Sweet, spiced, and positively loaded with carrots: this single layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting delivers on a spring classic in smaller proportions.
I can’t lie: carrot cake is actually my favorite cake on earth. I’m not going to turn my nose up at chocolate cake or banana cake or even a really good vanilla cake with raspberry filling and chocolate frosting (that does sound good right now), but if you asked me to pick favorites, carrot cake would win every. single. time.
Which is why it’s high time that we had a recipe for a true carrot cake on this little blog.
Oddly, I’ve created recipes that mimicked carrot cake on here: carrot cake cinnamon rolls, carrot cake scones. But up until now, we didn’t have the real deal, assertively-spiced, chock-full-of-carrots, honest-to-goodness carrot cake, and I’m fixing that today. As a single layer carrot cake, of course.
A Small Carrot Cake Recipe
This small carrot cake is part of my ongoing series of single layer cake recipes.
The thing is, I like cake, but when there’s only two of us around, making a double or triple layer cake just isn’t a good idea. Not only does it use an outrageous amount of butter and sugar, but layer cakes are a finicky hassle to deal with – all that stacking and spreading and crumb coats and turntables and frosting ratios….ugh. Then, after all that, we have a giant cake sitting around the house and only two of us to eat it, which isn’t necessary or advisable for anyone involved.
Thus, my penchant for single layer cakes.
I’m slightly surprised to find that when googling this for research, there aren’t all that many recipes specifically for single layer cakes out there. There are some, like coffee cakes or yogurt cakes or classic Italian cakes, that are designed to be a single layer and made in a springform pan, but there really aren’t all that many classic frosted cakes that have been turned into single layer versions (at least not that I found).
I’m more than happy to step up to the plate.
It’s really not all that hard to turn your favorite layer cakes into single layer cakes, but you have to be good at proportions. I really don’t mind doing all the math for you when I get results like these.
Why you’ll love this one layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
I actually made this cake for Brian’s 30th birthday last weekend, and we ate it for breakfast in bed (with bacon on the side, YOLO) with no regrets. Carrot cake was also our wedding cake, so, you know, we like it a little.
Let’s talk about what makes this single layer carrot cake great:
- It is chock full of carrots. This isn’t some namby-pamby spice cake masquerading as a carrot cake, as most box mixes and commercially made carrot cakes will be. No. We’re getting maximum bang for our carrot buck – 2 full cups of grated carrots in this baby.
- Yes, you have to grate the carrots. Sorry. Use a box grater, it really doesn’t take that long (only 2-3 carrots needed) and it’s worth it. Using a food processor to grate them is possible, but make sure you get it down to really really small pieces so they can soften enough while baking.
- There’s coconut in there too. You don’t have to add it if you don’t like it. If you do like it, you’re going to love this.
- No mixer required for the cake. This is a bowl and whisk operation, just the way I like it. Ideally, you whisk the dry and wet ingredients separately and then add one to the other, but you can do the whole thing in one bowl and I won’t tell (I’ve done it).
- Cream. Cheese. Frosting. Need I say more?
Should you add grated carrots and chopped walnuts or pecans on top as decoration? I say life is too short not to.
More Small Cake Recipes
- Single Layer Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache
- Single Layer Guinness Cake with Irish Cream Frosting
- Snickerdoodle Cake
- Single Layer Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
- Berry Buttermilk Cake
Single Layer Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Carrot Cake:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (measured via spoon and level method)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick + 2 tablespoons)
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs (room temperature preferable)
- 2 cups grated carrots (from 2-3 large carrots)*
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 4 ounces cream cheese, cold
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Extra grated carrots and/or chopped walnuts or pecans, for decoration (optional)
For the Carrot Cake:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan. I also like to line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, to give extra insurance that the cake will come out cleanly. Just trace the bottom of the pan on a sheet of parchment paper and cut it out, then place inside the pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large microwave-safe bowl (I use a large glass bowl), or on the stove, melt the butter. Let it sit for a couple minutes to cool, then whisk in the brown sugar, followed by the eggs one at a time, until combined and smooth.
