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Carrot Snack Cake

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This old fashioned Carrot Snack Cake is an easy, one layer cake, with the best texture! It’s loaded with shredded carrots, toasted pecans, warm spices, and is topped with a super creamy cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

It is the perfect classic dessert for small Easter celebrations, springtime brunch with friends, or just because you’re craving a delicious carrot cake.

Looking for more Easter desserts? Try my Birds Nest Cookies or this Bunny Popcorn Snack Mix.

A slice of carrot snack cake on a plate with a fork on the side. It is ready to eat.

Carrot Snack Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

When I tell you this recipe is going to blow you away, I mean it! My family raves about it and makes me bake one for almost every family get together… and I have been baking this cake for years. Typically when we think of carrot cake we think of Easter and springtime, but really it’s an any time of year kind of cake.

It is moist, perfectly spiced, and has great texture, thanks to the shredded carrots and toasted pecans. It’s also a super tall cake which is a success in itself because carrot cakes tend to be dense from the moist ingredients weighing it down. You will also love…

  • The versatility- You can swap pecans for walnuts, keep it a naked cake (without frosting), or add some raisins. No matter what your carrot cake preferences are, you can make this recipe achieve that!
  • It’s perfect for small celebrations- This recipe make 9 to 12 slices depending on how you cut it. But don’t worry you can double the recipe.
  • A great way to use up your carrots- We all know you have a bag of carrots in the back of your refrigerator right now, I know I do. Put them to good use in this cake, you’ll need about 2 to 3.
A slice taken from the cake to show a tender crumb that is filled with shredded carrots and toasted pecans.

Carrot Snack Cake Ingredients

This Carrot Snack Cake is super moist and the perfect balance of carrots, nuts, and spices. Keep reading for important notes and potential substitutions.

  • Flour: This recipe uses all-purpose flour but 1:1 gluten free flour works as well. The snack cake doesn’t have as much height but it is still delicious.
  • Baking Powder: An essential leavening agent that gives the cake height and a tender crumb. Make sure it’s not expired!
  • Salt: Used to balance out the flavors.
  • Ground Cinnamon: An essential in carrot cake.
  • Ground Nutmeg: Another essential spice in carrot cake. This one adds a delicious nuttiness that is unmatchable. It takes this cake from being blah to a high-end bakery cake.
  • Unsalted Butter: You will want this to be really soft, so it creams together well with the sugars. I typically set mine at room temperature overnight and make my snack cake the next morning. Do not substitute unsalted for salted, it makes the cake super salty.
  • Granulated Sugar: Adds sweetness and stability to the crumb.
  • Brown Sugar: Also adds sweetness but more depth of flavor than the granulated sugar.
  • Egg: Brought to room temperature.
  • Vanilla Extract: This adds another flavor note to the snack cake. Make sure you use pure or homemade extract, never imitation vanilla.
  • Buttermilk: This adds richness to the crumb. You can easily make your own buttermilk or substitute it for half and half with little to no difference in texture.
  • Carrots: Make sure you use large carrots that are washed and peeled. I used a cheese grater to shred mine but you can use a box grater, mandoline, or food processor.
  • Pecans: Use unsalted pecans that are lightly toasted. You can also toast them yourself in a pan over low heat. You will want some to be chopped small and some that are in larger pieces to sprinkle over the top of the cake.
Ingredients. All purpose flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, unsalted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, vanilla extract, buttermilk, shredded carrots, and toasted pecans.

Have a few carrots leftover? Try my Banana Carrot Muffins or these Quick Pickled Carrots. My Chicken Alfredo Soup and Vegetable Orzo Soup has carrots in it as well.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients

This is a basic cream cheese frosting, but with the addition of ground cinnamon. It gives the frosting a light brown color with gorgeous flecks of cinnamon. The consistency is thin, creamy, and absolute perfection for this snack cake. Again, keep reading for notes and substitutions.

  • Cream Cheese: Full fat cream cheese is the best, but make sure it’s at room temperature. If it’s even a little bit cold your frosting won’t blend together very well and could be lumpy.
  • Unsalted Butter: Again, this should be at room temperature.
  • Vanilla Extract: Adds delicious flavor. Again, always use pure or homemade extracts, imitation just isn’t the same.
  • Cinnamon: We use ground cinnamon for a mild and sweet flavor.
  • Powdered Sugar: Also known as confectioners sugar. This adds sweetness and stability.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream: This is for thinning out the frosting. I prefer the creaminess of heavy whipping cream but you can use milk too.
Ingredients. Cream cheese, unsalted butter, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, cinnamon, heavy whipping cream, and a fully baked carrot snack cake.

Equipment You Will Need

Other than basic kitchen equipment like bowls and measuring cups, you will also need a couple special items.

