This is the BEST Carrot Cake I've ever eaten. By far. The recipe is a family favorite that has been tested and perfected over several decades. The cake is delicious enough to be served on its own, but my favorite way to eat it is slathered with Cream Cheese Buttercream & Salted Caramel Rum Sauce.
"The texture of this cake isn’t the only perfection here… that caramel rum sauce makes this a showstopper! Can’t wait to make this again to impress my friends for Thanksgiving. It was so good! They’re going to be blown away." - Candice
Years (and years, and years) ago, my husband and I were at a restaurant where I saw Carrot Cake with Caramel Rum Sauce on the dessert menu. We were young and poor, and dessert was not something we could afford on the rare occasions when we could afford to go out at all. So, we didn't order it.
But the idea of smothering Carrot Cake in Caramel Rum Sauce stuck in my brain and I attempted to make it at home. It was delicious, because..... well, it was cake covered in caramel rum sauce.
I've been making variations of Carrot Cake ever since trying, testing, and tweaking different recipes. THIS recipe is the result.
This is my idea of the perfect Carrot Cake. Here's why:
- It's crazy moist. I know a lot of you hate that word, but I don't know how better to describe this cake. It's about as far away from dry as you could possibly get.
- It has SO MUCH flavor. The recipe includes ingredients like brown sugar, applesauce, Greek yogurt, cinnamon, and nutmeg to pack every bite with warm, rich, comforting flavor.
- It stays moist and flavorful for days. This cake will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- The recipe is super versatile: Use it to make an 8-inch two layer cake, a 9 or 10-inch bundt cake, or 24 cupcakes.
Most of the time I slather this cake with cream cheese buttercream. But honestly, the cake is so delicious that I sometimes just serve it naked.
The one thing I ALWAYS do is smother this cake with Caramel Rum Sauce. Because, YUM!
"Made this yesterday for my husband’s birthday cake. A few comments, first and foremost being that it was PERFECT. The last time I made a carrot cake from a scratch it was dry and heavy. This was beautiful and moist, as advertised." - Lucy
How to Bake the Best Carrot Cake:
#1. Use plain, full-fat yogurt ~ preferably Greek yogurt
The most important thing here is that the yogurt you use is plain and unsweetened. Using sweetened yogurt will make this cake overly sweet and certain kinds of flavored yogurt can contribute a weird aftertaste.
Also, avoid using nonfat yogurt. Nonfat yogurt not only contains fillers and stabilizers that will affect the texture of this carrot cake, it will affect the balance of fat in the cake batter and result in a cake that is less rich and flavorful. Having said that, you can get away with using 2% yogurt in a pinch.
My preference is for Greek Yogurt, because it contains less water than other kinds of yogurt, and there are already plenty of other sources of liquid in this cake batter.
Having said that, you can use regular (non-Greek style) yogurt. Just try to choose a variety that is rich and thick, not thin and watery.
#2. Oil gives carrot cake a fluffy, even crumb, and super tender texture
When compared to butter, cakes baked with oil are loftier, have a more even crumb and stay moist and fresh tasting much longer. So, why don't all cake recipes use oil instead of butter? Because butter adds flavor.
In this cake, we can easily get away with using all oil because there is so much flavor in the other ingredients - yogurt, applesauce, nutmeg, cinnamon, carrots, and vanilla. Not to mention the cream cheese buttercream and caramel rum sauce.
By using oil, we get the best of both worlds: plenty of flavor from the other ingredients and a fluffy, tender texture from using oil. Win, win.
The other great thing about using oil in cakes is that they stay moist and fresh tasting for longer.
- This cake can be stored, frosted or unfrosted, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, before it begins to taste stale.
- Unfrosted carrot cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days, make sure it's well wrapped or sealed in an air-tight container.
- Once frosted with cream cheese buttercream, the cake should be refrigerated.
#3. Bring eggs, butter, and yogurt to room temperature before making the batter
In most of my cake recipes, including this one, you’ll notice the words “at room temperature” after the butter, eggs, and yogurt.
This is an important instruction because when at room temperature, eggs and dairy form an emulsion that traps air. This is a good thing because all that trapped air expands in the oven, producing a fluffy consistency.
To bring ingredients to room temperature, you can simply pull the cold ingredients from the refrigerator an hour or two before you want to start baking. But, let's be honest: I never remember to do that and can't expect you to either.
#4. Applesauce adds flavor and makes this cake super duper moist
Just a half cup of applesauce in this carrot cake batter adds a substantial amount of flavor and moisture. Like oil, that extra moisture helps this cake stay moist and fresh tasting for a few days.
In addition, applesauce contributes a bit of acidity to the batter, which balances out the other flavors in the cake and helps create a deliciously tender texture.
#5. Frost with Cream Cheese Buttercream and serve with Salted Caramel Rum Sauce
This is my absolute FAVORITE super simple Cream Cheese Buttercream recipe. It makes a lot, so if you're baking your carrot cake in a bundt pan or as an 8-inch layer cake, you'll probably only need a half recipe.