- Dump the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and stir together until well-combined and no lumps remain.
- Fold in the carrots and shredded coconut until evenly distributed.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth out the surface, and bake for 35 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let cake cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the pan onto the rack to release the cake, remove the parchment from the bottom, and flip back right side up onto a cake plate. Let cake cool while you prepare the frosting.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- In a large bowl using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter at high speed until pale and very fluffy – this should take 2-3 minutes. You want to incorporate as much air as possible into the mixture to make it light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat at medium to high speed until fully combined and light.
- Spread cooled cake with cream cheese frosting. It should make a thick layer, and can be swirled in pretty patterns with an offset spatula (I like this one).
- Decorate the outer edges of cake with additional grated carrots and chopped walnuts or pecans if desired. Serve!
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Hi, Katie – I just took the one layer carrot cake out of my oven, and it looks like it will be delicious. One question: one of the earlier comments mentioned using oil rather than butter. How much oil would work in this recipe, and would you recommend a combination of oil and butter? And if so, how much of each? And FYI, your recipe for one layer chocolate cake with ganache is my go to cake for special occasions for my husband and me. Thank you!
Hi Ann – you could replace all the butter with oil, or do a 50/50 mix. It’s a 1:1 substitution so it would be 5 tbsp butter and 5 tbsp oil in that case. I hope you enjoy!
Really interested in your preference for using butter instead of oil in this carrot cake recipe. Is it because of all the moisture that comes from the 2 cups of carrots. Thanks.
I just like the flavor better, to be honest! You can use oil if you prefer.
I’ve made this a couple times and always with compliments! My husband and father-in-law both raved about it so I think it’s a winner haha. Can I use mascarpone in place of cream cheese for the frosting as that’s what I have on hand? I want to make it again for Valentine’s Day this week 🙂
Hi Dominique – thanks so much for the review! Yes, I do think mascarpone would work in place of cream cheese. Let me know how it turns out!
Very Nice Valentine Day cake recipe
Hi! Just one question. How long can i leave it outside the refrigerator? Need to take it for a potluck. Will it last for about 3 hours outside the fridge. Will the cream cheese start to be runny??
Hi Sri – yes, 3 hours outside the fridge should be fine as long as it’s not super hot in the room. Enjoy!
This cake was delicious. I’m wondering if I can freeze it.
Thanks Patricia! So glad you enjoyed it. Yes, you can freeze the baked cake well wrapped in plastic for up to 3 months. Just leave it out for 2-3 hours to thaw before eating. You can freeze it frosted if you like, but I’d recommend chilling first until completely cold so the frosting isn’t soft when you wrap it.
PS Oops I meant 1/4 cup coconut on my last review. Let the carrots be the star! 🙂
Easy and so moist! I made it without any subs and it was fantastic with chopped walnuts on top of frosting. The next time I make, oh yes they’ll be a next time :), I will add some crushed pineapple to the mix and use only about a 1/2 cup of coconut so the carrot flavor can be the star. Thanks for sharing this recipe.
So glad you loved it, Elle! Thanks for the review!
I made your cake today for lunch with my sisters-in-law. They were impressed with the flavor, texture and of course, the cream cheese frosting. Thank you for the recipe.
Awesome! So glad you enjoyed it, Nancy!
Unfortunately mine turned out like pudding. Too much carrot. Also too oily for me.
Sorry to hear this recipe didn’t turn out as you’d hoped, Jean – let me know if you’d like to troubleshoot at all. You can certainly add less carrot or blot the carrots with paper towels to make sure they aren’t wet when added to the batter.
I made this and it was soo delicious and not super hard or demanding to make! Thank you and I’m so glad I found this recipe ☺️
So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the review!
Can it be done in an Air fryer?
I’m not sure, sorry.
