Carrot Cake Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting

When it’s done right, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is one of my favorite indulgences.

And this is my new favorite recipe for carrot cake.

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!

I’m really picky about carrot cake. Just like when I dissected Lemon Bars and pointed out many things that could go awry from dog biscuit-like crust to lackluster lemon oomph, carrot cake is also ripe for caketastrophes, with the number one issue being dryness. I would rather eat a dry rice cake than ingest all those calories on cake that tastes like a dry rice cake. Problem solved because this is the moistest carrot cake I’ve ever had.

Additionally, many carrot cakes don’t include enough of the starring ingredient, carrots. I also have to have raisins in my carrot cake or it’s just not the same. I know some people don’t like raisins, but I’m a Raisin Lover. Here they’re used plentifully, adding flavor, texture, and help keep an already soft and moist cake even more so.

MY OTHER RECIPES

As for nuts, they’re a total deal-breaker for me in baked goods and this carrot cake is nut-free. With both raisins and nuts, you can add or omit based on your ideal definition of carrot cake.

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!

Another issue that plagues carrot cakes is blandness. When it comes to cinnamon-and-spice-and-everything-nice, I use a heavier hand than most recipes call for. Carrots, eggs, sugar, buttermilk, flour; they’re all ingredients that can stand up to bolder spices. In no way is this carrot cake overly-spiced; it’s not a spice cake, but it’s flavorful. It’s not to be confused with those grocery store carrot cakes that are generally so bland they’re just one step above jarred baby food carrots.

As for actually baking the cake, many people seem to shun layered cakes and Bundt cakes, whereas loaves of things, like banana bread or quickbreads baked in loaf pans, seem more popular. I’ll be the first to admit, I typically don’t have the patience for layered cakes or for frosting them, so I baked this in loaf pans. So much easier than a fancy three-layered cake and absolutely nothing is sacrificed in the taste department.

This batter makes enough for two loaves. I used one 9-by-5-inch pan and one 8-by-4-inch pan. The photos are of the 9-by-5-inch. I like symmetry and wanted to do two 8-by-4-inch loaves, but there was just a bit too much batter. I could have them made 4 to 6 muffins, but kept it easy in two loaf pans. Choose any combination of loaf pans, muffin pans, tube or Bundt cake pans. It would make a great 10- to 12-cup Bundt, two mini Bundts, or about 4 mini loaves. Whatever odd assortment of pans you have, go with it, adjusting baking times accordingly.

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!To make this cake, I combined elements from my Carrot Pineapple Banana Bread with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting and from my Pumpkin Bundt Cake. It’s a whisk-tougher batter and the first 11 ingredients are added to the bowl, all at once, and whisked. There is nothing fussy about it and it goes from cupboard to oven in less than five minutes with very few dirty dishes.

I was torn whether to use oil or butter, and if using butter; to cream it or melt it. My banana bread recipes all begin with melted butter because I love the flavor, but the pumpkin bundt uses oil and it’s the moistest cake I’ve ever had. So for the carrot cake, I used both oil and melted butter. Why not. I absolutely was not dragging out my mixer, so it’s melted butter rather than creamed. Melted butter usually produces denser cakes rather than light and airy, which is my preference anyway.

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!

Simply melt the butter, add the oil, buttermilk, eggs, sugars, vanilla, all the spices, and whisk. That’s the first 11 ingredients.

The buttermilk tenderizes the batter and helps an otherwise dense batter rise nicely while baking. I used both granulated and brown sugar since a bit of brown sugar adds flavor and moisture.

The spices include a mix of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg. If you don’t happen to keep them all on hand, I suggest using more cinnamon. Cinnamon cures everything. For a twist, if you love pumpkin like I do, pumpkin pie spice would be lovely, too. As written, the cake is nicely spiced and before you double the cinnamon or other spices like I usually do with most recipes, taste the batter and go from there.

Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, optional salt, fold in the carrots, raisins,  and optional nuts. If you’re using both raisins and nuts, reduce each to about 3/4-cup rather than one full cup each so you don’t overwhelm the batter with add-ins, tasty as it sounds.

