A good carrot cake is a wonderful thing, but a bad one is just horrid. I have had carrot cakes that had far more oil/fat than necessary, which led to a greasy, soggy cake, and ones that have so much spice in them that they’re hard to choke down. Some have so little flavor that they rely on their cream cheese icing to draw you in for another bite. Once in a while a good carrot cake comes along, but if you like them, the best way to enjoy them is to bake them up yourself.
And I know that I say that about almost everything, but it is definitely true in this case.
I like carrot cakes that are reasonably substantial (they do have veggies in there, after all), but still light and tender. I look for a moist, but not wet, cake that can stand up to frosting , but also tastes good when eaten plain. On top of that, I want the recipe to be easy because it takes a while to grate all those carrots.
This cake is all of those things and more. It is so easy that it is made in only one bowl, so not only do you get your cake, but there is less cleanup to do after you bake. The only extra tip you’ll need to make this cake is to remember to grate the carrots beforehand so that you have a chance to squeeze out some of the excess moisture before adding to the cake. I like to squeeze them between some paper towels, then fluff up the shavings before stirring them in, which allows for a more even distribution in the cake.
One-Bowl Carrot Cake
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot (from 2-3 large carrots), drained
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan.
In a large bowl, beat together sugar and eggs until smooth. Beat in melted butter, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, spices and salt. When combined, sift in the flour and baking soda (sifting helps evenly distribute the baking soda) and gently stir it into the batter until no streaks remain. Stir in shredded carrot, then scrape into prepared pan.
Bake for 36-42 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack before frosting.
Cream Cheese Carrot Frosting
4 tbsp butter, softened
4-oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 – 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
red, yellow and green food coloring
Beat together butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Add in confectioners’ sugar, orange juice and zest and beat until smooth. You could spread this in a single layer on the cake, or make frosting carrots to top the cake.
For the carrots, divide frosting into two bowls. Dye one orange (yellow and red) and one green (green and yellow). Scrape into two piping bags (or ziploc bags with piping attachments) and use a plain tip for the body of the carrot and a slanting tip for the carrot top. Practice on a plate until you get the shape down consistently.
LydiaApril 2, 2007
I love carrot cake that relies on little other than the sweetness of the carrots and spices. No extra fruits, no nuts, no nothing else. And no huge slathering of icing! I’m definitely going to try this recipe.
JoeApril 2, 2007
Those carrots are too cute!
TarteletteApril 2, 2007
I have newly discovered carrot cake and I am now on the look out for any recipe I can try. I love the look of this one.
Love the new site!
CherylApril 3, 2007
I haven’t had good carrot cake in so long. This looks so moist and delicious. Good job.
Julie O'HaraApril 3, 2007
Lovely and simple. I usually do the elaborate raisins/pineapples/coconut version, but that’s a whole other animal. Very cute piping with your carrots. I’d love to have the patience to do that, then serve a big bowl of plain cream cheese frosting for dipping. Your new site looks great!
AnuheaApril 3, 2007
MM…I guess its the season (bunnies=carrots) for carrot cakes because I will be making a carrot roll cake for Easter later this week.
AbbyApril 3, 2007
And I love a good carrot cake, too, with lots of carrots and pecans for a good bite.
Such cute decorations, too!
NicApril 3, 2007
You could easily add in 1/2 or 3/4 cup of pecans or raisins (or chocolate chips, if that’s your thing) to this recipe. I like it plain, but it’s nice to do variations every once in a while!
MayApril 4, 2007
Love your website—I check it every day 🙂 I appreciate your detailed notes on your recipes. That carrot cake square looks so moist and yummy. I like that it doesn’t have a cup of oil in it. When I get some carrots, I’m going to try your recipe.
April NApril 16, 2007
Thanks for the recipe – I gave it a try yesterday, with just a dusting of powdered sugar on top instead of the frosting. It was well received at a work meeting, although it turned out a bit too moist/dense, halfway between cake and brownie. It was also somewhat sunken in the middle of the pan.
Would you suggest increasing the baking soda or decreasing the liquid? I’d prefer a cake-like texture.
NicoleApril 16, 2007
April – It sounds like you might not have baked the cake quite long enough, as that would cause the cake to sink slightly after taking it out of the oven. I’d recommend checking your oven temperature or increasing the baking time by a few minutes. This recipe is designed to produce a more cake-like texture than the average carrot cake recipe, so it really shouldn’t need too much adjusting.
