s carrot cake recipe represents the start of the fluffy, plainer-style cakes (pecans are optional so I omitted them). I added her recipe into the mix to compare against the very similar Grandbaby Cakes. When tasting these cakes side by side, I could detect just the slightest hint of apple in Sally’s cake (due to the applesauce). Moisture and flavor-wise, the two cakes were otherwise nearly identical to me.
My theory on why Sally’s cake got bumped higher in the ratings compared to GBC again boils down to the frosting: Sally uses a simple, traditional cream cheese frosting. Tasters generally praised the frosting but had similar critiques to the GBC cake–a little drier and could use more spice for some tasters. Overall, this is a solid, plain but classic carrot cake.
- I like the flavor of this–spiced, but not distractingly so, frosting is light but has a clear cream cheese flavor. The texture is a bit coarser/less soft than some others, but overall, an enjoyable cake
- The cake was a bit dry and bland with few detectable spice notes. The frosting was wonderfully tangy and not too rich
- Not enough carrot, tastes like spice cake. I like the smooth frosting
- Cake tastes kind of like a boxed cake but the frosting is SO GOOD
- The “driest” of the cakes. Still more moist than a butter cake. Decent spice. The frosting is on the sweeter side with a silky texture.
- Much better frosting on this one! Good sweetness and a better flavor. Cake was a little too coarse and crumbly, also lacking a bit of sweetness and carrot flavor
Pappas Family: a moist, textured, cinnamon-forward carrot cake chock-full of nuts, coconut, dates, raisins and pineapple
This carrot cake recipe, the one that converted me into a carrot cake person, comes from my neighbor’s family friends. It’s an incredibly moist cake full of raisins, pecans, dates and pineapple topped with a sugary cream cheese frosting. As a bonus, this cake is so easy to make that the recipe card literally has no instructions (Mrs. Pappas says you can mix everything together at once). The overall effect is quite sweet, but I feel like since a lot of the sweetness comes from the fruit, it’s not overwhelming. Until you get to the frosting, which crusts over like a buttercream–but I personally love that.
The most common complaint about this cake was too many mix ins (approaching “fruit cake” territory) and that the frosting was too sweet. As someone who hates fruit cake, I can’t explain my love for this dense, rich cake full of so many mix ins! It’s moist but not greasy. It just feels like a true classic carrot cake! If you hate sugary cream cheese frostings, try this one with the Bravetart or Sally’s Baking Addiction frosting.
- The cake was so moist and had a lot of flavor. The frosting wasn’t too thin and complimented the cake really well. Overall super balanced.
- Simultaneously moist yet fluffy. I don’t not have the words to describe how good this is
- I was kind of scared looking at it because I saw coconut and nuts and raisins but the texture was actually nice being chunky
- A lot going on in this cake. The carrot, raisins, nuts, etc. are much more apparent in this cake than some of the others. I don’t prefer mix ins (hence the lower cake rating) but the frosting is good. Enjoyable overall.
- Too much fruit. Heading into fruit cake territory 😖
- There is A LOT going on in this cake: it’s a texture surprise in every bite and I think this one will be pretty divisive. I’d prefer more spice but it’s difficult to taste the cake with everything going on. The frosting turned me off, another sugar bomb that’s lacking the cream cheese flavor.
All Recipes: an extraordinarily moist, rich, cinnamon-forward cake with a sugary cream cheese frosting
With more than 7k ratings and an overall 5 star rating, this carrot cake recipe is extremely highly rated–and I just realized it’s nearly identical to King Arthur. I originally included All Recipes in the bake off because I had noted it uses both oil and butter in the cake, but I just realized the butter was a typo! In any case, it only varies from King Arthur in that it uses additional baking powder and vanilla, but slightly less oil, spices and pecans.
So in this exercise of nearly identical recipes, it makes sense that this recipe scored very similarly! The frosting–another buttercream-esque cream cheese frosting–are also nearly identical, but King Arthur uses slightly less sugar, which most tasters preferred. If I were to make one again, I would choose King Arthur (more spice is always better) but use the All Recipes amount of pecans.
- Cake was flavorful and moist. Did not have too many nuts. Frosting was solid and not too sweet. Good consistency
- Nutty and warm with a firm texture that holds up well against the buttercream-like frosting, which isn’t my favorite for a carrot cake.
- Feels super basic and generic. Like it’s good but not interesting? Frosting was too sweet and almost gritty for me
- Pretty moist but not stodgy. Good frosting with light cream cheese flavor
- Very boring cake, moist, not too sweet, and was lacking in the spice department. Standard CC frosting: sweet and creamy with a little tang.
- The best over all frostings! The frosting saves this cake. Cake is meh, very orange.