If you're making cupcakes, and want to get a lovely big dome of frosting on each cupcake, you'll want to make the full recipe.
I am struggling with the words to tell you how good Salted Caramel Rum Sauce is on Carrot Cake. I have never ever served this cake to anyone who didn't love the sauce.
I've even served carrot cake smothered in caramel rum sauce to people who said they don't like carrot cake and then watched them eat every single bite.
Use this one recipe to make 3 different styles of Carrot Cake
This one recipe is the perfect amount of batter for a 9 or 10-inch Bundt pan, two 8-inch cake pans, or 24 cupcakes.
Regardless of how you choose to bake it, it's important to make sure your pans are properly prepared so the cake won't stick. This is a very moist cake, so it's extra important to take a few measures to ensure the cake, or cupcakes, comes out of the pan after baking.
- If baking cupcakes, spray the top of the cupcake pans with a bit of non-stick spray, then line the tins with paper liners. The paper liners will keep the cupcakes from sticking to the inside of the pan. The bit of non-stick spray will prevent the tops of the cupcakes from sticking to the top of the pan.
- If baking a bunt cake, coat the entire inside of the pan with vegetable shortening (or butter), making sure to get all the nooks and crannies inside the pan. Then shake some flour around inside the pan until the entire inside is coated with a layer of flour.
- If baking a layer cake, grease and flour the inside of the two 8-inch round cake pans AND cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. First, coat the inside of the pans with vegetable shortening (or butter), then drop in a round of parchment that's been cut to fit over the bottom of the pan. Coat the parchment paper with shortening, then shake flour around inside the pans to coat. Here's how to prepare cake pans so the cake won't stick.)
Carrot Cake is a Building Block Recipe
Building block recipes are tried-and-true recipes that I consider foundational to great home baking. They are the kind of recipes I come back to over and over again, sometimes baking them as is, but often using them as a jumping off point to create something new. > Scroll through all Building Block recipes.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Scroll down to rate it, leave a comment for me, or take a picture and tag it @ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
- 1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (213g) light or dark brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup (118ml) vegetable oil
- ½ cup (127g) unsweetened applesauce
- ¼ cup (60g) full fat or 2% plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 eggs + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon (4.5g) salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon (6g) baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon (7.2) baking soda
- 2 teaspoon (5.28g) ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon (1.18g) ground nutmeg
- 2 cups (220g) grated carrots (pack the carrots gently into the measuring cup so you have a generous 2 cups of carrots)
For Serving (Optional, but highly recommended!):
- Grease and flour a 9 or 10-inch Bundt pan. OR, line the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease and flour the pans. OR, set 24 paper cupcake liners in two 12-cup cupcake pans. (Here's how to prepare cake pans so the cake won't stick.)
- If baking a bundt cake or cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C). If baking two 8-inch layers, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (162 degrees C).
- Beat the sugars, vegetable oil, and applesauce with an electric mixer for 1-2 minutes, until well combined. (You can also mix by hand using a wire whisk),
- Add the yogurt, vanilla, eggs, and egg yolk and mix until slightly lightened - about 1 minute on medium speed.
- In a separate bowl, stir the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg with a wire whisk until well combined.
- Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and mix on low just until combined - about 1 minute. (If mixing by hand, stir with a wooden spoon.)
- Stir in the grated carrots. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).
- If baking a bundt cake, bake for about 50 minutes. If baking cupcakes, bake for 22-25 minutes. If baking two 8-inch layers, bake for 45-50 minutes. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick in the center of the cake or into one of the cupcakes. It will have some cake crumbs stuck to it, but not raw batter.
- Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then invert cake (s) onto a wire rack to cool completely. If making cupcakes, let them cool in the cupcake tin before removing.
- To Serve: Frost completely cooled cake or cupcakes with Cream Cheese Buttercream. Serve with generous amounts of Caramel Rum Sauce.
How much Cream Cheese Buttercream do you need for each kind of cake?
- If frosting a bundt cake OR filling and frosting a 8-inch two-layer cake, you'll only need a half recipe of Cream Cheese Buttercream.
- If topping 24 cupcakes with a generous amount of Cream Cheese Buttercream, you'll need the full recipe.
Can this cake be made ahead of time?
Yes! The cake can be stored, frosted or unfrosted, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If storing unfrosted cake, make sure it's well wrapped or sealed in an air-tight container. Set frosted cake or cupcakes in a covered container, or cover loosely with plastic wrap.
The cake will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for 2 or 3 days. But once frosted with cream cheese buttercream, it should be refrigerated.
This cake can be frozen, unfrosted, for up to 3 months. Wrap the cake tightly in a layer of plastic wrap and another layer of aluminum foil before freezing.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 325Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 78mgSodium: 409mgCarbohydrates: 52gFiber: 1gSugar: 34gProtein: 5g
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