This Single-Layer Carrot Cake without Nuts is the best! It's moist, delicious, and the cream cheese frosting is just sweet enough. People will ask for the recipe every time!
Carrot cake sometimes gets a bad rap. If you buy it at a restaurant or bakery, it can be too dry, too sweet, too spicy. Too chunky.
This Single-Layer Carrot Cake Without Nuts is none of those things.
It's super moist. The cream cheese frosting is extra creamy and just sweet enough. The spices are pleasantly noticeable but not overbearing.
And it's smooth! This is a nut-free carrot cake without pineapple, so there's nothing to interfere with the glorious texture.
I've been making this since 2010, and it always gets rave reviews. Everyone says it's the best carrot cake ever!
I make this single-layer carrot cake in a 9x13 pan, which is easy, casual and just how I roll. But I've included notes for a 10x15 pan for a crowd or a fancy-looking three-layer cake, which my artistic son has been known to produce.
However you serve it, run, don't walk, to make this homemade carrot cake recipe! It's fabulous for fall, with its warm spices and hues like autumn leaves.
But it's so delicious, you'll want to make it all year. Just like The Best Jewish Apple Cake!
Carrot cake ingredients
I have to give props to Mel's Kitchen Cafe for the perfect carrot cake batter, which contains only a bit of oil but bakes up moist because it includes some applesauce and water. Genius!
I didn't mess with the batter but changed the frosting.
Cream cheese frosting ingredients
There are two factors that set this cream cheese icing recipe apart. They both produce an extra creamy, luscious result.
Reduced Sugar: I cut the sugar by almost half. Two cups of sugar are plenty, in my opinion.
It's enough to be lightly sweet, yet nicely tangy. And I bumped up the ratio of frosting to cake, because...yum!!
Whipped Cream: Oh, yes, my friends. Whipped cream brings the X-factor to this whipped cream cheese frosting.
I kept this from the original recipe, and once you try it this way, you'll never go back!
How to make carrot cake in a 9x13 pan
(See the recipe card at the end of this post for full instructions, but here's an overview, with step-by-step photos.)
Shred or grate the carrots
The easiest way to shred carrots is by using a food processor (affiliate link). If you don't have one, you can use a box grater (affiliate link), instead. Choose the larger holes, so you end up with strips of carrots instead of tiny flecks.
Whisk the wet ingredients
Add the eggs, oil, applesauce, water and vanilla to a mixing bowl. Whisk, then add sugar. Whisk again to mix.
Add the dry ingredients
Whisk the dry ingredients, stir them into the batter, then fold in the shredded carrots using an under-and-over motion with a silicone spatula (affiliate link).
Bake the cake
Grease and flour your baking pan before adding the batter. Bake the carrot cake at 350 degrees F until it's golden brown on top and a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
How to make cream cheese frosting
Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until creamy. Gradually add the confectioners sugar and beat until combined.
Add whipped cream to the frosting
Beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the frosting, then beat just until blended.
Carrot cake recipe tips
- If you wish to add nuts to this recipe, you can stir some chopped walnuts into the batter or sprinkle them onto the frosted cake.
- To feed a crowd, you can make this single-layer carrot cake in a 10x15 glass pan. You would need to double the cake ingredients and use 1 ½ times the frosting ingredients. Add 10-13 minutes to the baking time listed.
- For a 9-inch round, three-layer carrot cake, double the cake and frosting ingredients. Check the cake layers for doneness after 20 minutes.
Frequently asked questions
Carrot cake should be refrigerated, even if unfrosted, since it contains carrots. Cover the unfrosted cake with plastic wrap.
Once frosted, carrot cake technically doesn't need to be covered, but I recommend doing so to protect it from absorbing the odors of other food in the refrigerator. Stick toothpicks on top of the frosted cake before lightly covering it with foil, to prevent the frosting from smudging. You also could store it in a cake caddy (affiliate link) without foil.
If the carrot cake is already cut, it will keep for about three days. If the cake is still whole, it will last for a week in the refrigerator.
You can freeze carrot cake only if it is unfrosted. Wrap it in plastic, then foil, before freezing. Thaw it in the refrigerator.
More cakes to try
- Sour Cream Pound Cake (Light)
- Pear Cake with Amaretto Glaze
- Torta Caprese (Flourless Chocolate-Almond Cake)
- Raspberry-Almond Angel Food Cake
If you try this Single-Layer Carrot Cake Without Nuts, please leave a comment and a rating!