I made this over the weekend for my dad’s birthday. Carrot cake is his absolute favorite, and I had never found a recipe I was totally in love with, so I decided to give this one a try. I picked it because it didn’t look overly sweet and it was simple. Best choice ever! Everyone absolutely loved it. I made a couple of tweaks…I only had medium eggs so I used two plus an extra egg yolk, I used unrefined coconut oil in place of butter because I only had salted butter and had already added salt to the dry mix, and I folded in chopped walnuts instead of coconut. It was so good! The frosting was perfect…delicious yet not too sweet, and it made the perfect amount for the cake. I will definitely make this again and browse the website for more recipes. Thank you!
So awesome!! Thank you for the review, Grace!
This was amazing. We just made it for your birthday and you LOVED IT!
I did, thanks Peggy 🙂
Just made this recipe for my room mates birthday party. Got so many compliments!! Was a big hit.
Awesome!! Thank you!
This cake looks amazing, I’m going to bake it for my book club.
Can I use an 8 inch square glass pan?
Hi Celia – yes, but you’ll have to increase the bake time likely by 5-10 minutes!
Made this cake for a potluck dinner. Came out so well. Added raisins and walnuts. Tasted really good.
Awesome! Thank you so much!!
I just made this carrot cake today for my husband’s birthday, his favorite. Katie, thank you so much I’m all about one layer cakes and I was going to try to half the recipe that I currently have. Instead I tried this … absolutely delicious! Moist, not overly sweet and it all went together perfectly. I’ve signed up for your emails and will definitely spread the word. 🙂
Thank you so much, Jan – so glad you enjoyed it and happy belated birthday to your husband!!
Thank you for posting this recipe! I’ve never made a carrot cake before, but my mom loves carrot cake so I wanted to try. I was so happy to see a single layer cake as it was meant for just her and my father. This cake was a big hit! My mom said it was one of the best things I’ve ever made. I wish you could see how lovely it turned out. I will definitely be using this recipe again! 😁🥕
So happy that you and your parents enjoyed this cake, Victoria! I hope you find more recipes you enjoy on here 🙂
we dont like coconut what to use instade? can we add some crushed pinapple??? thank you so much it looks fanrastic and tasty 👍
Hi Maha, I think crushed pineapple would work, just make sure to dry it with paper towels as thoroughly as you can first so it doesn’t make the cake too moist!
Love this recipe! Lots of carrot compared to many recipes. Turned out more on the dense side for me which I love and sweetness level was just right, not overwhelming. Made it for my daughter’s birthday and got some nice compliments . I substituted pecans for the coconut and ginger instead of nutmeg (I was out of nutmeg). Comes together quite quickly even with grating the carrots. Also a nice size, you don’t need a very big piece with such a nice density and the cream cheese icing.
Thank you so much, Anne! So glad you loved this recipe!
I made this yesterday and it came out perfect. Thanks for the recipe!
Wonderful! Thank you so much Mary!
Cake turned out super moist and not as dense as other store bought carrot cakes. Was well loved, all around.
Fantastic! thank you Dotty!
Hi there I don’t have a 9 inch cake pan so can I substitute it for 2 6 inch cake pans?
Hi Bonnie – yes I think that would work! Just adjust the bake time down for the smaller pans.
so delicious and easy and approachable! Katie is my go to food blogger for baking ❤️❤️
Thank you so much!
I agree with Kristen , Katie’s recipes are also on my go to go recipe note book .
I made this recipe , relaxing butter with olive oil , cake was very sponge , a bit soft , actually felt apart but delicious as it was for myself. 😍
Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed it!!
Tried this cake and it was fantastic! Everyone loved it. I didn’t add the shredded coconut, but I did add coconut extract to the frosting. Thanks for the recipe!
Love the coconut extract idea! Thank you Alex!
This cake was much easier to make than I thought it would be and it was so delicious! I made it for a small dinner party and everyone loved it. I used crushed praline pecans for the decorative topping because I had them on hand. I’ll definitely be making it again.
I love the crushed pecans idea! So glad you enjoyed this one, Kayli!