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!

Pour the batter into your pan(s), making sure not to fill any pan more than halfway full because the batter rises considerably. Bake at 350F until top is set in the middle, and it will likely have domed up a little. A toothpick will come out clean, and even when the cake is done, the pan will feel heavy for it’s size. This is one moist cake, I’m telling you.

Baking times will vary greatly by pan sizes used. For standard-sized loaf pans, 40 to 50 minutes, is recommended. I baked the 8-by-4-inch loaf for 42 minutes and the 9-by-5-inch for 50 minutes. If you’re making mini loaves or muffins, I’d start checking them by 20 minutes, and go from there. One big Bundt cake will probably take 55 to 65 minutes, but because of oven variances, various pans used, moisture content in the carrots, and personal preference, baking times will vary.

While the cake bakes, make the frosting. Carrot cake just isn’t carrot cake without cream cheese frosting. Beat together butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, a splash of vanilla, and whip until it’s soft and fluffy.

For the photos, I wanted you to see the moistness and texture on the surface of the slices and didn’t cover them frosting. But in reality, I eat a thick, ridiculous layer of frosting, smeared all over. I lay the slice flat and butter it. With frosting. That little skimpy one-inch stripe on top is just for photos. Cream cheese frosting is worth lacing up my running shoes for.

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!

This is my new favorite carrot cake recipe. I’ve been saying that a lot lately about things being the best. These Coconut Oil White Chocolate CookiesThe Best Lemon Bars, these Brown Sugar Cookies, these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies, but these things have all been on my Bucket List for 2013 and one by one, I’m checking them off. Classics and basics that I want a solid recipe for, for years to come.

This recipe is a keeper. The cake is tender, springy, dense but not heavy, falling-apart soft and moist without being greasy. The oil keeps it moist beyond all words, the butter adds flavor, and the buttermilk does both. It’s full of texture from the carrots and raisins. And it’s warmly spiced with cinnamon and the spices classic carrot cake is known for. The cream cheese frosting is the literal icing on the cake; tangy, creamy, luscious.

I have not been able to keep away from this cake. It’s a good thing the recipe makes two loaves.

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!

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!

Carrot Cake Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This is my favorite recipe for carrot cake because it turns out ridiculously moist, soft, tender, and is full of cinnamon-and-spice-and-everything-nice, including an abundance of carrots and sweet, juicy raisins. The batter is extremely fast and easy to make by combining the first 11 ingredients together at once in a bowl and whisking. Carrot cake isn't carrot cake without cream cheese frosting and this one is tangy, thick, wonderful, and a must have. The recipe makes two loaves; but can be made as mini loaves, muffins, or a Bundt cake.
Serves: 2 loaves (one 9x5 & one 8x4)
Ingredients
  • For the Cake
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt, optional (buttermilk is already a salted milk and I omitted adding salt)
  • 2¼ cups coarsely grated carrots, packed loosely
  • 1 cup raisins, optional but recommended
  • 1 cup diced nuts (such as walnuts, pecans), optional
  • For the Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used Trader Joe's Whipped Light)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter (half of one stick)
  • 1½ cups+ confectioners' sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. For the Cake - Preheat oven to 350F; spray loaf pans with floured cooking spray; set aside. I used one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and one 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Choose any combination of loaf pan sizes, tube or Bundt cake pans, or muffin pans.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power. Add the oil, eggs, buttermilk, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and whisk vigorously until combined. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, optional salt, and stir to incorporate; don't overmix. Stir in the carrots. Stir in the raisins and optional nuts. If using both raisins and nuts, use about ¾ cup of each rather than 1 cup each, or the batter may become overwhelmed with add-ins. Pour batter into prepared pans, making sure not to fill any pan more than halfway full because this batter rises considerably.
  3. Bake the two loaves (9x5 and 8x4) for 40 to 50 minutes, or until top is set in the center, golden, and a toothpick comes out clean. Baking times will vary greatly by pan sizes used. I baked the 8-by-4-inch loaf for 42 minutes and the 9-by-5-inch loaf for 50 minutes. Muffins or mini loaves could bake in as short as 20 minutes, a big Bundt cake may need 55 to 65 minutes. Allow cake to cool in pans for about 10 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. While cakes cool, make the frosting.
  4. For the Cream Cheese Frosting - To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, butter, and beat to soften and combine, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. Add additional sugar as desired for thicker frosting. Spread frosting over the tops of the cooled loaves. Slice into ¾-inch wide slices and serve. I yield 9 to 10 slices from a 9x5 loaf.
  5. Some people prefer to refrigerate cream cheese frosting and if you're one of them, I suggest frosting the slices individually immediately prior to serving, rather than frost the whole loaf and then refrigerating it, which will dry it out.
  6. Store unfrosted loaf wrapped in plasticwrap and placed inside a large ziptop plastic bag for up to 1 week at room temperature, or freeze for up to 3 months. Freezing second loaf after it's cooled is recommended if you're not going to eat it within a week.
  7. Adapted from Carrot Pineapple Banana Bread with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Related Recipes:

