It’s carrot cake season. And maybe you think that means just one thing: literal carrot cake. But here’s a secret. Carrot cake is not a single recipe. It’s a state of mind. A template. A gateway to a variety of forms and incarnations, some of which you may not have known existed until right now. And you can pick whichever one you want this spring, whether that’s a traditional cake or something else entirely.

King Arthur's Carrot Cake Cupcakes Photography and food styling by Shilpa Iyer
Maybe you want your carrot cake in cupcake form?

Start with cake …

But yes, let’s start with a classic: King Arthur’s Carrot Cake. It’s beloved for a reason: Moist, dense, flavorful, and capped with a cloud of cream cheese frosting, it’s for every baker who thinks a slice of plain vanilla cake is just too boring. There are lots of carrots here — three cups of shredded carrots, to be exact — and they provide plenty of texture and earthy, vegetal flavor. Then there are the spices: Ginger, cinnamon, and cloves combine to perfume this cake, adding warmth and complementing the carrots’ natural sweetness. And finally, the nuts — your choice between pecans and walnuts. We recommend toasting them for the best flavor, a 10-minute step that pays dividends in the final cake.

Oh, and did I mention the best part of this recipe? Because it’s made with oil, instead of butter, it’s a simple dump-and-stir situation that all comes together in one bowl. The same goes for the tangy frosting. Choose to make this as a one-layer sheet cake, baked and frosted in a 9" x 13" pan, or bake as rounds then stack and frost to make a layer cake.

Now, if you want to expand your definition of carrot cake beyond this iconic cake, we have plenty of options for you. Try a variation made with sourdough discard for a hint of tang: Sourdough Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Or a single-layer one that’s packed with shredded coconut and pineapple in addition to the carrots and nuts: “Kitchen Sink” Carrot Cake.

Sliced carrot snacking cake Photography by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne
Spiced Carrot Snacking Cake is the ideal afternoon pick-me-up. 

Personally, I’d like to recommend this casual-yet-impressive Spiced Carrot Snacking Cake. It follows the basic carrot cake formula, but it’s baked in a loaf pan (choose between an elegant tea loaf pan or a 9" x 5" loaf pan) for easy slicing and snacking. The cream cheese frosting, meanwhile, includes a dash of freshly grated nutmeg, which adds a welcome punch of fragrant spice.

The natural next step, of course, is cupcakes. And we’ve got the recipe for you: King Arthur’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes. Like our classic carrot cake, the oil-based batter is mixed by hand and comes together in mere minutes. Reliably moist and packed with texture from the shredded carrots and chopped nuts, these cupcakes are a crowd-friendly dessert that lets you skip the stacking and the slicing. (To get creative with frosting, watch our video: Decorate Cupcakes Better Than Ever.)

But those are just your options for carrot cake that’s, you know, cake. As it turns out, there’s a lot more this dessert can do.

Carrot Cake Scones with Cream Cheese Frosting Photography by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne
These scones were one of our most popular recipes last year. 

Then take your carrot cake beyond cake

Hosting an Easter brunch? Carrot cake should still make an appearance. One of our most popular recipes of 2023 was these adorable Carrot Cake Scones with Cream Cheese Frosting. They take the basic tenets of carrot cake — grated carrots, spices, nuts — and combine them in a flaky, buttery scone. Cream cheese frosting is a non-negotiable, so you can always slather that on top, too. Easier and faster than a full carrot cake, they’re simple to pull off for an Easter breakfast. To make them ahead of time, you can freeze the unbaked scones, then store in a zip-top bag in the freezer for up to two months. (And for everything you need to bake this recipe, pick up our Carrot Cake Scones product bundle, which includes a scone pan, spices, cinnamon sweet bits, and sparkling sugar.)

Looking for an additional breakfast or brunch treat? Try Cream Cheese Carrot Cake Muffins. Moist, tender, studded with grated carrots, and lightly spiced with ginger and cinnamon, they emulate classic carrot cake in a handheld form. But unlike classic cake, they hold a tasty surprise: Hidden inside each muffin is a sweet cream cheese filling.

For a more extravagant option, there’s this Carrot Cake Cheesecake. It’s a recipe that takes carrot cake’s stalwart cream cheese frosting, then transforms it into an entire cheesecake instead. Both carrot cake and cheesecake are layered together in a single springform pan, creating a two-toned dessert that combines the best of cake and cheesecake. The whole thing is then garnished with candied walnuts to make it a true showstopper.

Maple Buttercream Frosting Photography by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne
Try subbing out your cream cheese frosting for maple buttercream instead. 

And don’t forget about the frosting

Cream cheese frosting and carrot cake go together like peanut butter and jelly. But that doesn’t mean that’s the only type of frosting you should choose for your carrot cakes. This spring, lean into maple season and make this new Maple Buttercream Frosting to top your cakes, cupcakes, and scones. The secret to its potent maple flavor is Natural Maple Flavor, which we’ve found is the only way to achieve strong, concentrated maple flavor; no matter how much maple syrup you use, using syrup on its own doesn’t come close.

Quality spices can take carrot cake (in all its forms) from good to great. Stock up on our best-selling Vietnamese cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger this spring.

Cover photo (Carrot Cake Cheesecake) by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne. 

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Carrot Cake Cheesecake
Carrot Cake Cheesecake
4.2 out of 5 stars 17 Reviews
6 hrs 30 mins
one 9" cheesecake 
Filed Under: Recipes
Rossi crimping pie crust
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About Rossi Anastopoulo

Rossi Anastopoulo grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, which is how she fell in love with biscuits. She didn’t have any bakers in her household (with the exception of her grandmother’s perfect koulourakia), so she learned at a young age that the best way to satisfy her sweet tooth was to make dess...
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