The Ultimate Sweet & Salty Caramel Carrot Cake Recipe

Featuring decadent caramel and fresh spices, this cake with creamy frosting and chopped pecans isn’t just for Easter. It’s the perfect dessert for any party, gathering, or special event. Plus, it’s surprisingly easy to make and guaranteed to impress!

Caramal Carrot cake

Have you ever had a craving for the perfect blend of sweet and salty but didn’t know where to start? That’s where this mouthwatering caramel carrot cake recipe comes in.

Today, I’m sharing my ultimate tender and flavorful recipe that leaves you feeling like you just had a slice of sweet heaven.

Speaking from personal experience, I used this cake in my home-baking business for YEARS, and people still email me to rave over it.

So, save this easy and delicious recipe to whip it up any time of the year!

Caramel Carrot Cake

Like a typical carrot cake, this option uses fresh carrots and pecans. But with the homemade caramel and Russian buttercream frosting, you can really set this recipe apart.

Unlike your average American buttercream, Russian buttercream is richer and creamier, thanks to sweetened condensed milk. In other words, Russian buttercream is the secret ingredient that takes this cake to the next level!

But don’t take my word for it – try it for yourself!

 

Caramel Carrot Cake
Caramel Carrot Cake
  • Mixing bowls: You will need at least two for this recipe – one for the dry ingredients and one for the wet ingredients.
  • Whisk: A whisk will combine the dry ingredients in the first mixing bowl.
  • Electric mixer or stand mixer: An electric or stand mixer will be used to beat the sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil together, as well as the butter and condensed milk for the frosting.
  • Grater or food processor: You will need a grater or food processor to grate the carrots for this cake finely.
  • Digital Scale: A digital scale is the best and most accurate way to measure your ingredients to ensure your caramel carrot cake recipe is a success!
  • Spatula: A spatula will smooth the batter into the cake pans and spread the frosting over the cake layers.
  • Toothpick: (link) A toothpick will be used to check the doneness of the cake layers.
  • Wire rack: ( link)A wire rack will cool the cake layers after they come out of the oven.

With this equipment list, you should have everything you need to make this moist and delicious gourmet-style carrot cake.

  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger
  • Allspice
  • Salt
  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Avocado oil OR Vegetable oil
  • Vanilla – Use my Code KALA20 @ check out for 20% off! HERE
  • Eggs
  • Half & Half 
  • Crushed Pineapple
  • Carrots. Do not buy pre-grated carrots! 
  • Butter 
  • 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
Caramel Carrot Cake

Can I use pre-shredded carrots instead of grating them myself?

Well, not if you want your cake to be moist and delicious! Grating carrots for carrot cake ensures that the cake has a juicy and tender crumb, as the moisture from the carrots is more evenly distributed throughout the batter. Pre-shredded carrots can be too dry, making a tough or dry cake.

TIP: Using a food processor with a grating attachment to grate the carrots finely can be helpful, as it creates tiny, uniform shreds that are easier to incorporate into the batter. So, you can save yourself time from hand grating your carrots and still enjoy all the moist goodness of homemade cake!

Can I make this cake without nuts or raisins?

Absolutely! You can leave out any and all nuts or raisins if you prefer, especially if you’re baking for a party that might have food allergies. This recipe will be delicious either way!

Can I make this cake ahead of time? Yes, you can make the cake ahead of time and store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Just make sure to let it cool completely before storing it.

Can I freeze this cake?

Yes, you can freeze the cake for up to 3 months. Just wrap it tightly in plastic several times and store it in an airtight container. Just be sure to fully thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease three 8-inch round cake pans.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and salt in a medium-sized bowl until well combined.

3. Next, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil in a large bowl until well combined.

granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil in a large bowl

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil in a large bowl

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir until just combined.

granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil in a large bowl

6. Fold in the grated carrots, crushed pineapple, and chopped pecans (if using) until evenly distributed.

Caramel Carrot Cake
Caramel Carrot Cake

7. Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared and greased baking pans.

Caramel Carrot Cake
Caramel Carrot Cake

8. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Caramel Carrot Cake
Caramel Carrot Cake

9. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing them and transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • Combine all caramel ingredients in a medium saucepan and mix. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook on low for 8 minutes or until slightly thickened and darker in color.
  • Mix in flakey sea salt.
  • Set aside to cool. ( double this recipe for extra caramel drizzle)
  • TIP: If you’d like to make a little extra caramel sauce for carrot cake, simply double these ingredients and follow the same steps!
Caramel Carrot Cake
  • In a large bowl, beat the softened butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add the Sweetened Condensed Milk, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, and beat until well combined.
  • Gradually add the cooled caramel, beating well after each addition until the frosting reaches a smooth and spreadable consistency.
  • If you’re using chopped pecans, fold them in for added crunch and texture.
  • Once the cake layers are completely cooled, place one layer on a cake stand or serving plate and spread a generous layer of frosting on top.
  • Add the second layer on top of the frosting, and spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake to create a “crumb coat.”
  • Refrigerate the cake for 10-15 minutes to allow the crumb coat to set.
  • Add a final layer of frosting over the entire cake, making sure to smooth it out evenly.
  • BONUS STEP: Swirl any extra caramel into the frosting and sprinkle chopped pecans over the top of the cake as a decorative garnish, giving you a sleek and sophisticated caramel cake presentation that will look like it came straight from a bakery!
  • Keep It Fresh: To get the best flavor and texture in your carrot cake, use fresh, moist carrots that have been finely grated. Try and find the largest carrots you can find to make it easier to grate. Avoid using pre-grated carrots from the store, as they tend to be dry and may not produce as moist a cake.
  • Weigh Your Flour: Weighing your ingredients with a kitchen scale is the easiest way to get the best results from your cake or any other recipe! For instance, too much flour will create a dry, dense cake. Get my personal favorite kitchen scale here!
  • Mix Gently: Be careful not to overmix the dry ingredients for your cake. Overmixing can result in a tough, dry cake. Instead, mix the ingredients until just combined.
  • Stay Room Temperature: To ensure that your cake comes out perfectly moist and tender, use ingredients that are at room temperature. This includes eggs, butter, and caramel for the frosting.
  • Check With A Toothpick: To check if your carrot cake is made, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. The cake is done if it comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. If it comes out with wet batter on it, the cake needs more time to bake.
  • Blend The Pineapple: If you want your batter to be perfectly smooth, blend the pineapple for a few seconds in the blender for small, even chunks throughout your cake.
  • Cool It Down: It’s important to let the cake cool completely before frosting it, as frosting a warm cake can cause the frosting to melt or become difficult to spread.
  • Stay Chill: To ensure that the frosting stays in place when you cut the cake, chill the frosted cake in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before slicing. This will firm up the frosting and make it easier to slice while avoiding carrot cake mistakes, like thin frosting or uneven layers.

Carrot cake is made with grated carrots, flour, sugar, and eggs and is typically flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. It is often frosted with a cream cheese frosting. This recipe is elevated by leaving out the cream cheese and adding a decadent caramel Russian Buttercream.

Carrot cake can be sliced and stored in an airtight container for up to three days at room temperature. It can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to three months. Be sure to wrap tightly in plastic wrap before storing.

Adding different types of nuts (such as pecans or walnuts), dried fruit (such as raisins or currants), or other ingredients (such as coconut or pineapple) are variations you can add. You can also customize your sweetness by adding more or less caramel glaze and frosting.

This carrot cake can be adapted to be gluten-free or vegan by using alternative 1 to 1 flour.

Caramal Carrot cake

The Ultimate Sweet & Salty Caramel Carrot Cake Recipe

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Author: Kala Boulard

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt to taste
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup avocado oil
  • 2 tsp vannila
  • 4 large eggs and 1 yolk
  • 2 cups finely grated fresh carrots
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, partially drained2
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

For the homemade caramel

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Half and Half
  • tiniest pinch of flakey sea salt (double this recipe for extra drizzle)

For the frosting

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup caramel (storebought or homemade)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans for topping (optional)

Instructions

Make the Cake

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease three 8-inch round cake pans.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and salt in a medium-sized bowl until well combined.
  • Whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla, in a large bowl until well combined.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
  • Add the dry and wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.
  • Fold in the grated carrots, crushed pineapple, and chopped pecans (if using) until evenly distributed. (The batter should loosen up and be pourable.)
  • Divide the batter evenly between the 3 8” prepared pans.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing them and transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Caramel

  • Combine all caramel ingredients in a medium saucepan and mix. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook on low for 8 minutes or until slightly thickened and darker in color.
  • Mix in flakey sea salt.
  • Set aside to cool. (double this recipe for extra caramel drizzle) SEE NOTES1

For the Frosting

  • In a large bowl, beat the softened butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add condensed milk, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, and beat until well combined.
  • Scrape down the bowl with a spatula to ensure everything is well incorporated.
  • Gradually add half of the slightly cooled caramel, beating well after each addition until the frosting reaches a smooth and spreadable consistency (or swirl it into the frosting while decorating!)
  • If desired, fold extra chopped pecans for added crunch and texture.

To Decorate

  • Once the cake layers are completely cooled, place one layer on a cake stand or serving plate and spread a generous layer of frosting and slowly swirl some caramel.
  • Repeat with the second layer of cake, then frosting, then caramel.
  • Add the third cake layer to the frosting, and spread a thin layer over the entire cake to create a “crumb coat.”
  • Refrigerate or freeze the cake for 10-15 minutes to allow the crumb coat to set.
  • Add a final layer of frosting over the entire cake, and smooth it out evenly.
  • If you made extra caramel, drizzle it over the top of the cake and sprinkle chopped pecans as a decorative garnish.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  1. 1. If your caramel gets hard while you decorate. Stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds until bubbly and stir until smooth- if it’s too thick, add a splash of cream or milk and stir until smooth.
  2. 2. While recipe testing, I added the pineapple in a blender and blended for a few seconds for smaller, more even pieces of pineapple, which was amazing! Not necessary, but it allows the pineapple to caramelize in the cake. Highly recommend!

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[…] this cake. Looking for a twist on classic carrot cake? You should also checkout this recipe for Caramel Carrot Cake with homemade caramel and Russian […]