Hi, just made the cake this afternoon. It’s so yum! But…and I don’t know if this is exactly a negative…it’s so soft and spongy that it kind of fell apart coming out from the cake pan.Anything I can do to change that?Were the grated carrots too wet maybe? Should I squeeze some water out if them before folding them in?
If your carrots were really wet, that might have been the issue!
can this recipe be doubled and still bake in a 9 inch pan?
Hi Nicole – you’d have to bake it in two 9-inch pans if you doubled it, or one 9×13″ pan. I think it would work just fine though. Hope that helps!
Lovely cake! Moist and delicious. I used olive oil instead of butter and added some pecans. It didn’t even need frosting. Thank you for an awesome recipe
Love the idea of using olive oil – it adds great texture to cakes! So glad you enjoyed this easy carrot cake recipe Shruthi 🙂
How much olive oil did you use. Please and Thank You
Hi Muriel – it would be the same amount as the butter, 10 tablespoons! Which is the same as 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons. Hope you love the recipe!
This was so easy to make and so delicious!! I am not some kind of pro in the kitchen, but you wouldn’t know it with how great this cake came out. Can’t wait to try more of your recipes!
I’m so glad to hear that Michelle, thank you 🙂
SO delicious 😋
The best carrot 🥕 cake I have ever eaten.
Thank you 🙏🏻
YAY! Thank you so much.
Amazing!!! My mother in law loved it. Making it again and again and again!
Fantastic! So glad you both enjoyed 🙂
WOW! This recipe is a keeper. A wonderful carrot cake with a light cream cheese frosting…..who knew you could make such scrumptious cake that wasn’t hard to put together!
YAY! Thank you Claire! I am so glad you enjoyed it!
Should I double the recipe if I only have a 6 inch cake pan?
I would cut the recipe in half if you only have a 6 inch pan. It will fit perfectly! Or you can make a full recipe and make two 6 inch layers!
Is this cake really moist? Looking for a great carrot cake recipe for just the 2 of us that is really moist?
Yes it is! Hope you enjoy it!
I am about to make this cake, but noticed what I think is a mistake in the ingredients. I believe 10 T of butter is 1/2 stick of butter plus 2T, but the recipe says 1 stick + 2T. I noticed someone else used oil, rather than butter and mentioned using 1/2 c + 2T and it came out good, so I trust the whole stick of butter is just a typo. Can’t believe I’m the first one to notice it, but you should maybe fix it before someone uses WAY too much butter?
Made the chocolate cake last week (using cream cheese frosting instead of the ganache) and it came out just great! Hurry up and create some more of these one-layer recipes. I think you’re on to something.
Thanks for the comment, Sandra! It’s actually not a typo – one standard stick of butter is 8 Tablespoons, or 1/2 cup. 10 Tablespoons is 1 stick (8 Tablespoons or 1/2 cup) plus 2 Tablespoons. Let me know if you have any other questions! Hope you love the cake!
This is a great recipe. I like this single layer cake for my household. I would lighten the nutmeg to 1/8 tsp instead of 1/4 tsp next time. I substituted chopped pecans for coconut, but you can substitute raisins or pineapple or mix and match your favorites, as long as you watch your ratios.
So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you!
Interestingly, this came out quite dense (almost like Christmas pudding) for me, could it be because I reduced the sugar by about a 1/3? I actually like it that way, but it wasn’t ‘airy’ or light. I’m enjoying it at room temp or heated up with a dollop of coconut yoghurt/creme fraiche mixed – YUM! I added a DS of chopped walnuts, sultanas & a little grated apple. I will make it again. Thanks!
So glad you enjoyed it!
hey katie, So glad to find a 1-layer recipe, BUT can i substitute white sugar for the brown? Hate to go out during lockdown for just that one ingredient…but i will if i need to. Thanks!!
Hi Joan – yes, that will work just fine! No need to go out again 😉
I like the way this recipe sounds, however I don’t have powdered sugar & don’t have a food processor…never really bake a lot nor do I feel the need for it. Can I somehow use regular sugar for the frosting? Like heating the ingredients with the sugar which will help it melt?