Single-Layer Carrot Cake Without Nuts (So Moist!)
- 2 eggs (I use extra-large)
- 3 ounces vegetable oil
- 3 ounces unsweetened applesauce
- 3 ounces water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 12 ounces carrots (rinsed, ends trimmed, and peeled)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 tablespoons salted butter (softened)
- 8 ounces cream cheese (softened; light is OK)
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
- Set out eight tablespoons of butter and eight ounces of cream cheese to soften. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan (see notes for other pan sizes.)
- Rinse the carrots, peel them with a vegetable peeler, and cut off the ends. Shred the carrots using a food processor or grater and set them aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, applesauce, water and vanilla until combined. Whisk in the sugar until mixed evenly.
- In another bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, allspice, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Stir those dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in your large bowl, just until moistened. Gently fold in the carrots (using an under-and-over motion) with a spatula, until they are evenly distributed.
- Transfer the batter to your pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let the cake cool completely before frosting it.
- For the frosting, in a large bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.
- In a separate (ideally stainless steel) bowl, and with clean, dry beaters, beat the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the frosting and then whip to combine it, just until blended. The frosting should be smooth and creamy.
- Frost the cake when it is completely cool. Store the cake covered, in the refrigerator. (Stick toothpicks in the cake and gently cover it with foil.) Take out the cake several minutes before serving, for best taste. The cake will stay fresh in the refrigerator for three days if cut, or a week if left whole.
- You can freeze carrot cake only if it is unfrosted. Wrap it in plastic, then foil, before freezing. Thaw it in the refrigerator.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Originally published here on October 6, 2015 and updated now with new photos and text and a correction to the frosting recipe.)
I'm a bit confused about the frosting. Do you add the heavy whipping cream (looks like liquid in the photo) or whipping cream like Cool Whip? Thanks!
Hi Danielle - Heavy whipping cream is liquid (see the ingredients photo for the frosting.) You need to beat the liquid cream until it thickens into whipped cream. All of these details are in the recipe card at the end of the post.
This carrot cake recipe is absolutely delicious. I didn't notice my lack of brown sugar until I had the oil and eggs already together, so I used what I had, granulated sugar. So good, so moist. Thank you for sharing your recipe 😊
Hi Michelle - I'm so happy you enjoyed this! The recipe calls for granulated sugar, not brown sugar.
Am I crazy? I don’t see brown sugar in the recipe!
Hi Jo - There is no brown sugar in this recipe. The cake batter contains white, granulated sugar.
My husband came home with a bag of carrots and asked me to make a carrot cake… now, I’ve never made one from scratch so I went to my friend “GOOGLE” and your recipe was one of the first to come up … when I tell you my husband is smiling ear to ear… the steps were easy to follow and thank you for posting this delicious recipe… it is copied and saved 😁
Hi Sherri - I love hearing that! I'm glad the steps were easy to follow, and I hope you'll try my other recipes!
This is the best carrot cake I’ve ever had! It’s outstanding.
Hi Evie - I love hearing that! We think so too. Thanks for letting me know!
This looks heavenly!! Glad that applesauce works in this, too! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks, Nicole! It really is the best carrot cake I've ever had, and others have said the same. I hope you try it!
Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
Oh my this sounds just too incredible! Sure is a favorite here too Andrea! Have a great weekend my friend. Cheryl
It lives up to its reputation! Thanks, Cheryl, and you too. 🙂
Carrot cake definitely says fall to me, as well! It's one of our favorites this time of year...though I've been known to make it around Easter time - but not for the bunny! We celebrate two April birthdays in our house... Thanks for sharing your blissful recipe! Love it!
OK, I'm glad I'm not the only one who associates carrot cake with the Fall. And April is a cake-filled month here too, with my birthday and anniversary. I'm thankful for any good excuse to indulge in cake! Thanks, Annie. 🙂
Denise @ Sweet Peas & Saffron
First, I love that you called the frosting 'blissful', because that is just what I think of when I think of cream cheese frosting! Secondly, I love that this recipe uses applesauce, some carrot cake recipes I've used have so. much. oil in them! Looks delicious!
You've got me thinking about other recipes where I can substitute applesauce for some of the oil. It works surprisingly well. Thanks, Denise!