Carrot Pineapple Banana Bread with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting – One of my favorite quick-breads on my site. It has everything I could want in a bread; carrots, pineapple, banana, raisins, pudding mix, browned butter, and cream cheese. It’s rich, decadent, and it’s denser like banana bread, with the richness of cake. The photos don’t do this recipe the justice its due

Oatmeal Raisin Carrot Cake Bites (no-bake, vegan, GF) – Cookie dough bites are always popular and instead of cookie dough, these are carrot cake dough. They’re soft, chewy, and filled with texture

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache – I took elements of this cake when making the Carrot Cake Loaf because this is my favorite cake on my site. If you crossed the buttery-est yellow cake with pumpkin, added chocolate chips, and draped it all in a rich ganache, this is what you’d get. It’s a one-bowl, whisk-together cake that takes minutes to make, with amazing results. Moist, tender, flavorful, easy and everyone who’s made this cake writes to tell me they make it…again. Always a hit

Pumpkin Banana Bread with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting – This quickbread pairs two of my favorites, pumpkin bread and banana bread, into one and it’s topped with a frosting that I could eat by the spoonful

Coconut Spice Cheesecake Bars – Part cheese cake, part spice cake,with the flavors of carrot cake and cream cheese frosting. Chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut are baked in between the cake and cream cheese layers for richly spiced bars that are very fast and easy to make since there’s a shortcut involved

Do you like carrot cake?

If you have a favorite recipe for any carrot cake, bread, or loaves, I’d love to hear about it.

152 comments on “Carrot Cake Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting”

  1. Whoaaaa, you are a mindreader. I have leftover cream cheese and was just thinking of making carrot cake!

  2. Carrot cake is my favorite!!! We actually had it for our wedding cake! I’ve never made one myself, but one of my friends makes a gluten-free carrot cake every year around her birthday–it’s to die for! Yum.

    • You’re like the 6th person in these comments alone who said they had it as their wedding cake or want to. I think that would be awesome. I had no idea it was such a popular choice as wedding cake!

      • Yes, my husband even joked with me, “of course . . . only you would find a way to get vegetables into your wedding cake”. :)

        Also, I made the coconut/lemon/rosemary roasted veggies and posted about them yesterday. Delicious!!

  3. This looks divine!!! Seriously, I NEED a slice now haha. And your photos are fantastic!

  4. Ugh – yet another post on sweet treats. Use to love your blog, but where is the real food?

  5. Again – amazing. Even if I didn’t like it I’d want that. Your photos are just stellar. And I had to go back and pin those carrot cake balls!

  6. i cannot describe how excited i am about this recipe!! carrot cake WITH cream cheese frosting is my FAVORITE cake. seriously YUM. might have to make this today! i’m thinking one loaf and a few cup cakes will do…with a generous layer of frosting might i add. :)

  7. Averie, how did you know I’ve been craving carrot cake?! Also, I totally agree with some many of your points here: the importance of mega moisture, adding plenty of spice, and yes yes yes to raisins! Winner!

