carrot cake on a cake stand

If you’re looking for a recipe to step up your carrot cake game, this Brown Butter Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting is IT. Layers of soft, moist and flavorful carrot cake are frosted with a tangy cream cheese icing for a dessert unlike any other. Make it for a holiday, a birthday or just because–whatever the reason, you’re gonna love every single bite of this decadent treat.

Brown Butter Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Oh man, you guys–I am SO excited to share this carrot cake recipe with you today! If you noticed last week’s recipe post featured this bomb cream cheese frosting (+ a hint to this week’s cake recipe), you know how jazzed I’ve been for the last couple of weeks to bring this delish cake into the spotlight where it deserves to be. This cake, oh, this cake; it’s just so good. Here’s what I love most about it:

  • The brown butter in the cake batter, COME ON.
  • How every bite is exceedingly flavorful and moist.
  • The classic combination of spices, tender carrots and sweet raisins.
  • That tangy, lightly sweet cream cheese frosting (that I could eat with a spoon).
  • How it all comes together in just a couple of hours (and probably won’t last much longer than that when you serve it).

If you’ve never baked a carrot cake recipe or you’re looking for a new recipe to shake things up, I cannot recommend this brown butter bb enough.

close-up of a slice of carrot cake on a cake stand

The Best Ingredients for Brown Butter Carrot Cake

If you’re going to go through the process of baking and assembling a showstopping layer cake, you want to make sure you’re using the best possible ingredients to ensure the best possible outcome. So! Here’s what you need to make this cake a reality:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Baking soda
  • Spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice
  • Sea salt
  • Unsalted butter (that we’ll turn into brown butter, yummmm)
  • Eggs
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vanilla
  • Fresh, peeled carrots
  • Golden raisins (if you want ’em!)

Once you’ve got everything on hand and ready to go, it’s time to bake cake!

carrot cake on a cake stand with a slice on a plate off to the side

How to Make This Brown Butter Carrot Cake Recipe

Here we are, at my favorite part–making the cake! (OK, I do love the eating part the best, but this is a close second.) This cake is actually very simple to make and I walk you through all of the steps, including how to brown butter. Here’s how to make the very best brown butter carrot cake:

Time needed: 2 hours.

  1. Step One: Mix the dry ingredients.

    In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.

  2. Step Two: Brown the butter.

    In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue to cook the butter over the heat, whisking constantly, until the butter is fully melted, then foams, then begins to turn a caramel-dark brown color (this happens rather quickly, so pay attention!). Remove the saucepan from the heat to let the butter stop cooking and cool slightly.

  3. Step Three: Beat the egg mixture.

    In a large bowl, beat the eggs until they’re light and foamy. Beat in the vegetable oil, then the brown butter, then the vanilla.

  4. Step Four: Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

    Stir the dry flour mixture into the wet egg mixture until everything is just combined, being careful not to overmix. Fold in the carrots and raisins (if using).

  5. Step Five: Bake and cool.

    Divide the batter among two 9-inch or three 8-inch round cake pans (that have been buttered/floured/lined with parchment paper). Bake until a toothpick in the center of each cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool the cakes completely.

  6. Step Six: Assemble the cake.

    Place one fully cooled cake layer on top of a plate or cake stand. Top with a generous dollop of cream cheese frosting; spread to the edges. Top with a second cake layer, then more frosting. Top with the third cake layer and frost the top and sides of the cake. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.

There you have it! A pretty-as-a-picture, totally delicious Carrot Cake 2.0.

slice of carrot cake on a plate

FAQs About Carrot Cake

Before I leave you to scurry to the kitchen to bake this beauty, let’s talk about a few very important questions re: carrot cake!

Can I use pre-grated carrots from the grocery store?

Please don’t. Please take the time to grate your own carrots, because fresh-grated carrots will bake up 1000% more tender and flavorful in the cake than any pre-grated carrots will. Just trust me on this and take an extra minute to grate those carrots.

Why do I have green flecks in my carrot cake?

OK, this is crazy science, but here’s the thing: If you have any green bits in your carrot cake, it’s likely the culprit of the carrot skins reacting with the baking soda (who knew?). This has happened to me before, and it’s scary to slice into a fresh cake only to see a bunch of green specks everywhere. To avoid this, peel your carrots before you grate them! And be sure that your dry ingredient mixture is well-combined so there are no random pockets of baking soda that could react with the carrots.

Can I freeze my carrot cake?

Yes, yes you can! You can either freeze the fully cooled cake layers, unfrosted, fully wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 2 months; OR, you can freeze the whole frosted cake, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and foil, for up to 1-2 months. Simply let the cake come back to room temperature before serving (and store any leftovers in the fridge).

Can I make this carrot cake recipe ahead of time?

You betcha. To do so, bake the layers of the cake, let them cool completely, then fully wrap each layer in plastic wrap and store at room temperature overnight. The next day, frost the cake layers as directed. Fun fact: This cake actually tastes better the second day, when the flavors have had a chance to meld, so this is one of those unique instances where the make-ahead option is preferable!

Can we all just agree here and now that carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is one of the best desserts in the history of all time? OK, good. Now let’s get baking.

Print
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close-up of slice of carrot cake on a cake stand

Brown Butter Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Stephanie
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: About 12 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Decadently moist and flavorful carrot cake with a base of browned butter and a topping of cream cheese frosting! If you’re a fan of classic carrot cake, you will love this recipe.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons, or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups (about 1 lb) loosely packed grated peeled* fresh carrots
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
  • 1 Recipe Cream Cheese Frosting

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch or two 9-inch round cake pans (or spray with baking spray); line bottoms of pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and salt until well-combined. Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk butter constantly as it melts, then continue to whisk as it begins to foam, then turns a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside to cool slightly.
  4. In a separate large bowl using an electric hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat eggs on high speed until pale and frothy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium; drizzle in vegetable oil until just combined, then carefully drizzle brown butter into egg mixture, followed by vanilla.
  5. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until just combined, either on low speed with a mixer or by hand with a spatula (do not overmix). Fold in carrots and raisins, if desired.
  6. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans, using a spatula to spread and smooth batter if needed. Bake cakes on center rack of oven 25 to 35 minutes, until cake tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool cakes completely in cake pans on a cooling rack.
  7. Place one fully cooled cake on top of a cake plate/stand. Top with frosting (1 cup for a 3-layer cake; 1 1/4 cups for a 2-layer cake). Top with second cake layer, then frost top again (with same ratios). Top with third cake layer, if using, then frost top and sides of cake as desired.
  8. Store cake covered in refrigerator for up to 5 days; bring to room temperature before serving.

Notes

  • Recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz.
  • *PLEASE peel your carrots before you grate them — otherwise, the peels may react with the baking soda in the batter and you’ll end up with green bits all throughout your cake. The cake will still be edible if this happens, but it’s not a good look.
  • If you love nuts in your carrot cake, you can add up to 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts to the batter before baking.

Keywords: brown butter cake batter, cream cheese frosting, moist carrot cake, carrot layer cake

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