Trying not to leave the house due to quarantine 😞
Hi Amy, if you have a blender you can just blend regular sugar on high speed until it becomes the consistency of powdered sugar. Then measure and use as directed!
Just made it, thank you for providing a 1 layer easy recipe. I added a slice. of grated pineapple and some golden raisins and cut part of the coconut.
Thank you – great recipe!
Thank you Rachel! So glad you enjoyed this!
Can i use sunflower oil instead of butter?
This is a quick and delicious recipe. I have Celiac Disease so I used White Gold All Purpose Gluten-free flour and kept everything else the same. This recipe is my favorite carrot cake recipe I have found. It truly tastes like a carrot cake from a bakery. The cake is perfectly seasoned and textured, and the frosting is smooth and delicious. I will be making this recipe again sometime next week. I love this cake!
Thank you so much, Renee! So glad you were able to enjoy this cake with the GF flour 🙂
I’m about to try this. Can I add cocoa powder to it to make it a chocolate carrot cake
I can’t say how that would turn out as i have not tried it!
Never commented on a blog recipe before but this was a dream. Every carrot cake recipe online was a triple decker monstrosity that would’ve been impossible for me and the fiance could eat alone during social distancing. This recipe was perfect and the cream cheese frosting was the absolute perfect consistency, by far the best recipe I’ve seen for it! I did substitute 1/2 cup+2tbsp vegetable oil for butter as we’re trying to conserve butter and reduce trips to the store, but did just fine moisture wise. My words are dating this comment so hopefully someday we’ll look back and this period will all be a distant nightmare, but yes, this carrot cake made a lonely week during Coronavirus a million times better. Thank you!
Thank you so much, Julia! I am so glad this recipe worked with what you had on hand. Single layer cake recipes are a go to for me. Stay safe 🙂
Fantastic recipe, thank you. I just made it last night for my girlfriend’s birthday and she loved it. Topped it with chopped walnuts and next time I’ll add some raisins. Love that I was able to bake the cake in between coming home from work and going out to dinner. Thankful for this great single layer recipe… I’ll have to check out the others. Perfect for two and so much less involved.
Thank you so much, Hank! So glad you enjoyed it.
A purely fantastic cake. I made this for a birthday and he loved it. Great cake
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Many thanks for this fab carrot cake recipe. It was simple enough for a baking novice like me to prepare… and turned out delicious!
Thank you very much! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
This recipe is god sent! I was looking for a carrot and coconut recipe but could not find a single one that was 1 layered. I resigned myself to just a carrot recipe and yours looked the best! I then discovered it has coconut in it too 🙂 Make my day, I am off to make this now. You should definitely add ‘coconut’ as a meta tag as it did not show up in my search for ‘coconut carrot 1 layer cake’. I will definitely be returning to your site often in my hunt for 1 layered cake recipes. Thank for doing the math!
Yay! Thanks Em! I am so glad it fit what you were looking for!!
Hi Katie, thank you for the recipe! It was delicious. I omitted the shredded coconut and added chopped walnuts instead. I also halved the recipe to fit my 6-inch pan – there are only two of us too, and I always make cakes not only single-layer, but also tiny (only 4 servings!) 🙂 This recipe was so good, however, that I’ll make it in my 9-inch pan later as well.
I feel like carrot cake is so underappreciated for some reason, but it’s definitely one of my favourite cakes!
Thank you Maria!! I agree, not enough people know how amazing carrot cake is. So glad you enjoyed this and so great to know that it works to halve it!
I made this wonderful single layer carrot cake for Easter, and it was excellent. I also shared leftovers and made a few more friends happy. I really liked this recipe because the cake turns out really light, it’s not as dense as my other carrot cake recipe. I made a couple of additions, 4oz crushed pineapple, 2 tbs burbon whiskey, and I toasted the coconut. The only complaints I recieved, where ‘no walnuts’… so next time i’ll Add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and probably add some grated orange zest to the cream cheese frosting. Thanks so much for this recipe!
Hi Thomas, I love your additions to the recipe! Thanks so much for the comment.