  8. Yes! Carrot cake + cream cheese frosting is another one of those magical dessert/baking combos.
    We also had it for 2 tiers of our wedding cake ;)

    • I just told this to another person – you’re like the 5th person in the comments alone who’s mentioned this!

      “So many people have said they want carrot cake at their wedding or had carrot cake as their wedding cake. I never knew it was even an option? I mean anything goes at one’s wedding; it’s the person’s call of course but I am surprised to hear the popularity of it as wedding cake. And I think that would be great! I’d love to be at a wedding where carrot cake was served!”

  9. I adore carrot cake…and this carrot cake loaf looks seriously incredible!!!

  10. Oh girl! You’re just like me. I love my raisins as well (I actually just threw a few on my cereal) and dislike nuts in my baked goods. There’s just something about taking a bite into something sweet and then tasting the bitterness of a nut. I like my nuts as an afternoon snack or in certain pastas or oatmeal, but not a baked good. I love the fact that this carrot cake can be made in various sized pans. I actually think bundt cakes are super simple to throw together, the only problem I have with them is frosting them. Whenever I try and dribble the frosting on, it looks LAME! They should offer a course in cake dribbling. I have to tell you that one of John’s favorite desserts is coconut cake and carrot cake. I think I will have to treat him to this cake soon! Have a great day girl and I hope you’re having some warmer and sunnier weather. We’re having spring fever up here and I LOVE it. xoxo, Jackie

    • It’s such an easy, easy batter Jackie. In some many ways it reminds me of the pumpkin bundt that we both love, but with carrots. And I do agree than Bundts are super easy; they’re my fave kind of cake to make and if I was making this just for us, I would have made it like that. But for my blog, people love their loaf pans :) Drizzling – just take your time and the beauty is that it doesn’t have to be perfect :)

  11. I love love love carrot cake! And the fact that you get to put cream cheese frosting on it is what really does it for me. I would NEVER think of making a carrot cake (or eating one for that matter) that didn’t have cream cheese frosting…until about a year and a half ago. I was introduced to a carrot cake bundt without frosting. I know! Instead of frosting is has a Grand Marnier glaze. Yes! It doesn’t even need the frosting, it is the most moist, delicious carrot cake I have ever had. Now, it doesn’t have raisins but they can easily be added. I just posted my recipe for this carrot cake last week, check it out! And don’t be afraid of the lack of frosting.
    http://gingerbearkitchen.com/2013/01/carrot-cake

  12. Thank you for making this nut-free. Desserts with nuts are also deal-breakers for me (I don’t eat nuts). I love the idea of a carrot cake loaf – it’s so much easier to store and slice than a full-blown cake.

  13. Okay, why does everything you make look totally beautiful and perfect?!

  14. Yum! I love carrot cake season! Putting vegetables into my desserts makes me feel okay eating way more of them than I should :)

  15. The top tier of our wedding cake was carrot…with lots of cream cheese frosting! I have had some dry pieces with paltry amounts of carrot and figured it could have been a boxed mix. Yours is a beauty–I can see all of the good stuff in there and it definitely looks moist! I’ve never been a fan of angel food cakes or cakes with that type of texture…I like a little density in baked goods.

    • So many people have said they want carrot cake at their wedding or had carrot cake as their wedding cake. I never knew it was even an option? I mean anything goes at one’s wedding; it’s the person’s call of course but I am surprised to hear the popularity of it as wedding cake. And I think that would be great! I’d love to be at a wedding where carrot cake was served!

  16. I agree with you – I love carrot cake but sometimes it can just be so bad and a total waste of calories : ) This looks delicious. I just got a new loaf pan …. this may be a good way to break it in!

  17. I am not a cake fan and not really a fan of frosting either. With that said, I do love carrot cake with cream cheese frosting! I would leave out the raisins though, I like raisins, but not in baked goods/breads. I would add nuts!!

