Old Southern Carrot Cake Recipe

When you remember the most significant moments of your life–graduations, birthdays, weddings, and even funerals–, it is possible the occasion marked by a gathering that included a cake. If you are Southern, the events must have included cakes.

You may remember the variety of cakes loved over the years, but the only one you probably never ate was the one served when you were born. The popularity of cake trends come and go along with American culture and society. The Americans love to jump on the bandwagon and have a piece of whatever everyone else is having.

Carrot Cake, in one form or another, has been around for centuries due to the simplicity of using carrots (along with other naturally sweet vegetables) instead of sugar. Sometime during or after World War II, if it was an increase of health-conscious public or a consequence of sugar rationing, the carrot cake “made a comeback” and was popular both in restaurants and at home.

While some recipe historians trace the origins of carrot cake back to medieval times in the UK, we disagree. We know where the best carrot cakes come from a Southerner‘s kitchen. Moist, flavorful, and coated in creamy frosting, carrot cake is a delightful dessert which satisfies a particular craving in a way unlike any other.

The flavors of cream cheese, cinnamon, and carrots packed into carrot cake recipes may be utilized in desserts. To get a perfectly classic cake, try our latest carrot cake recipe piled high with layers of custard-like cream cheese frosting.

Our best-ever recipe contains coconut, pineapple, and walnuts.

This moist carrot cake will make guests swoon and ask for seconds! Our recipe has three tenders cake layers filled with grated carrots chopped pecans, crushed pineapple, and shredded coconut. Our test kitchen observed that two cups of carrots add just the correct amount of naturally sweet carrot taste without overpowering the other ingredients.

grated carrots for carrot cake recipe

Make sure to grate the carrots with the large holes of a box grater for better texture. Toasted Pecans enhance the flavor in this recipe- so don’t avoid this step. Make sure that your canned pineapple is drained, so it does not water down the cake batter. What sets this recipe is our ingenious buttermilk glaze. Made with baking soda, sugar, buttermilk, butter, corn syrup, and vanilla extract, this syrupy glaze keeps the cake layers sweet and moist. After the cake layers are baked and still warm from the oven, spread the glaze smoothly over all three layers. The cake will soak it as the layers cool.

This carrot cake is among our favorite desserts. Made with carrots, bits of Granny Smith apple, and coconut, the cake layers are tender, sweet, and moist. They’re also fragile and delicate, so carefully remove them from your pans.

Also, can we talk about the garnishes on this classic Southern cake recipe? We have frosted this best-ever carrot cake with Cream Cheese Frosting in between layers and down the sides of the cake, which has the perfect quantity of creamy sweetness to make guests request a slice.

Carrot cake is not complete without a coating of sweet cream cheese frosting, and ours is a classic. Use sifted powdered sugar and full-fat cream cheese for the smoothest, richest results. After the layers have cooled thoroughly, separate them from the containers and assemble the cake with crème cheese frosting. Then, prepare to be bombarded with compliments!

If you are baking the best Carrot Cake for a special occasion or vacation, like Easter Sunday, you might also wish to spend the time to learn Candied Carrot Curls. Although not essential to the cake, this pretty colorful garnish is tasty and unique. If you do not have the time just sprinkle nuts on top and toasted coconut.  Also, you can make these candied carrot pieces the night before the event so that they are ready to use once you’re finished with frosting.

The best part? You got all the ingredients (and, there is just a handful) already in your kitchen. What’s the better way to spend a Saturday than to make this fantastic moist carrot cake?


1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 tbsp butter, melted

1/8 tsp kosher salt

two and a half cups all-purpose flour

two tsp baking soda

one and a half teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

half tsp table salt

half cup butter softened

one cup granulated sugar

one cup firmly packed light brown sugar

half cup canola oil

3 large eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

three cups grated carrots (can use 2 C)

two tsp vanilla extract

one cup grated and peeled Granny Smith apple

Candied Carrot Curls

Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting

one cup sweetened flaked coconut

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350°. Toss Together first 3 ingredients; spread in one layer in a foil-lined the pan. Bake until toasted or for 10 minutes, stirring once.

Step 2

Stir together next 4 ingredients and flour. Stir both sugars and butter at average speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add oil; beat until combined. Add eggs, one by one, stirring just until blended.

Step 3

Mix flour mixture to butter blend alternately with buttermilk, starting and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla; fold next in carrots, 1 cup toasted pecans, and next 2 ingredients. Put batter into 3 greased (with shortening) and floured 9-inch round cake pans.  This cake is usually round, but if you need it to be easier use a brownie pan with a single layer of thick frosting.

carrot cake recipe

Step 4

Bake at 350° until a wooden pick placed in the center comes out clean or for 23 to 28 minutes. No put on wire racks and cool for 15 minutes. Take out from pans, and cool thoroughly. Put Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting (see next recipe) evenly between layers and on sides and top of the cake. Top with remaining toasted pecans and Candied Carrot Curls (see recipe at bottom).

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

This sweet, smooth cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement to a stately, moist carrot cake. Whip up a batch of the icing for your layer cake to provide some additional depth to your desserts, and it will only take about 10 minutes to prepare. Make sure to garnish with carrot curls!


Two (8-oz.) softened packages cream cheese,

1/2 cup softened butter

1/4 cup tightly packed light brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

7 cups powdered sugar

How to Make It

Beat softened butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar at average speed using an electric mixer. Add vanilla, and stir until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended.

Increase speed to high; whisk for one minute or until smooth.  Then use a spatula and spread a nice layer of frosting between the cake layers.  Everyone has their method of icing, and some people leave sides exposed, another covers the entire cake with frosting.  We say if you have lots of frosting leftover cover the sides. I mean who doesn’t like cream cheese frosting?

homemade carrot cake recipe

Candied Carrot Curls

Channel your inner pastry chef and upgrade your cake with these vibrant embellishments which are a cinch to make. On top of that, they’re as tasty as they are beautiful, including texture, sweetness, and whimsy. You can prepare up to five days ahead and layer between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container. Store at room temperature.


Parchment paper

Vegetable cooking spray

1 or 2 large peeled carrots

one cup of water

1 cup of sugar

Sugar (optional)

credit: cupcakeproject

How to Make It

  • Prepare Carrots. Preheat oven to 225°. Line a baking sheet and lightly grease with cooking spray. Take out 15 to 20 long strips from carrots, using a vegetable peeler.
  • Cook and Drain. Boil 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a large saucepan over medium-high flame. Add carrot strips, and set heat to medium-low. Cook carrot strips 15 minutes on low heat. Pour in a wire-mesh strainer and drain the water, and cool for 5 minutes.
  • Put the cooked carrot strips in one inch apart in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet. Bake at 225° for thirty minutes.
  • When the carrot strips bake, they will start looking transparent. Take out from the oven. (Strips will be hot but cool enough to use.)
  • Create Curls. Working fast, wrap every carrot strip around the handle of a wooden spoon, forming curls. Slide off the spoon. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Let curls sit until dry at room temperature (about half an hour ).

Just remember this cake is a labor of love and you are sharing the love by baking this tasty carrot cake.

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