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Grandma Catherine’s Old Fashioned Carrot Cake Recipe

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Grandma Catherine's carrot cake recipe has been enjoyed by our family for decades. I spent many wonderful hours with grandma while mom was busy on the farm, and will always remember her kind eyes and loving heart. This carrot cake recipe is nice and moist, never dry. The original frosting is on the sweet side for our tastes now, so I'm including a version with less sugar.

old fashioned carrot cake on white plate with wood background

Grandma Catherine's Old Fashioned Carrot Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups butter, melted
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts (I use crispy nuts)
  • 3 cups grated carrots

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a medium mixing bowl, cream together oil and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Blend together dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and then add to egg mixture. Add nuts and carrots.

carrot cake batter in round pans with cookbook and yellow bowl

Pour carrot cake batter into a greased and floured 9″x13″ cake pan or two nine inch round cake pans. Bake at 325°F until edges are lightly browned and cake tests done with toothpick, about 40 to 45 minutes.

closeup of freshly baked carrot cake in pan - text overlay "Cake is done when a toothpick stuck near the center pulls out clean and the edges are firm and starting to pull away from the pan."

Leave in pan and set on cooling rack, or invert onto wire rack to cool. Once the cake has cooled completely, ice with cream cheese frosting, if desired.

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Grandma Catherine's Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This made from scratch, old fashioned carrot cake recipe includes two options for cream cheese frosting – one traditional, and one with less sugar.

  • Author: Laurie Neverman
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 20 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale

For the cake

  • 1 ½ cups butter, melted
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts (I use crispy nuts)
  • 3 cups grated carrots

For Traditional Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
  • 23 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For Less Sugar Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar or 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

For the cake

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a medium mixing bowl, cream together oil and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Blend together dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and then add to egg mixture. Add nuts and carrots.
  2. Pour carrot cake batter into a greased and floured 9″x13″ cake pan or two nine inch round cake pans. Bake at 325°F until edges are lightly browned and cake tests done with toothpick, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  3. Leave in pan and set on cooling rack, or invert onto wire rack to cool. Once the cake has cooled completely, ice with cream cheese frosting, if desired.

For traditional cream cheese frosting

  1. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together for about 3 minutes on medium speed, until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding powdered sugar until you get to desired sweetness and thickness.

For less sugar cream cheese frosting

  1. Whip cream until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, blend cream cheese, sugar (or honey) and vanilla until smooth. Fold cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream.

Notes

It’s best if you wait to frost the cake until it is completely cooled. To frost a two layer cake with crumb coat:

  • Place first layer on serving plate, and scoop a large dollop of frosting in the center of the layer. Spread the frosting to the edges of the cake. Place second layer of carrot cake on top of the first layer. Scoop an ample dollop of frosting onto the center of the cake. Spread the frosting outward and down sides of cake, coating evenly. Let set for five to ten minutes, until the frosting has a chance to dry slightly. Wipe away any crumbs that have stuck to the edge of the plate. After the crumb coat has set, apply the rest of the frosting.
  • For the cake shown in the photos, I used the traditional cream cheese frosting and applied it with a 16″ pastry tube and #4B star icing tip.

Keywords: carrot cake, old fashioned, family recipes

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old fashioned carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Traditional Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
  • 2 – 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together for about 3 minutes on medium speed, until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding powdered sugar until you get to desired sweetness and thickness.

Less Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar or 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Whip cream until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, blend cream cheese, sugar (or honey) and vanilla until smooth. Fold cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream.

Tips for Frosting Your Carrot Cake

It's best if you wait to frost the carrot cake until it is completely cooled. If you choose to leave the cake in the pan, simply spread the frosting on with a knife or spatula. When you frost a cake that's been removed from the pan, it's often helpful to apply a crumb coat before coating the entire cake, or to apply the frosting with a pastry tube. A “crumb coat” is a layer of frosting that “catches” the crumbs and keeps them away from the finished outside layer of frosting, making for a neater looking end product.

To frost a two layer cake with crumb coat:

Place first layer on serving plate, and scoop a large dollop of frosting in the center of the layer. Spread the frosting to the edges of the cake. Place second layer of carrot cake on top of the first layer. Scoop an ample dollop of frosting onto the center of the cake. Spread the frosting outward and down sides of cake, coating evenly. Let set for five to ten minutes, until the frosting has a chance to dry slightly. Wipe away any crumbs that have stuck to the edge of the plate. After the crumb coat has set, apply the rest of the frosting.

