A simple carrot sheet cake with elevated flavor! This carrot spice cake with salted caramel frosting is everything you love about carrot cake without the fuss.
“I don’t like carrot cake, but I would totally eat this again! It’s so good!” quipped a new friend as she finished her first piece and went for another. And think that may be all you should need to read to convince you to make this recipe. Because this isn’t your typical carrot cake. There’s no long list of ingredients, no layering, no fuss. Baked in a layer cake, easily mixed by hand in a large bowl, this is a weeknight carrot cake. This is the kind of easy carrot cake recipe you can make just because.
The past few months have been an absolute whirlwind as the Godfather wrapped up some work things, the school year ended, I went to see my new nephew, old friends moved away, friends-to-be moved in… there’s been a lot. I’ve barely had a chance to stop and take it all in, even with intentionally leaving blanks in the schedule and saying “no” to over-committing myself. Saying “no” has been hard too.
But “grace” is my word for this year and I’ve been embracing it. I’m working harder to actively learn about the heavenly grace God shows daily in my life. Showing grace to others and trying my best to love big and do the most with what I have. And, hardest of all, I am learning to give myself grace when I need to scale back grand ideas and plans to meet my season of life right now. A season to be present, embracing all of it, focusing on the most important priorities, and knowing what is meant to be will still be there in the next season.
What does all this have to do with cake?
I’m so glad you asked! All of this is related to cake, because… this was supposed to be a layer cake! In fact, it was supposed to be my really tasty and very loaded with allll the ingredients, carrot cake from scratch. But with a limited schedule, and needing to make multiple desserts for many people, a layered carrot cake wasn’t going to happen. I just wanted to use the carrots I had and bake a cake. That’s it. Simple.
The anatomy of a simple carrot sheet cake…
This cake is based off a cake recipe I like from an old cookbook someone gave to me ages ago. Many of the recipes turn out a little funny and require tweaking, but I still keep the book. It’s got a vintage quality the newer books just don’t have. It hearkens back to a time when carrot cakes had less stuff in the batter. So taking cues from there, my carrot cake has… carrots! No nuts, no pineapple, no oranges, raisins, coconut, seeds… just carrots. And a very healthy dose of cinnamon.
The cinnamon will feel a little excessive. You’ll wonder if this cake is indeed going to turn out, but trust me, it will. The cinnamon mellows out in the baking process and blends beautifully with the carrots. The reason this is called a carrot spice cake instead of something like “carrot sheet cake” is to highlight that it’s not your everyday carrot cake. It lives somewhere between a carrot cake and a spice cake. This is not your run of the mill carrot cake. It’s in a class of its own.
And because it’s baked in a casserole dish, it’s perfect for gatherings with family and friends, or the holiday buffet dessert table!
And this salted caramel frosting?
Don’t the dollops of salted caramel nestled in this very easy cream cheese frosting look divine? They’re so welcoming, a perfect pairing for the carrot spice cake below.
This is literally a cream cheese frosting… maybe even bordering on a thick glaze. There is no butter. While you could – in theory – bake this cake as cupcakes and top each with a healthy swipe of this frosting, it wouldn’t pipe very well. This cream cheese frosting has no butter for structure. It’s meant to have a lightness and pillowy texture that only translates best when used as a layer cake topping with no fancy piping required.
The salted caramel is homemade. If you’ve never made caramel and wish to try, hop over to this post for a tutorial and video. But if that’s not feasible right now, use store bought.
I achieved the swirls by spooning puddles of salted caramel around my frosting and then using a chopstick to lightly swirl each puddle. Once the swirls were to my liking, I stopped. It’s a very easy and beautiful way to decorate a sheet cake without a piping bag.
A few final notes…
You can make this cake a day in advance, and even frost it that early. Just keep it refrigerated. If your casserole pan has a lid, just make sure that it’s tall enough not to touch the frosting so you don’t mess up your swirls. Otherwise, lightly cover the cake with some plastic wrap for storage.
I hope you enjoy this carrot spice cake recipe, darlings! Happy baking!
Carrot Spice Cake
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons salted caramel sauce, plus more for swirls
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x13" casserole dish and set aside.
- If you haven't already, peel and grate your carrots using a food processor or the course side of a box grater. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and cinnamon.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, and oil.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 batches. Stir in the carrots.
- Pour the batter into your prepared casserole dish and bake for 30-35 minutes until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Place the cake on a wire rack to cool.
- While the cake is cooling, make your frosting.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer in a large mixing bowl, whip the softened cream cheese until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
- Add the powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons salted caramel. Incorporate into the cream cheese, starting at a low speed and slowly working up to a medium or medium high. Beat until light and fluffy.
- Spread the frosting over the cooled cake. Spoon dollops of caramel over the frosting and use a chopstick or butter knife to swirl.
- Enjoy! Leftover cake can be stored, covered, up to 5 days in the refrigerator.