Soft Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Glaze

I love carrot cake. I’ve made carrot cake cookies, a loaf cake, carrot pineapple banana breadcupcakes, and no-bake bites.

But there’s always room for more carrot cake recipe.

Soft Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Glaze - Super soft bars that taste like blondies packed with chewy carrots! So good & a must-make!

The bars are super soft, moist, dense, and not at all cakey. They aren’t like traditional carrot ‘cake’ and if you’re looking for a fluffy piece of carrot cake, use this recipe.

The bars are like carrot cake blondies because of how buttery and rich they are.

Soft Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Glaze - Super soft bars that taste like blondies packed with chewy carrots! So good & a must-make!

I used my go-to blondies base recipe as the jumping off point. 30+ versions of blondies later, it’s proven to be the most highly adaptable dough or batter base I have.

It’s an easy, no-mixer recipe and the bars are much faster than making a whole carrot cake, and don’t make nearly the quantity, which is good for bikini season.

Soft Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Glaze - Super soft bars that taste like blondies packed with chewy carrots! So good & a must-make!

The bars are robustly flavored with one tablespoon cinnamon, and one-half teaspoon each of ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves before folding in as many carrots as the batter can hold.

It’s a peeve of mine when carrot or pumpkin recipes are bland, so I always add enough spices so you know they’re there, without being overwhelming. This is dessert and I want it to taste as such, not like a pan of baked carrots, which is a likely result if you don’t season properly.

Soft Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Glaze - Super soft bars that taste like blondies packed with chewy carrots! So good & a must-make!

I grated 3 large carrots for the bars because storebought bagged shredded carrots are usually coarse and thick, and don’t bake up very nicely. Not to mention, they’re coated with preservatives, and grating your own only takes a couple minutes and it’s worth it.

I kept out all raisins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, or anything else. If you want to start doctoring them up with your favorite add-ins, go for it. About 1/2 cup to 1 cup total of whatever you choose will likely work just fine.

Soft Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Glaze - Super soft bars that taste like blondies packed with chewy carrots! So good & a must-make!

I finished the bars with a cream cheese drizzle. I was going to do a thick layer of cream cheese frosting because I adore it, but it would cover up the pretty flecks of carrot strands that peek out from the surface. And let’s face it, a drizzle is healthier than a thick wall of frosting.

Since the bars are so soft and moist from the juicy carrots and from the brown sugar which also helps them stay tender, they don’t need gobs of frosting.

They get better on the second and third day because the flavors marry and they get softer over time from the moisture in the carrots. If you can manage to save yourself a wedge or two for days 2 and 3, you’re going to be extra thankful you did. I hoarded the last wedge like gold.

Soft Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Glaze - Super soft bars that taste like blondies packed with chewy carrots! So good & a must-make!

They’re comforting, homey, packed with flavor, and the carrots add so much chewy texture. Even though there are no oats used, the bars remind me of my favorite oatmeal cookies that are super chewy with tons of texture, yet still extremely soft.

They’d make a great Mother’s Day treat for a special mom in your life. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms! We have the hardest job in the world, but the best and most rewarding. I hope your weekend is spent doing things you want to do and that make you happy and recharge your batteries.

Soft Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Glaze - Super soft bars that taste like blondies packed with chewy carrots! So good & a must-make!

Print Recipe

Soft Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Glaze

The bars are super soft, moist, dense, and not at all cakey. They aren't like traditional carrot 'cake' and are like carrot cake blondies because of how buttery and rich they are. The bars are robustly flavored with cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves before folding in as many carrots as the batter can hold. There's enough spices so you know they're there, without being overwhelming. I grate my own carrots because storebought bagged shredded carrots are usually coarse and thick, and don't bake up very nicely. I kept out all raisins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc. but 1/2 cup to 1 cup total of your favorite add-ins can be incorporated. The bars are so soft and moist from the juicy carrots and the brown sugar, and they don't need gobs of frosting. They're comforting, homey, packed with flavor, and the carrots add so much chewy texture.

Yield: one 8x8 pan, 8 generous wedges

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: about 26 minutes

Total Time: about 90 minutes, for cooling

Ingredients:

Bars
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon (not teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups grated carrots, measured loosely (about 3 -4 med/large carrots, peeled and trimmed; grate your own rather than using storebought bagged carrots for best results)
about 1/2 to 1 cup optional add-ins (nuts, dried fruit, raisins, etc.)

