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Carrot Cake

Beneath this towering yet unpretentious appearance lies multiple layers of moist, mildly spiced cake that are flecked with carrots and pecans and enveloped by a generous coating of cream cheese frosting.

  • Servings: 10
Carrot Cake

Photography: Kenji Toma

Source: Martha Stewart Living, August 2007


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 pound carrots (8 to 10 medium carrots), peeled and shredded on a box grater or in a food processor (about 2 3/4 cups)
  • 2 cups pecans (1 cup finely chopped for batter, 1 cup coarsely chopped for decorating sides of cake)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting


  1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper, and butter parchment. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg.

  2. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat 3 minutes. Add vanilla, water, and carrots. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture, then finely chopped pecans.

  3. Scrape batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around edges of cakes to loosen, and turn out cakes onto rack. Turn right side up, and let cool completely.

  4. Using a serrated knife, trim rounded top of 2 cakes. Place one trimmed cake, cut side up, on a serving platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over cake. Top with second trimmed cake, cut side down. Spread 1 cup frosting over cake. Top with remaining cake. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides. Gently press coarsely chopped pecans onto sides of cake. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.

Cook's Note

Refrigerate up to 1 day, covered.

Reviews (44)

  • Laradenmark 19 Mar, 2015

    Help! I am not a great baker, but I want to make his cake. I need it to be a rectangle, though. How many 9x13 pans would you use, and how long to bake? Thanks for any help you can offer.

  • rschmorr 28 Sep, 2014

    yet another excellent go-to martha recipe. I made this for the first time last night for four kids and it was a huge hit. I halved the recipe and made cupcakes (same temp, reduced baking time by a bit). it's very easy, the texture and flavor are perfect--not too sweet, but as mentioned before the icing makes up for that. I also halved the frosting recipe and it was indeed twice the amount needed, so I'll just have to make more cake today since yesterday's is already gone :)

  • Laradenmark 19 Mar, 2015

    How many 9x13 pans would you use, and how long would you cook them? I need a rectangle...

  • Freezy19 17 Apr, 2014

    Great tasting cake. Layers are quite thin, though, if you use 3 pans. I assume most people only have 2 9" pans, so I'd suggest splitting the entire batter between 2 pans and increase the bake time.

    Make sure to have all the ingredients prepared before starting. I made the mistake of not grating my carrots or chopping my pecans before starting and it caused headaches.

  • Autie9140 8 Mar, 2014

    This cake was amazing. The batter was absolutely perfect. We thought we'd died and gone to heaven after eating it. The icing has a good flavor, but it is a bit too sweet to really enjoy eating more than few bites. If the sugar in the icing was toned down just a bit, this cake would have been DYNAMITE!

  • amaneceres 12 Jan, 2014

    great and easy recipe!

  • Mimi_Calixto 12 Jan, 2014

    Absolutely love this! Followed the recipe but substituted wallnuts with pili nuts (which is less expensive) and used muscovado sugar instead. First time to bake a cake and turned out really well. My husband and kids really love it!

  • GeneKelly 25 Oct, 2013

    This is a great Carrot Cake recipe. So far it's on the top of my list.

  • vickycoppa 2 May, 2013

    I get this request every year from my son on his birthday. He loves it! I make it in 2 square pans and it looks so impressive. Everyone loves the cake and my sons favorite part is the frosting. Sweet, creamy and perfect. People ask all the time how I make it. It has become a birthday tradition around here. You have to try it!!

  • Pau Cardenas 9 Feb, 2013


  • karlarwilkes 4 Feb, 2013

    for my cupcakes, make my friends so happy

  • karlarwilkes 4 Feb, 2013

    Enter your review...

  • GeneKelly 3 Feb, 2013

    I made this cake for my best friend's birthday and it was a huge success! I did also use only 2 9" pan instead of 3 but I didn't had any batter left for cupcakes!

    This cake is great because it's moisty - often carrot cakes are dry! Enjoy!

  • monicajvc 1 Feb, 2013

    I made this cake at Christmas, and family loved it! Of course the icing is decadent, and the cake itself is very tasty. I used two 9-inch pans, rather than 3 pans. This adaptation worked perfectly fine. I will say that a food processor for this much carrot is a must. I used organic, locally grown carrots; and I think this really added to the flavor. Also, I made cake two days prior to serving (refrigerated in Martha Stewart cake carrier in the meanwhile) and this worked great!

  • Clubcyrus 1 Nov, 2012

    Like other reviewers of this recipe, I didn't have to tweak or adjust any procedure or ingredient - very trustworthy and convenient. I found it easy to do. Most important is that tastes great too!
    I did follow to bake it in 3 9" pans. Maybe next time I'll make cupcakes out of this.
    I am looking forward trying a lot more recipes found in this site.

  • Sara Borders 1 Oct, 2012

    This recipe was amazing, and I've tried quite a few different recipes. It is not as dense/heavy as most recipes,and I love the flavor that comes from using butter. I only had 2 9-inch pans, so I made half a dozen muffins as well. Even my son [4] who is normally extremely picky enjoyed these! I did not change or modify anything in the recipe. I used my food processor for the carrots and the rest is easy. Can't wait to layer this and serve!

  • Demetra Mazria 5 Sep, 2012

    It really only makes sense to use two 9 inch rounds, not 3. Have yet to try to actual cake.

  • Demetra Mazria 5 Sep, 2012

    It really only makes sense to use two 9 inch rounds, not 3. Have yet to try to actual cake.