HeidiApril 28, 2007
Made this and loved it. Thanks so much! BTW, I didn’t do the little carrot thing and just iced it all over in an orange cream cheese frosting.
Caroline HengMay 12, 2007
Hey there once again!
You will be glad to know that I finally tried out your One Bowl Carrot Cake (tho you might not be as pleased to know I used more than 4 bowls in all)
Ok, first off, I have to confess. I thought I had all ingredients and discovered when I was done shredding carrots, that I didn’t have AP Flour, Oranges and Icing Sugar.
Hence, I decided to substitute the rest with Self Rising Flour, using only 1 solitary blood orange, thinking it was ok since I didnt really want my carrot cake to smell orangey or look murkily bloody.
I will be running out to get the icing sugar tomorrow in order to do my cream frosting. But the warm spicy smells of a freshly baked cake beckoned me to taste it as is.
The result? Sublime…
As you have stated, it stands well on its own without any frosting. The light touch of sweetness and spice blend is superb!
1) I did find the cake a tad crumbly and wondered if it was due to my indiscreet mixture of flours? the insufficient orange or the double sifting that caused this. The crumbly-ness of the cake doesn’t really bother me but it would be nice to know what causes this so that I can try to be less of an experimental smart aleck in future. =)
2) I weighed two carrots and it came in at 190gms. I needed 165gms. After I was done shredding and draining them, they weighed in at only 80gms! I had to shred and drain another carrot in a hurry. So question is, does the 1 1/4 cup measurement in yr receipe refer to drained or undrained carrots?
In conclusion though, thank you for this receipe, it’s going into my book of successes!
(Please don’t ask me what’s the going count for failures)
NikkiAugust 13, 2007
I made carrot cake ystrday and it came perfectly well. One of the best cakes I made/ ate…Thanks..I followed ur recipe without any alteration (yeah except I added walnuts and raisins)…
HannahFebruary 12, 2008
Any tips on turning this into a layer cake? Should I double the recipe or do you think it’s a thick enough cake to slice longways into two layers?
gailMarch 18, 2008
thanks for sharing the recipe! the cake and icing really goes well, finally I found just the perfect carrot cake for me.
Kid-KatMay 11, 2008
Since the butter is melted, do you think I can use oil?
LauraJuly 28, 2008
This looks like the recipie that I’ve been searching for…I am looking for a plain but delicious carrot cake for my daughter’s first birthday. I would like to make a layer cake though – do you have any suggestions for converting this into two 9 inch rounds?
JesFebruary 23, 2011
I mede this cake and it was the best carrot cake ever. I didnt tell the kids it was carrot cake as the oldest HATES carrots and would u believe it…. “mum can i have more please its so yummy” i was shocked…. altho i must admit. i for some reason got confussed between a couple other reciepes i was looking at yesterday and added 1 1/2 cup sherred coconut to this receipe… i tell ya what… the coconut made it so so so yummy…. i added it just before the carrot went in the mix… it came out the oven smeeling amazing. and with any icing it was prefect….. i didnt bother with icing as i figure this is healthier and my kids loved it. its a sure keeper and going in my Fav cakes book!!!! thank u!!!!!
regards a very happy and full of carrot cake mum of two fussy eaters!!! <3
wei liFebruary 25, 2011
hi! when i stir in the sifted flour and baking soda in this recipe, may i know if i fold it in with my spatula or do i best it in with my electric hand mixer?
Also, can i leave out the orange juice and zest?
NicoleFebruary 26, 2011
Wei li – You can either use a spatula or your electric mixer. You can leave out the orange zest, but you cannot leave out the orange juice, as that liquid is an important part of the recipe. If you really cannot use orange juice, substitute pineapple juice.
wei liFebruary 26, 2011
oh okay, thanks alot! btw, must i use brown sugar? Could i use granulated white sugar instead?
May i know the difference?
CamilleJuly 7, 2012
This cake soooo good. It definitely didn’t need any frosting. I’m getting mobbed for the recipe.
Janine StephensApril 13, 2013
Was looking for a oil free carrot cake as man of the house won’t eat cakes with oil in them and is not a nut eater, found this recipe yesterday and made it for supper. Having never made carrot cake before this was so easy. Thanks so much for a fabulous oil free cake. Will definitely be a repeat recipe. Kept strictly to the recipe but MOH wanted sultana’s added. If making for a work shout would probably add walnuts. As per one of the above comments couldn’t quite do it in one bowl though,
AndieOctober 20, 2013
Love the orange juice and zest. Makes this sort of a cross between carrot cake and orange cake. Thanks for the recipe!