    I would love to have a slice of this, but eat only plant-based foods, seems that the recipe has too many ingredients to attempt to make this vegan.

    • Hmmm to make vegan, you’d have to swap out eggs, butter, buttermilk and then for the frosting, cream cheese, butter…I am sure there are killer vegan carrot cake recipes that exist and although you could swap out here; the results you get would not be like what my cake tastes like. It would still probably be good but yes, lots of changes so the finished products would be different.

  18. Oh averie how badly do I want a slice of this?
    I have almost all the ingredients–no buttermilk.
    I need to make this and soon!

  19. Love this! I think if I ever get married I’m partial to having carrot cake at my wedding. It really is the best ever. Also, I love how the difference between melted vs creamed butter in cakes — great tip!

    • I find that to be true when I make cakes (and also cookies) with the melted/creamed. Like not whipping all that air into the butter will cause more density. Sometimes good, sometimes not – depending on the goal. And so many people have said they want carrot cake at their wedding. I think that would be great!

    • One of the “tiers” in my wedding cake was carrot cake (almost 27 years ago!)…I worked with fabulous Portland Oregon bakery to concoct a cake that everyone would love…and broke “tradition” by having it decorated with a stabilized whipped cream/cream cheese mélange) and fresh fruit (fraises/kiwi..etc)..it was really gorgeous and unique..at the time!..By the way…the carrot cake was the first “to go”…everyone at the reception loved it!…Sorry for the ramble!

      • OOPS…Despite previous “ramble”…I wanted to mention that, keeping with an old tradition, we “saved” two pieces of the wedding cake (froze of course!)to have on our first anniversary…GUESS which of the five tiers we chose?…The Carrot Cake ‘natch!

      • You’re like the 10th person in this post alone who’s said she had carrot cake at her wedding – or wants to! I had no idea it was a wedding cake ‘option’ per se; of course anything goes at one’s wedding, it’s your wedding! But I thought the choices were white..and…white:) And your other comment about Bundts vs. loaves and perception of healthy or not. I think that’s what happens with my readers, too. They see a ‘cake’ and dismiss it as unhealthy; whereas a loaf pan means bread so it’s safer, healthier; and also people are scared of cake-making, even quickcakes, which is what I call a cake that’s like a quickbread that doesn’t need a mixer, etc. It’s really all the same batter, just how it’s baked. And the fridge/frosting situation – to each her own but my grandmother left her cream cheese frosting at room temp for days and days and everyone was just fine :)

  20. This looks amazing, Averie! Agreed, most carrot cakes don’t have enough spices and flavor in them. And I love the idea of baking it in a loaf pan – I can tell myself it’s okay to have it for breakfast (:

  21. I’m also SUPER picky about carrot cake, but when I find one I love, I am obsessed with it. Growing up, my friend’s mom used to make hers for me for my birthday every year because I pretty much ONLY liked hers. I love the way you describe it: “tender, springy, dense but not heavy, falling-apart soft and moist without being greasy.” Ummm, pretty much sounds perfect. Going to have to try this out.

    Oh, and I would eat that frosting off pretty much anything. Or on it’s own. Either way. :)

  22. You pictures are amazing, and the recipes look so delicious, I almost took a bite out of my computer screen!

  23. Oh how I LOVE carrot cake and cream cheese frosting!! Yum! I have some carrots in my fridge needing to be used…I think I’ll be making this soon!

  24. This is my kind of carrot cake! Raisins, cream cheese frosting, and no nuts! It’s like you read my mind!

    The only thing I do sometimes is to switch up the raisins for golden raisins. I have a recipe that I like already, but you convinced me to try yours next time, it looks and sounds so delicious!

    • Thanks, Diane! I had golden raisins but sometimes they are so big that I didn’t want them to fall to the bottom of the pans and didn’t feel like chopping them so I went with darker ones but I do love the goldens, too. LMK if you try this!

  25. I.LOVE.CARROT.CAKE I want it as my wedding cake…or at least one tier. Mainly because I love cream cheese frosting, but only when it’s actually tart and not overly sweet. This cake looks perfect!

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