Soft Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Glaze — Super soft carrot cake bars that taste like blondies packed with chewy carrots! So good and a must-make!
Glazed Carrot Cake Bars
I love carrot cake. I’ve made carrot cake cookies, a loaf cake, carrot pineapple banana bread, cupcakes, and no-bake bites. But there’s always room for more carrot cake recipes. These carrot 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.
These bars are like carrot cake blondies because of how buttery and rich they are. 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.
These carrot cake 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.
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 carrot 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.
These carrot cake bars are 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.
What’s in Carrot Cake Bars?
To make this easy spring dessert, you’ll need:
- Unsalted butter
- Light brown sugar
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Grated carrots
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Cream cheese
How to Make Carrot Cake Bars
Melt the butter, then stir in the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, spices, and salt. Add the flour and grated carrots, then turn into a greased 8×8-inch baking pan.
Bake the carrot cake bars until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Once the carrot bars are out of the oven, you can whisk together the cream cheese glaze and drizzle it on top.
Note that the carrot cake bars need to cool for at least 30 minutes before drizzling with glaze. Otherwise the glaze will slide off!
Can I Add Raisins to These Carrot Bars?
I kept out all raisins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, or anything else. If you want to start doctoring up the carrot cake bars 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.
Can I Double This Recipe?
You likely can, although I haven’t tried it myself. You’d need to bake the carrot bars in a 9×13-inch baking dish in that case.
Tips for Making Carrot Cake Bars
I grated three large carrots for the bars because store-bought 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.
A few readers have asked about using oil in place of the 1/2 cup of butter used in this recipe. I’m not sure if oil is a good substitute here since it’d make the carrot bars even moister — and they’re already incredibly moist as is!
Note that these 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 two and three, you’re going to be extra thankful you did. I hoarded the last wedge like gold.
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- 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
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
- 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.
- Add the flour and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
- Add carrots and stir to combine.
- Add any optional add-ins and stir to combine.
- Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
For the Bars:
For the Cream Cheese Glaze:
- 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.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 366Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 64mgSodium: 71mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 2gSugar: 37gProtein: 4g
More Easy Spring Desserts:
Lemon Lemonies — Like lemon brownies, but made with lemon and white chocolate! Dense, chewy, not cakey and packed with big, bold lemon flavor!
Blueberry Bars with Oatmeal Crumble Topping — These bars are buttery and packed with blueberry flavor! They take just 10 minutes of prep and then go straight into the oven. So easy to make, and a crowd pleaser every time!
Tropical Escape Soft Pineapple Crumble Bars — In need of a tropical pineapple dessert? Look no further than these pineapple bars! There’s an abundance of pineapple chunks in every bite, which are surrounded by a custardy, creamy filling!
Easter Egg Blondies – Fast, EASY, super soft, and loaded with chocolate M&M Eggs galore!! Definitely my favorite type of Easter eggs! SAVE this recipe for your leftover Easter candy!!
Springtime Sugar Cookie Bars — The bars are buttery soft in the middle with a bit of chewiness around the edges and have nice texture from the baked-in sprinkles.
Lemon Coconut White Chocolate Gooey Bars — The lemon base is soft and chewy, there’s coconut and white chocolate chips for extra texture, and sweetened condensed milk peeks through the top.
Frosted Strawberry Cookie Bars — The bars are incredibly easy to make because I used strawberry cake mix and it gives the bars exactly the consistency I want. Soft, chewy, and ironically not cakey!