Salted Caramel Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting — Soft, tender, EASY carrot cake infused with salted caramel sauce and topped with tangy cream cheese frosting is the ULTIMATE in decadence!! Calling all carrot cake fans, you will LOVE this version!!
Easy Carrot Cake Recipe
There are so many great flavors and textures in this easy carrot cake recipe including a perfectly spiced and moist cake that’s laced with plenty of carrots and salted caramel sauce in every bite.
The caramel cream cheese frosting takes this carrot cake over the top and into truly rich and decadent territory. You only live once, right?
The contrast of the tangy cream cheese frosting with the salted caramel sauce and then sweet cake was all just perfect.
If you’re a fan of nuts or raisins in your carrot cake, they would be nice additions. But there is already so much goodness and richness going on with this cake, anything else wasn’t necessary for us.
What’s in This Easy Carrot Cake?
I actually made this simple carrot cake with cake mix, surprise! I have plenty of scratch carrot cake recipes but this one starts with a shortcut in the form of a box of yellow cake mix.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the cake:
- Boxed yellow cake mix
- Vanilla extract
- Grated carrots
- Salted caramel sauce
- Cream cheese
- Unsalted butter
- Confectioners’ sugar
How to Make Carrot Cake with Cake Mix
Doctor up the cake mix with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and of course shredded carrots. Make sure to grate your own because carrots you can buy in bags that are pre-shredded have an odd texture that isn’t right for this recipe.
I am not shy when it comes to adding spices to either carrot cake or in any pumpkin recipe so that I can be sure there is the robust carrot cake flavor I want when it’s done, and this cake is no exception.
After baking the cake, poke holes in it all over with a fork. Yes, this is actually a poke cake, the best kind of cake in my opinion, since they’re never dry and have different flavors layered together.
Pour salted caramel sauce all over the surface of the cake and let it seep in. Some of it will sit on the surface of the cake since salted caramel sauce tends to have quite a thick and viscous texture and that’s perfectly fine.
Then, whip up a batch of caramel cream cheese frosting and top the cake with it. I drizzled extra caramel sauce on top, because why not?
Can I Use Store-Bought Frosting?
Of course! This is your cake, after all. If you want to use a shortcut, one 14-ounce tub of prepared cream cheese frosting works perfectly fine for this easy carrot cake recipe.
What Brand of Cake Mix Should I Use?
You can use any you’d like, but my personal favorite is Duncan Hines.
Tips for Making Carrot Cake From Yellow Cake Mix
You can either make the caramel cream cheese frosting with Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce (make it while the cake bakes) or you can use store bought salted caramel sauce.
If you have a Trader Joe’s in your area, a 10-ounce jar of their salted caramel sauce is perfect for this simple carrot cake recip, but other brands will be just fine.
If you’re looking to make this cake as fast and easy as possible, use store bought salted caramel sauce and frosting; and at the other end of the spectrum, make both from scratch — your choice.
However you decide to make this easy carrot cake, you’ll love it and so will any carrot cake fan!
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Salted Caramel Carrot Cake
- one 15.25-ounce box yellow cake mix
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
- ½ cup water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 ½ cups grated carrots, loosely packed and measured (from about 4-5 medium peeled carrots, grated on the coarsest blade of a box grater)
- one 10-ounce jar prepared salted caramel sauce
- 10 ounces homemade salted caramel sauce
Cream Cheese Frosting
- one 14-ounce tub prepared fluffy cream cheese frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened (lite okay)
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 2 to 4 tablespoons salted caramel sauce for drizzling, or to taste
For the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13-inch pan with foil for easier cleanup and spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- To a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients except the carrots, and beat on high speed for about 2 minutes or until well combined.
- Add the carrots and beat to incorporate. Tip - It's important to peel and then grate your own carrots on the coarsest blade of a box grater. Bagged, pre-grated carrots have a texture that is not desirable for this recipe.
- Turn batter out into prepared pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake for about 28 to 31 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs in the center.
For the Filling:
- Immediately poke holes in the hot cake with a fork in about 100 places, going about 3/4 of the way down but not all the way to the bottom of the cake.
- Either use prepared salted caramel sauce (Trader Joe's 10-ounce jars are perfect here) OR to make from scratch follow this recipe.
- Evenly and slowly pour the salted caramel sauce over the cake. Tip - If you are using prepared caramel sauce, warm the caramel sauce in the microwave for about 10 seconds before pouring it over the cake because it will make the pouring and absorption process easier.
- Allow the caramel sauce to absorb for at least one hour, or overnight if desired, at room temp and covered. Not all of the caramel sauce may 'absorb' into the cake by sinking into the cake deeply and may sit on the surface and that is fine.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Either use a tub of prepared frosting OR to make from scratch, to a large bowl (or to the bowl of a stand mixer) add the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, salt, and beat with an electric mixer (or use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer) until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Turn frosting out over the cake and spread into a smooth, even, flat layer using a spatula or knife.
- Evenly drizzle 2 to 4 tablespoons salted caramel sauce over the cake before slicing and serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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