Cream Cheese Glaze
about 1 cup confectioners' sugar + more if necessary for consistency
1 heaping tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
splash cream or milk, optional and only if necessary for consistency

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Bars - In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
  3. Wait momentarily before adding the egg so you don't scramble it. Add the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, optional salt, and whisk until combined.
  4. Add the flour and stir until just combined; don't overmix.
  5. Add carrots and stir to combine.
  6. Add any optional add-ins and stir to combine.
  7. Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
  8. Bake for about 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow bars to cool in pan for about 30 minutes before glazing.
  9. Cream Cheese Glaze - In a medium bowl, add 1 cup confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, butter, and whisk vigorously until smooth. As necessary, add additional sugar (if glaze seems too thin) or splash of milk (if it seems too thick) to reach desired consistency.
  10. Optionally, add glaze to a squirt bottle and evenly glaze the bars, or simply add glaze using a spoon. Optionally, evenly spread the glaze in a thin coating over the bars, noting you will cover up the visual appeal of the carrot flecks. I'm comfortable storing glazed bars at room temp, but if you're not, store them in fridge noting they will dry out more rapidly. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Bars get softer on days 2 and 3 and the flavors marry; I think they peak 1-2 days after baking.

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Carrot Cake Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting – Carrot Cake Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting – Soft, moist carrot cake that’s baked as a loaf. So much faster & easier than baking a cake!

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74 comments

  1. These bars look fabulous Averie and soo moist and nummy! I am looking forward to trying these and your vegan pumpkin cake because it always seems like I have tons of carrots hanging around in my fridge (and what better use for them? :D)! Pinned!

    • Thanks for pinning and that vegan pumpkin cake has 2 other similar recipes – muffins and a loaf – linked up in the post and the base recipe is *excellent*. You’d never know it was vegan; seriously great base that you can adapt to really anything, ie. cake, muffin, bread/loaf pan, and it always works!

  2. Love the spices in there! I haven’t had carrot cake in ages, and these bars seem way more portable. (Meaning I could put some in my pocket for emergencies…)

    • Exactly on the portable factor. They were so portable that I brought some to a friend’s house and we were sitting there drinking coffee and I dug into my own ‘gift’…Loved these things! haha!

  3. These look super moist. I love carrot cake because it’s an excuse to eat more raisins which I’m addicted to.

  4. I am a carrot cake junkie–you are speaking my language with these bars!

  5. Carrot cake flavor in a blondie–Jon and I would love these…and our anniversary is tomorrow so I might have to make a treat of some kind. These are very different and would be pretty quick to whip up.

    • Super fast to whip up and happy anniversary, Paula!! I hope you two have a wonderful weekend and hopefully you’re able to do something fun! And yes, definitely don’t work too hard in the kitchen on your anniversary and these aren’t hard. If you try them now, or ever, LMK! I loved these things – my fave ‘carrot cake’ recipe to date.

  6. Yes to carrot cake … that isn’t cake! :) I love how thick and fudgy these are! I think both carrot and banana based baked goods always taste better after a couple days. But I usually don’t have the self control! ;)

    • Thick and fudgy is right, if something non-chocolate can be fudgy, these were it! And yes to what you said about carrot and banana (and pumpkin) stuff being better as time passes if you have the control :)

  7. Carrot cake blondies? Yes please! These look and sound fantastic! I love anything carrot cake. I made sandwich cookies not too long ago. So good!

  8. Oooh! I haven’t delved into your carrot cake recipes at all. Must.correct.that. I bet a carrot cake pancake recipe would also be nummy …

  9. Love the idea of carrot cake in a bar, but the texture not at all cakey. Perfect! That gorgeous cream cheese glaze just completes these beautiful bars. Pinned! :)

  10. Your love for carrot cake is totally paralleled with mine. Another reason to love ya, girl!! These bars look FAB!

  11. Carrot cake blondies? Amazing! Pinned :-)

  12. Well you know I’m in love with these! They’re super gorgeous, and I think I love bars like this MORE than actual carrot cake!!

    • I know you have a carrot cake blondies recipe and yes Dorothy me too, I loved these more than cake. They’re my favorite carrot cake thing I’ve ever made. I love dense, thick stuff like this as opposed to light and fluffy any day!

  13. I’m a fool for anything carrot cake, Averie – I make carrot cake as my birthday cake each year! (Yes, I bake my own cake.) I have to try it in blondie form. Love the triangle shapes – so fun!

