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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Did you make this recipe?

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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