Southern Living: an uber-moist, incredibly sweet cake drenched in a sweet buttermilk syrup
Someone sent me this recipe telling me that I HAD to try a cake with a buttermilk glaze between the layers. This carrot cake recipe is spiced with just cinnamon and enriched with buttermilk, crushed pineapple, flaked coconut and toasted nuts. And that’s BEFORE the buttermilk syrup gets brushed on, which makes it extraordinarily moist and sweet. It has so much going on that it’s hard to separate the cake from the mix ins in the best way.
For me, the syrup soak made the cake so moist it was slightly less structurally sound than others. The flavor was great, but my preference for this type of loaded cake would be slightly less sweet and moist (ie. I’d pick Pappas over this one). The frosting makes for a slightly less sweet frosting compared to All Recipes/King Arthur, which is a good thing since the cake is so sweet. Overall, an incredibly decadent pick that’s worth a try if you love moist, loaded carrot cakes!
- THIS WAS SO MOIST. I’m not the biggest fan of coconut and nuts but this is exactly what I picture a carrot cake to taste like.
- Cake was super moist and flavorful. It seems like there’s a lot going on here — I think it contains carrots, nuts, and shredded coconut and they kind of take over the cake, but it works. Nice cream cheese frosting. A little too sweet for me, but overall, a great cake
- Extra fruit and chunks makes it magical. Frosting is lick your fingers worthy
- Not much carrot but still really great cake. The texture is nice with a good balance of warm, sweet and savory.
- Love how chock full of ingredients this one is, frosting was very tasty, cake was a little too sweet though
- Cake was gooey but maybe too gooey?
King Arthur: a winningly classic carrot cake with a rich, spiced sweetness and a lightly tangy frosting
This carrot cake recipe is nearly identical to Edna Lewis‘ recipe (slightly more oil and spices) and is a very popular formula on the internet. It’s also extremely straightforward to make–you don’t even need a mixer! This had one of the highest proportions of oil and also stood out for its use of finely vs. coarsely grated carrots. Despite the use of all white sugar, this cake came out a rich dark color thanks to the generous amount of spices.
This cake is undeniably moist, quite sweet, and paired with a cream cheese frosting that, once again, is so sweet that it’s basically a buttercream. I think the lack of mix ins besides pecans also contributed to its popularity–it’s a straightforward, non-polarizing cake that will please a lot of people. This was one of my favs!
- This is my favorite flavor of carrot cake, deeper molasses flavors
- I really liked the flavor of the cake. Pieces of carrot/nuts were apparent but not overwhelming and the cake was nice and moist. Frosting a bit too sweet for me, but together it works
- Sweet frosting that’s a bit grainy, very moist cake with a nice amount of nuts and spice
- Frosting was kind of gritty due to sugar content. Overall the combo of cake moistness/flavor + frosting creaminess was what I’d come back for but not individually
- The nuts were more prominent. Cake was moist but not wet. Tasted more of the frosting. More cinnamon flavor forward
- More of a rich dense/ sweet vibe. Prefer the lighter fluffier ones
My personal picks (cake): Pappas Family (loaded style), King Arthur (loaded style) Allison Robicelli (plain spice cake style)
My personal picks (frosting): All Recipes or Pappas Family (sugary buttercream style), Grandbaby Cakes (brown butter frosting)
Most crowd-pleasing carrot cake: King Arthur, All Recipes
Best “loaded” carrot cakes: Southern Living, Pappas Family
Best plain “spice cake”-style carrot cakes: Allison Robicelli, Grandbaby Cakes, Sally’s Baking Addiction, Plain Chicken
Best easy carrot cake: Plain Chicken, Pappas Family, King Arthur
Best untraditional carrot cakes: Claire Saffitz, David Lebovitz
Best classic cream cheese frosting: Sally’s Baking Addiction
Best elevated cream cheese frostings: Bravetart, Allison Robicelli, Cook’s Illustrated
Best sugary “buttercream”-style frostings: King Arthur, All Recipes, Plain Chicken, Pappas Family
Did you find a new carrot cake recipe you’re excited to try?
I hope you enjoyed this tiny sampling of some of the best carrot cake recipes on the internet, myself and my taste testers certainly had a blast! If you think I missed a great recipe, let me know in the comments below!
If you loved this post, check out some of my other bake off challenges!
- Best Banana Bread Bake Off
- Best Fudgy Vegan Brownie Bake Off
- The Very Best Cheesecake Bake Off
- Best Butter Mochi Bake Off
- Best Strawberry Cake Bake Off
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just looking at the cooks illustrated cake, it appears that your execution of the recipe was WAY off…
their pictures show a 4 layer cake, with 4 thick layers of frosting in between (about equal in volume to the cake layers)… your CI cake has 2 fat layers of cake, with a thin smear of frosting…
considering the CI recipe is relatively lower in fat and sugar than most others, this thick layering of frosting/cake would be crucial to the end result (and compensate for the lower oil/sugar).
these bakeoffs are great, but if you actually want to compare recipes, you need to follow the ENTIRE recipe as written to get a useful/accurate result (including assembly, etc), instead of picking and choosing which aspects you want to follow vs assume can be ignored
OMG! Thank you for doing this. I have 9 tabs open with 9 different carrot cake recipes right now and couldn’t decide which one to use.
