hand holding slice of carrot cake over wire rack

About This Carrot Cake Recipe

This incredibly moist carrot cake recipe is extra flavorful and delicious! The recipe uses brown butter with lots of shredded carrots and toasted pecans. The cake is then topped off with an easy, creamy cream cheese frosting. This simple carrot cake recipe is “small batch”, and is made an 8 inch square pan!

Why You Should Make The Recipe

Here are all the reasons to make this brown butter carrot cake recipe:

The recipe is small batch.

Most carrot cake recipes feed a crowd. They are typically made in 9 x 13-inch pans to make sheet cakes, or several 8- or 9-inch round cake pans to make a layer cake. I wanted a carrot cake recipe that made a smaller serving size. Like this one! The recipe is made in an 8-inch square pan, which translates into 9 generous slices.

The recipe comes together quickly.

Don’t let the recipe fool you—it comes together pretty quickly! How so? After browning the butter, you then use a stand mixer to whisk the wet ingredients for the cake. Then, add the dry ingredients. That’s pretty much it!

The cake is easily customizeable.

In the recipe, I provide lots of options for you to customize the carrot cake. Strapped for time? There’s no need to brown the butter—you can use melted butter instead. Want to level up the flavor? Toast the pecans, or add fruity mix-ins like pineapple and other fruit. The world is your oyster!

photo of slice of carrot cake on white plate

Ingredients and Substitutions

Now that I’ve convinced you to make this carrot cake recipe, here’s everything you need to make it:

Shopping List For Carrot Cake Recipe

  • unsalted butter
  • all-purpose flour
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground cloves
  • ground ginger
  • ground nutmeg
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • kosher salt
  • granulated sugar
  • brown sugar
  • large eggs
  • pure vanilla extract
  • shredded carrots
  • pecans
  • cream cheese
  • confectioners’ sugar

And let’s talk about some key ingredients and their potential substitutions:

Common Ingredient Substitutions For The Recipe

Here are the common substitutions for the ingredients in the recipe:

  • Unsalted Butter. You can substitute the unsalted butter with salted butter without any noticeable difference in taste. You can also use vegan butter sticks to make the cake dairy-free—however, you’ll need to find a dairy-free substitution for the cream cheese frosting!

  • All-Purpose Flour. Substitute the all-purpose flour with your favorite 1-1 Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (I like the ones by Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur Baking Company) to make the cake gluten-free!

  • Kosher Salt. You can replace the kosher salt in the recipe with half its amount in table salt.

  • Brown Sugar. Either light or dark brown sugar works in the recipe.

  • Carrots. To make my life easier, I buy pre-shredded carrots (similar to these ones) at the grocery store. However, you can use a food processor to shred whole carrots at home.
photo of carrot cake slices on wire gold rack

How To Make Carrot Cake

Here are the basic steps to make this carrot cake recipe from scratch:

  1. Prep the ingredients for the cake and frosting recipe. (Prep Time: 10 minutes)
    I like to set out the ingredients for the frosting as I bake the cake—that way they’ll be at room temperature when the cake is ready to be frosted!

  2. Brown the butter for the carrot cake. (Work Time: 5 minutes)

  3. Make the carrot cake batter. (Work Time: 10 minutes)

  4. Pour the batter into the pan and bake the cake. (Bake Time: 38 to 40 minutes)

  5. Cool the cake completely before frosting.
    Make sure to cool the cake completely before frosting. If you frost it while it’s still warm, the frosting will melt!

  6. Make the cream cheese frosting. (Work Time: 5 minutes)

  7. Frost and decorate the cake. (Work Time: 5 minutes)

Best Recipe Tips

Time-Saving Tip

  • Strapped for time? Skip the brown butter for the recipe and just use melted butter in its place instead. Though I will warn you that the brown butter is what makes this cake extra delicious! 

How To Customize The Carrot Cake To Make It Your Own

  • Want to go the extra mile? Toast the pecans before using them in the cake recipe. Toasting them will bring out the oils in the nuts and help make the cake more moist and flavorful.

    To toast the pecans, spread them out on a quarter sheet pan and bake for 5 to 10 minutes at 350°F. During the baking process, toss the nuts with a rubber spatula every 2 to 3 minutes to prevent them from burning.

  • Want to play around with different textures in your cake? Feel free to roughly chop the pecans to your preferred size. You can also add up to ¼ cup of roughly chopped fruit—I recommend pineapple!—to give your carrot cake bursts of fruity flavor. However, you may need to bake the carrot cake for 1 to 2 minutes longer when doing so.

More Simple Cake Recipes

Get the Recipe: Carrot Cake Recipe For An 8-Inch Pan

This incredibly moist carrot cake recipe is extra flavorful and delicious! The recipe uses brown butter with lots of shredded carrots and toasted pecans. The cake is then topped off with an easy, creamy cream cheese frosting. This simple carrot cake recipe is “small batch”, and is made an 8 inch square pan!
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For The Carrot Cake

  • ¾ cup (6 ounces or 170 grams) unsalted butter, cold from the fridge and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons (5.35 ounces or 152 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • cup (4.65 ounces or 132 grams) granulated sugar
  • cup tightly packed (2.5 ounces or 71 grams) light OR dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) shredded carrots, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) pecan halves

For The Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces or 57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted if necessary
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch kosher salt


  • First, make the carrot cake by prepping your oven and cake pan. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
    Generously spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Spray the parchment, too.
  • Brown the butter. In a light-colored saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until it starts to foam. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan occasionally to prevent the milk solids in the butter from burning.
    Cook for 5 minutes, or until the butter smells nutty and is amber with dark flecks at the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a liquid measuring cup. Set it on a wire rack to cool while you prep the other ingredients.
  • Mix the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cloves, and nutmeg.
  • Whisk the sugars, eggs, and vanilla, then add the brown butter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk on low until just combined, then increase to medium-high and whisk for 5 minutes, or until fluffy and thick.
    Reduce the mixer to low and slowly pour in the browned butter, aiming for the sides of the bowl as opposed to the whisk. Continue whisking on low until combined, about 1 minute.
  • Mix in the dry ingredients, carrots, and pecans by hand. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients all at once, then mix with the rubber spatula until just combined. Add the carrots and pecans and mix until just combined.
  • Assemble the cake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth its top if necessary.
  • Bake the cake. Bake for 38 to 40 minutes. When done, the top of the cake should bounce back when gently pressed and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come out with a few crumbs attached.
    Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before frosting.
  • When the cake is cool, make the cream cheese frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt for the frosting. Beat on medium-low until just combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl, then beat on medium-high until the frosting is creamy and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Frost and decorate the carrot cake. Use an offset spatula to cover the top of the cake with the frosting completely. Garnish with any decorations.
  • Serve and store. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep in an airtight container for 1 day. After that, transfer to the refrigerator and refrigerate for up to 2 more days.
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Weeknight Baking:
Recipes to Fit your Schedule

Over the past several years of running Hummingbird High, I kept a crucial aspect of my life hidden from my readers: I had a full-time, extremely demanding job in the tech world. In my debut cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I finally reveal the secrets to baking delicious desserts on a tight schedule.