  • Aksparling 12 Aug, 2012

    This is by far, the best carrot cake recipe I have ever used! The recipe is so light & moist - rather than some of the really heavy recipes I have used in the past.

  • anniemacgregor 1 Aug, 2012

    Best carrot cake of all time!!! I've made it a couple times now and it always turns out great!

  • Carmen40 8 Apr, 2012

    I also bought fresh ingredients and followed the recipe exactly. The cakes didn't rise very well at all. And it only produced two layers not three. Has a pleasant flavor though. I don't think I will try this recipe again.

  • megs23 29 Feb, 2012

    can this be baked in one pan instead of three?

  • JDzMama1228 29 Sep, 2011

    This is the only carrot cake I'll make! Its perfect!

  • angelfaceintexas 14 Aug, 2011

    Ok, so far not impressed!. I bought fresh baking powder, baking soda, flour, sugars, eggs...just about everything new and this did not rise very much at all. Yes, I checked the exp. dates on everything! Haven't tried it yet but so far, no good. Its for my sons birthday so I sure hope it taste better than it looks so far!! The batter was yummy :) so there is a small chance of hope this will turn out. Check back later with the end results. I could be VERY surprised....

  • busybee110609 13 Aug, 2011

    Yummy cake. :) Not quite as sweet as most carrot cakes, but the frosting makes up for it. I will definitely bake this again.

  • lena1021 5 Apr, 2011

    Have anyone tried it half of the original amount and with "one" pan?I want to make it, but I don't know how long does it take to bake.

  • GoToYourDestiny 15 Jan, 2011

    This is the BEST TASTING cake ever! was so moist that it started falling apart when I tried to put icing on it. Yes, I let it cool completely before trying. Not sure what the answer is to cure this. I sent the cake to work with my husband (because it was too ugly to take to the lady's event that I made it for). He literally received tons of e-mails from his co-workers saying how delicious it was! They said that I can send my "mistake" cakes anytime. :)

  • lisamcinerney 31 Jul, 2010

    Best cake ever! SO moist and tasty. I pureed the carrots after grating them which helped make the cake soft. Will definately be making this cake again

  • AmandaKay13 14 Jun, 2010

    Wonderful cake! I made it for my daughters baptism and it was a hit. We had about 20 guests and there was only a small amount left over. The amount of frosting it makes is too much however very delicious.

  • Jadah 7 Jun, 2010

    This cake is most delicious, a family favorite. The ginger is a great touch!

  • teesa23 19 Apr, 2010

    Tried this today but as mini cupcakes and they were a hit. They tasted great, however, a bit light in color and in density for carrot cake.

  • funtobake 15 Feb, 2010

    this recipe is excellent - I always get compliments when I bring this to parties!

  • TaurusJM07 30 Nov, 2008

    The carrot cake was very moist, creamy and heavy. It had a lot of interesting textures and had a profound carrot flavor. After baking the cakes, it took longer than 15 minutes before i could remove it successfully from the baking pan. In addition, I found that it was too heavy to allow it to cool on a baking rack. Rather, I just let them cool for about 2 hours in their pan and then assembled the cake.

  • peeweeherman 16 Jul, 2008

    This turned out very good. lindakuist has a good suggestion though, when I was mixing it, it looked very odd -- watery/lumpy -- so I had to mix it VERY well in order to get it to look like normal cake batter. Also, the cake was ymmy, but not as most/dense as typical for carrot cakes. The frosting recipe make about twice as much as you actually need as well.

  • lindakuist 29 May, 2008

    This is a very good cake, good flavor. But when mixing, I found it turned out better if you added the flour mixture first and then the carrots, nuts and vanilla. Then the water last. It just mixed up better.
    Also for the frosting, try adding fnally chopped nuts, coconut and raisins, the amount doesn't matter. People tell me that the frosting doesns't taste as sweet. And it makes the cake look fancier!

  • studiocabral 10 May, 2008

    The best carrot cake I've made, I like the fact that it uses butter making it lighter. The whole family LOVED it.

  • chefbb317 11 Apr, 2008

    so I made this yester day it was delious and im acuttally eating a peice while I write this.I cut the recipe in half though seeing from others saying how big it was. it was the perfect amount. The only thing I would change is adding some raisins. It's one of the many carrot cake recipes im trying for my parents aniversy cake.

  • ruby_robbins 16 Mar, 2008

    Good but grainy and HUGE!

  • Gwenann 24 Jan, 2008

    This was my first "from Scratch" carrot cake. My family loved it. It does make a large cake. It would be good for feeding a crowd. Very dense and rich. A tiny slice is all you can eat.

  • Gwenann 24 Jan, 2008

    This was my first "from Scratch" carrot cake. My family loved it. It does make a large cake. It would be good for feeding a crowd. Very dense and rich. A tiny slice is all you can eat.

  • Secret_Agent_P 17 Jan, 2008

    I halved this recipe, cut out the nuts ('cuz I'm allergic) and used the maple cream cheese icing recipe from another carrot cake recipe on this site. Really good carrot cake, but it was huge

  • missy_43 21 Dec, 2007

    this carrot cake is delicious i going to share it with my friends

  • mariarpost 7 Dec, 2007

    This carrot cake is luscious and divine! My old recipe calls for oil instead of butter, and I think the oil makes a huge difference! I added one cup of raisins that I soaked in warm water for an hour and then drained, and they were a pleasant addition to the cake. The frosting is spectacular. I will definitely be making this again!

  • hiker11530 5 Nov, 2007

    Made it for a Parents' Football Dinner and received MANY compliments.

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