How beautiful it all looks and that cross-section of cakes with the ingredients visible
You say Sally has your fave classic cream cheese frosting and then you list your favorite sugary buttercream style frosting… but the recipes seem pretty similar between the two categories (Sally vs KAF, for example). What’s the categorical distinction here? THANK YOU!
The carrot cake recipe is perfect.
ty for doing this! Based on your reviews, I made the KAF recipe with Sally’s frosting for easter and they were amazing.
Not sure if anyone else is interested but I noticed earlier today that KAF have actually changed the recipe on their site. They’ve reduced the oil to 248g/1 1/4 cup from the 298g/1 1/2 cups and they’ve changed the 2 tsp baking soda to 1/2 tsp and added 1 1/2 tsp baking powder.
Oooh thank you for the note Sarah! Very interesting!!
I am so glad I found your blog! I was looking for a good recipe to make a carrot cake for my daughter’s birthday, and now I can’t wait to read through your other bake-offs.
I made the three-layer Poppas Family cake using golden raisins, omitting the dates and adding a squirt of lemon juice to the frosting. I also added the Frog Commissary pecan filling as mentioned above. The result is the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. Thanks, Erika!
I have used king Arthur’s recipe for years and am stoked to see it on the top!! Next possible bake off idea: southern coconut cake?
Agree! IMPOSSIBLE to pick which coconut cake recipe to bake!
Heya, thank you so much for always making such effort for us readers. Even though nowdadays I don’t have as much time to read foodblogs as I used to, I still always make the time for your bake-offs, as they are such life savers. I do want to say though, I have made BraveTart’s recipe (in full, whopping three layers) three times for my friend’s birthday, so I was really surprised to read that you found it dry, since the reason my friends and I loved it so much was how moist the cake always was, despite being a butter-based cake. I always attributed the moisture to the amount of carrots in there, but maybe I did something else to it? Hmm, really curious.
First off, love your title. Then my goodness so much information about carrot cake. We are so inspired – there is definitely one in the near future for us. Thank you!
So glad to hear this was helpful for you Kelly–thanks for the comment!! 🙂
I’ve just recently discovered your blog and I must say I’m in love!, most of the time when I want to make a dessert I start comparing recipes and waste so much time!, not to mention I always experience FOMO when looking at new recipes. Thank you!
Gaby! Thank you so much for the kind comment!! <333
Hii there, I am very delighted to say that the recipe you have shared with us for carrot cake is really awesome. The ingredients are easily available. Carrot is good for health as well.
Hi Erika, I Love this bake off- and so happy you have included the recipe spreadsheet! Could you briefly explain how you choose the finalists based on this information? Also, could you please explain the recipe composition data? Thanks so much!
Hi Sheri! The recipe composition data shows the approx percentages of the main components of each recipe. It helps visualize some of the commentary (sometimes you can see trends like recipes with more fat do better than recipes with less, or more/less carrots etc.). I also have a section in the post about how I selected the recipe finalists, let me know if you still have further questions!
Baked the Pappa’s Family recipe last night. It was a very good carrot cake. I expected the chopped dates to pop a little more than they did. I also did not much taste the crushed pineapple.
The carrot cake I usually make is the (Frog) Commissary Carrot Cake, which has a Pecan Cream Filling to go with the standard Cream Cheese Frosting. The Pecan Cream Filling is a difference maker 🙂 and worked well with the Pappa’s Family recipe 🙂
Is the Pappa’s Family related to the family that run the Pappa’s restaurants?
Hi Brian! Glad to hear you enjoyed the Pappas family cake–I agree that the dates and pineapple kind of meld into the sweetness of the cake (a perfect starter point for those who think they don’t enjoy pineapple in carrot cake :))
I’ve heard so many great reviews of that Frog Commissary Carrot Cake! Good to know the pecan cream filling works with the Pappas’ recipe! And no, they are not related to the Pappas restaurant chain family 🙂
Truly doing the Lord’s work over here. Thank you for this labor of love! I’ll be making Pappas very soon!
So glad to hear that Mandy, please do report back on how you like it!!
I’m so pleased to see KAF won! I’ve only made Bravetart and KAF over the past couple of years and currently use my own adaption of KAF. I use a combination of light brown muscovado and golden caster sugar instead of all white and almost double total spice amount using my own spice mix which has ratios more similar to Stella’s recipe.
Ohh that sounds like a fantastic combination!!
I love this breakdown and am excited to pick one to bake this weekend – most likely the Pappas family recipe 🙂
Thanks for always doing such an amazing job with these bake offs! I so so appreciate how thorough you are and how well these are done!
Thank you so much Sandy!! Hope you enjoy the Pappas recipe!