  • Mixer: I recommend using a hand mixer or stand mixer for this recipe, it makes it 100 times easier. Make sure you use the paddle or beater attachments.
  • 8×8 Square Baking Pan: Light metal is the best for this cake. It evenly bakes the cake and allows the edges to become golden brown. I also recommend lining your pan with plastic wrap and a little non-stick cooking spray for easy removal.

How to Make a Carrot Snack Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

You’re going to love how easy this recipe is. Here’s a short summary, the recipe card at the bottom will have complete details.

1. MAKE THE CAKE BATTER. Start by mixing together the wet ingredients. Then alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk. Fold in the shredded carrots and toasted pecans.

2. BAKE THE CARROT SNACK CAKE. Spread the batter into your prepared pan and bake until a toothpick test comes out with few crumbs.

3. COOL THE CARROT CAKE. Once your cake is done baking you will want to remove it from the baking pan. Place it on a cooling rack and allow it to come to room temperature before frosting.

4. WHIP UP THE CINNAMON CREAM CHEESE BUTTERCREAM. Beat together the cream cheese, unsalted butter, vanilla extract, and cinnamon first. Alternate adding powdered sugar with heavy whipping cream until your frosting is smooth.

5. FROST YOUR CAKE. Using a small icing knife or something similar, spread the cinnamon cream cheese frosting over the top. I like to make swoops and swirls but feel free to frost it the way you want.

6. DECORATE YOUR CAKE. I kept this cake simple with a sprinkling of toasted pecans. You could also garnish with festive spring sprinkles or whatever you want.

7. CUT YOUR CAKE. This snack cake can be cut into 9 or 12 servings, depending on how small you want the pieces. For clean and beautiful slices of cake, wipe down the blade of your knife between each cut.

8. SERVE AND ENJOY. It’s great after Easter dinner, for spring brunch, or as a sweet treat after dinner. I like mine with a hot cup of coffee. Yum!

Storing Information

Any leftover Carrot Snack Cake should be stored in an airtight container. It can be kept at room temperature for 2 days and in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

If after 2 days (at room temperature) you still have cake, throw it in the refrigerator for the remaining days. Because this cake is super moist, leaving it at room temperature too long can cause it to mold.

I almost forgot to tell you, this carrot cake freezes beautifully and it lasts for 3 months! My favorite thing is freezing slices of cake to eat later. All you have to do is freeze the slices, wrap them in plastic wrap, put them in a plastic bag, and freeze again for up to 3 months.

Unthaw your cake slice at room temperature for about 30 minutes or in the refrigerator overnight. If you’re feeling brave you can microwave it for about 20 seconds or until it is warmed.

On overhead view of the Carrot Snack Cake cut into 9 pieces. The center slice is flipped on its side to see the interior of the cake.

4 Tips for Making This Recipe

This Carrot Snack Cake recipe is fairly simple and straightforward, but there are a few things you should know ahead of time.

1. Always use room temperature ingredients. This ensures your cake batter is well incorporated and will bake evenly. It also means you’ll have super smooth and creamy cream cheese frosting.

2. Cream the butter and sugars together well, for about 3 to 4 minutes actually. This one tip makes a huge impact on the texture and height of your cake. Under-creaming makes the crumb structure tight and the cake a lot shorter.

3. Properly measure the flour using the spoon and level method. Scooping out of the bag gives you too much flour, and too much flour gives you a dry and tough cake. The correct way is to fluff up the flour with a whisk, spoon it into a measuring cup, and level it off with a knife. Easy peasy right?

4. Toast the pecans. All you have to do is heat a dry pan over medium heat. Add the nuts in a single layer and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and fragrant. It makes them rich, buttery, and take this cake to a deeper tasting level. You can also buy lightly toasted pecans (unsalted) to make it even easier.

A close up of the cake's soft and tender interior. It is filled with shredded carrots and toasted pecans.

Fun Ways To Make This Recipe Your Own

Keep the cake unfrosted or sift powdered sugar over the top.

Use traditional cream cheese frosting. Still use my recipe, but omit the ground cinnamon. If you’re looking for a firmer frosting option, try my Not So Sweet Buttercream. It is like cream cheese frosting and American buttercream had a baby.

Pecans versus Walnuts. This is always a debate! I prefer to use pecans because I like their flavor better when toasted. But if you like walnuts use those, it will be just as delicious.

Add raisins, but only about a 1/3 cup or so. Add them in with the carrots and toasted pecans.

Double this recipe to make a 13×9 sized cake. I make it easy in my recipe card, just hit the 2x and it will double the ingredients. Follow all recipe directions as normal.

Bites taken from the cake with a fork on the side and more carrot cake in the background.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Can this Carrot Snack Cake be made ahead of time?