For the cake shown in the photos, I used the traditional cream cheese frosting and applied it with a 16″ pastry tube and #4B star icing tip.

Are you am old fashioned carrot cake fan? Do you prefer it with or without nuts? Maybe pineapple? This is our family recipe, but I know there are many, many variations.

If You Enjoy Baking…

Never Buy Bread Again – 20+ Homemade Bread Recipes is the bread book designed for beginning bakers and those who enjoy quick and easy homemade breads. It’s also fun for those who remember recipes “like grandma used to make” and want to recapture that flavor in their own kitchen.

In this book you’ll find:

  • Troubleshooting tips so you can bake without fear
  • Easy everyday breads such as sandwich bread and crusty French bread
  • Quick breads such as buttermilk biscuits, corn bread and pancakes
  • Gluten free breads
  • How to Make a Sourdough Starter and Basic Sourdough Bread
  • Holiday and special occasion breads, like fruit filled kolache, Polish doughnuts and pretzel bread
  • How to store and freeze breads (before and after baking) for best quality
  • Fun bread “go alongs” like flavored butters and cheese fondue
  • Recipes to make with leftover bread

The book includes full color photos, so you know what the finished bread should look like, and stories from our family about the recipes and baking traditions. It has a spiral binding so that it lays flat on the kitchen counter for easy reading while cooking. Some of these recipes have been featured on the website, others are exclusive to the book.

Learn More or Order Your Copy Now

Really good bread

You may also enjoy:

old fashioned carrot cake on white plate with wood background

Originally published May 2010, updated 2016, 2018.

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12 Comments

  1. This sounds delicious! I wonder if you could make the cream cheese icing with maple syrup instead of powdered sugar, so it's easier on the cellulite 🙂 I think the maple syrup flavor might go well with the carrots…

    I've been meaning to tell you, I uncovered an intriguing link between kombucha and cellulite (and immediately thought of you, of course!). Mesotherapy is a European cellulite treatment where they inject vitamins and medications directly into the skin. One of the main ingredients they use is Hyaluronidase, an enzyme that digests hyaluronic acid fibers.

    Here's a snippet from a WAPF article that explains the connection:

    "Kombucha is rich in B vitamins and a substance called glucuronic acid which binds up environmental and metabolic toxins so that they can be excreted through the kidneys. Glucuronic acid is a natural acid that is produced by the liver. Kombucha simply supplies the body with more and boosts the natural detoxification process. Glucuronic acid is also the building block of a group of important polysaccharides that include hyaluronic acid (a basic component of connective tissue), chondroitin sulfate (a basic component of cartilage) and mucoitinsulfuric acid (a building block of the stomach lining and the vitreous humor of the eye)."

    I'm not sure how it all fits together yet, though. More investigation is required!

  2. Hi Melissa! Here's a cream cheese frosting recipe with maple syrup from: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/12/carrot-cake-with-maple-cream-cheese-frosting/

    Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

    Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
    1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
    2 cups confectioners’ sugar
    1/4 cup pure maple syrup

    In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

    Thanks for the info about kombucha. I have slapped a scoby on a couple of times, but they are rather sloppy and hard to work with. I am still consuming kombucha every day, and notice the difference in my digestive health.

  3. Yummy,
    This looks like one of those cakes that would make a great birthday cake..I have to try this. Thanks for sharing..

  4. Next time I make it I need to try it with the maple syrup frosting, or maybe maple syrup sweetened whipped cream. I just got the notice that our bulk local syrup order will be placed soon. Very much looking forward to that, as we just ran out of last year's syrup.

  5. cannot wait to try the cake n icing w maple syrup.
    pleas send more info on kombucha.

  6. I can’t wait to make this cake. It looks like my husband’s grandmother’s cake and unfortunately I didn’t get the recipe from her. I appreciate the variations you gave us. We like to taste the flavor of a dessert rather than just the sweetness.

  7. This does not bake in time noted at temp of 325 degrees stated. My stove is correct temp so when I opened oven to look at cake at 45 minutes…center was still wobbley and sunk 🙁 All other carrot cake recipes bake at 350 degrees for a longer duration of time. So disappointed this happened.

    1. What kind of pan did you use? What altitude are you at? What brand of flour did you use? Were the carrots or other ingredients very cold when you added them?

      I’ve made this cake for years and never had an issue, but it didn’t work for you, so hopefully I can adjust the instructions to get you better results.

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