    • Sally these were so, so good. I seriously loved them. Def my favorite carrot cake thing I’ve ever made. I love dense, thick stuff like this as opposed to light and fluffy any day, so these were hoarded :)

  14. Carrot cake bars that are like blondies? Amazing! I love how you made them into triangles too. Looks so moist and chewy, which is the best!

  15. These look like they would be the PERFECT snack!! YUM!!

  16. Carrot cake is the best, and these look absolutely delicious! Those pictures of yours always suck me in :) they are usually the reason my stomach growls at night, because sometimes I will just sit and look at all your wonderful food on here. Enjoy your blog so much!

  17. I loooooooove anything that is carrot cake and these bars look fantastic. I can’t wait to try them as well as your carrot cake loaf and cupcakes. Oh boy, I think I’ll have to join a gym after trying all of these delights!!! :-)

  18. My blog is already 10 months old and this is my second comment but I read your blog all the time. I sought your photography resource for advice yet, my pictures are nowhere near your photos. I did not expect photography can be difficult :) But I am striving. These photos are so beautiful that I have to comment again after 10 month.

    • Photography is such a huge part of what we do and you’re right, it’s NOT easy to make the food look like how your eye sees it. Thanks for being a loyal reader and the compliments!

  19. You’re so right; there’s always room for more carrot cake in the world! As a humongous chocoholic, I always forget about how much I adore carrot cake until Easter rolls around, and then I swear that I’ll never need another slice of chocolate cake ever again. (Well, at least for a day or two.) The spices, the moisture, the sweet carrots… Absolutely irresistible. I don’t blame you for treating the last slice like gold! :) And happy Mother’s Day to you Averie! You’re one of the best moms in the world to make your daughter your top priority over blogging and bake her so many delicious treats. You deserve a whole truckload of peanut butter (or flowers, those won’t ruin bikini season quite so much!) tomorrow!

    • I just want to thank you for your truly heartfelt and sweet comments! They are always a joy to read and I really appreciate you always taking the time to share…whether it’s your childhood stories or just a special memory or all your compliments, I really appreciate it all, Amy! :)

    • It’s my pleasure Averie!! I’m glad my rambling can bring a smile to your face and hopefully brighten your day for a moment or two. :) Maybe next week we can meet and trade a few stories in person in Miami!

  20. We went out for dinner and came home to these for dessert. I was also thinking about your carrot cake cookies but didn’t have butterscotch chips. These are amazing–they definitely taste like carrot cake and the blondie texture was a nice surprise for Jon. I think he was expecting a cake like bar. I will confess to slathering more than drizzling the frosting!! Happy Mother’s day–put your feet up and take a break!

    • I’m so happy you made them, and that you used more than just a drizzle of frosting. Amen to that :) Certain things I do for photography, but based on taste, yes, slathering, by all means! And glad that they were a nice surprise – not cakey, at all. But tastes like carrot cake. But dense and really soft, yet chewy. It’s like the best of all worlds for me. Happy Anniversary again and thanks for trying this the same day I posted it and the field report!

  21. Carrot cake is my FAVORITE cake, but I don’t like cake all that much. I’ve tried carrot cake cookies, but it just isn’t right. THESE look perfect.

    I am definitely going to try these with my homegrown carrots this summer!

    • Oh wow with homegrown carrots no less…would be amazing. This is by far, my fave ‘carrot cake’ recipe Ive ever made. We are the same in that we don’t like dry, airy, or too ‘light and fluffy’. I would much prefer dense and supremely moist, any day!

      This gives you that mouthfeel and the texture of the carrots is just awesome. It’s like a really dense oatmeal cookie, super chewy, but super soft. It’s everything I love in baked goods and you too!

      And I can’t remember if you like raisins, but if you do, they’d be so good in here. I kept them out b/c so many ppl don’t like them. And these are WAY easier and less fussy than cookies. Seriously fast and easy!

  22. YUM! I love blondies, and I love carrot cake, but never thought to combine the two! And the cream cheese glaze puts these over the top for me :) They look amazing.

  23. All kinds of carrot cake are awesome! I’ve been on a carrot cake smoothie kick, myself…

  24. Oh lovely Averie! I’m a big fan of carrot cake, these bars are a fabulous and portable idea!

  25. Yum! Carrot cake is the best. These bars sound amazing. Cream cheese glaze fits anything ^^

  26. These bars look amazing Averie! I am a sucker for carrot cake anything and love how thick and fudgy these are and so much easier to make than an actual cake – pinning :)

  27. You can bet I will be trying these soon. Perfect for a summer potluck or picnic!

  28. This looks amazing! I love the glaze addition ;)

  29. I say drizzle icing for the photos and slather a good thick layer on for the taste testing! ;-) That is what the treadmill is for!