Yes, this Carrot Snack Cake is great for prepping ahead of time! You can either bake the cake and wrap it in plastic wrap to frost the next day OR you can fully bake and frost the cake. Either way, I recommend making it no more than a day you plan on serving it.

Can I use bagged shredded carrots in this recipe?

No, only use freshly shredded carrots. The pre-shredded “matchstick carrots are way too thick and tough. They also lack in flavor.

More One Layer Cake Recipes You Might Enjoy

There’s nothing I love more than a simple, single layer cake. These recipes feed 9 to 12 people and are a ton of flavor in small packages!


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Enjoy Entirely, Elizabeth
A slice of carrot snack cake topped with cinnamon cream cheese buttercream and toasted pecans on a plate with a fork on the side.

Carrot Snack Cake

Elizabeth Swoish
Moist and flavorful Carrot Snack Cake topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. It's an easy cake perfect for everything from Easter dinner to satisfying carrot cake cravings.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Servings 12 slices
Calories 356 kcal

EQUIPMENT

INGREDIENTS
  

Carrot Snack Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup unsalted butter - room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg - room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk - room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups carrot - finely shredded
  • ½ cup pecans - toasted* and chopped, plus more for topping (you decide the amount).

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 ounces cream cheese - full fat and at room temperature
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter - room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

INSTRUCTIONS
 

Make the Carrot Snack Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 °F and prepare a metal 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper and a light coat of non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour (set aside 1 tablespoon to toss with the carrots), baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, toss together the finely shredded carrots with the 1 tablespoon of flour. Set side.
  • Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream together the room temperature unsalted butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy and pale in color (3 to 4 minutes).
  • Add the vanilla extract and egg, combine until well incorporated.
  • Alternate adding and incorporating ingredients together: half of the dry mixture, buttermilk, and other half of dry mixture until it becomes a smooth batter.
  • Add and fold in the flour coated shredded carrots and toasted pecans just until they are scattered throughout the batter.
    Directions 1. Cake batter with shredded carrots and toasted pecans ready to be folded in.
  • Pour and spread out carrot cake batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
    Directions 2. Carrot cake batter spread into a parchment lined 8x8 baking dish. Ready to bake in the oven.
  • Once the cake is fully baked, remove it from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.
    Directions 3. Fully cooled cake ready to be frosted with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

Make the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and unsalted butter until smooth and light in texture.
  • Add the vanilla extract and ground cinnamon, combine until well incorporated.
  • Alternate adding and incorporating remaining ingredients together: half of the powdered sugar, heavy whipping cream, the remaining powdered sugar, and the remaining heavy whipping cream.
    Directions 4. Whipped together the cinnamon cream cheese frosting with cooling cake on the side.

Frost, Decorate, and Serve

  • Using a silicone spatula or icing knife, spread the cinnamon cream cheese frosting over top of the completely cooled cake.
    Directions 5. Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting spread on top of the cake. Toasted pecans on the side for garnishing.
  • Sprinkle on more toasted pecans.
    Directions 6. Toasted pecans chopped and sprinkled on top of the frosted cake.
  • Cut the Carrot Snack Cake into 9 or 12 equal pieces and serve!
    On overhead view of the Carrot Snack Cake cut into 9 pieces. The center slice is flipped on its side to see the interior of the cake.

RECIPE NOTES

Storing Information:

  • Room temperature, in an airtight container, for up to 2 days. If after 2 days you still have cake, throw it in the refrigerator for it’s remaining days. 
  • Refrigerated, in an airtight container, for up to 4 days.
  • Frozen in slices, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a sealable bag, for up to 3 months. Unthaw cake at room temperature for 30 minutes, in the refrigerator overnight, or in the microwave for 20 seconds or until warmed.

Make This Recipe Your Own

  • Double this recipe to make a 13×9 cake that will serve 12 to 16 people depending on how big you cut your slices.
  • Keep the Carrot Snack Cake unfrosted or sift powdered sugar over the top.
  • Use a traditional cream cheese frosting by omitting the ground cinnamon. Or try my firm and stable Not So Sweet Buttercream.
  • Swap the toasted pecans or toasted walnuts. 
  • Add raisins to the batter, but no more than a 1/3 cup.

How to Easily Toast Pecans 

  • Heat a dry pan over medium heat. Add the pecans in a single layer and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and fragrant.
     

Metric conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information.

Tried this recipe?Feel free to share a rating and comment below. Don’t forget to tag me on social media, or use the hashtag #EntirelyElizabeth – I would love to see what you’ve made!
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By Elizabeth Swoish on March 23rd, 2024
Elizabeth Swoish holding a camera up to her eye taking a photo.

About Elizabeth Swoish

Elizabeth Swoish is the founder and CEO of Entirely Elizabeth. She is a self-taught foodie and mocktail enthusiast with a business degree in data analysis. Read Elizabeth's food journey or connect on your favorite social media channels.

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