    These bars look sensational, Averie! Absolutely stunning and so moist and flavorful! Can’t wait to make them! My last carrot cake turned green so I’m so over it! Shhh don’t tell anyone…

    • Green – that’s usually a sign of a reaction with baking powder. Sometimes there’s a weird reaction when baking wit cookie butter and things turning green. Not exactly sure what it all is but I bet some fluke chemical reaction with the carrots and the baking powder. I bet if you google it you could figure it out (if you care…LOL) And yes, that’s what treadmills are for re the thick slather :)

  30. Thanks for specifying to measure loosely! It always bothers me when I see recipes that say to use a certain volume of grated carrot but don’t say whether that’s packed or loose. Packed is about double the amount of loose, so it really makes a difference! It’s nice that you don’t skimp on the writing of your recipes. :D

  31. These carrot cake bars look so good!

  32. Made these tonight. I used 1/3 cup vanilla protein powder and 2/3 cup flour in place of the full cup of flour as I do in all my baking just to increase the health factor. And I ended up frosting the whole bar because my “drizzle” looked like a pathetic mess. They were delicious! Husband has already eaten 1/2 the pan and is raving about the amazing spicy flavor. Thanks for the recipe. Definitely one I’ll be making again. And again. And again.

    • I love that you used 1/3 c protein powder and 2/3 c flour. That’s great! I used to bake with protein powder years ago, every now and then, but ruined too many things….LOL so haven’t done it in ages. And yes I know what you mean about cakes/messy drizzles. These bars were supposed to be a drizzle at first and then plans changes :) http://www.averiecooks.com/2014/04/coconut-lime-white-chocolate-bars.html
      But a thicker coating tastes better anyway!

      Glad you guys like the spicier flavor – nothing worse than bland carrot cake or pumpkin to me!

  33. These little bars are perfect, Averie! I’ve been thinking about making some sort of carrot cake recipe soon. My boyfriend is a huge fan of carrot cake and his birthday is coming up. But I wanted to try something different than the typical carrot cake. These are perfect! I can share some with my co-workers. They love when I bring in treats!

    Thanks for sharing. Pinned!

    • If you try this, LMK! They’re so much different than your average carrot cake, just so dense and moist and nicely spiced. Nice of you to want to bake for your boyf’s bday!

  34. I honestly can’t get enough carrot cake and these bars are no exception. I love how dense and moist they are Averie. And I agree, store-bought grated carrots are a no-no in recipes like this where a lot of the moisture is derived from the carrots. The cream cheese drizzle is brilliant. If you can’t tell – I LOVE these! Pinned!

    • Thanks for pinning and I’m so glad you love them! They’re really unique and taste nothing like most (dry) carrot cakes…LOL Super moist and dense and we loved them!

  35. I’d take bars like this over carrot cake any day of the week!! I love how moist and delish these look! The best part? Totally the cream cheese drizzle! ;) Pinned!

  36. Hi, could I use oil in the place of butter for the bars?

    • You probably could but I have not tested it. The bars are already *incredibly* moist and oil makes things even moister than butter so they will be supremely soft! I’d use a scant 1/2 cup and see how it looks from there.

    • Thanks, Averie. I can’t wait to try them out!

  37. I LOVE CARROT CAKE!! This bars look amazing + easy. I always run a 50% chance of screwing up my cake because I’m so freaking impatient for them to cook!! Silly, I know! By the way, do these require baking powder or baking soda, or none? I couldn’t find either on your ingredients? :)

  38. I’m late to the party! But these look amazing. I’ve got them in the oven now and I will say that the uncooked batter (I know, I know, shouldn’t eat raw eggs, lol) tasted amazing! I also much prefer my carrot cake to have a ton of flavor. Like a spice cake only with carrots!

  39. made these today and they taste great!! so moist and flavorful!! i didn’t have cream cheese on hand, but made a pineapple glaze left over from your pineapple poke cake that i made yesterday. it went together very nicely, although i think the cake alone is just as great!! 

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! And great job at re-purposing the glaze you already had rather than going to buy cream cheese. I love the combo of carrot cake and pineapple. Some recipes call for pineapple in carrot cake and I love that!

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