You are going to fall in love with this soft and tender carrot cake. A single-layer snack-size spiced carrot cake that is tender, moist, and full of freshly grated carrots, bits of fresh pineapple, and crunchy walnuts. It’s topped with a thick and creamy brown butter cream cheese frosting that perfectly compliments the flavors in the cake. I recently took this carrot cake to share with my co-workers and got rave reviews about how delicious and incredibly moist this cake is. It’s the perfect cake for Spring and an impressive addition to your Easter menu.
This carrot cake is soft, tender, and so flavorful. Oil and buttermilk give the cake a lot of moisture, along with carrots and chopped pineapple which also add some nice texture. The walnuts give the cake a little crunch and a bit of cinnamon adds a touch of warm spice that compliments all the flavors. I decided to go really simple with this cake and bake it in a 9” x 9” square pan for a single-layer snack cake. Only one layer and no frosting on the sides for a quick and effortless dessert.
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
This is one of my go-to frosting recipes. It’s the same frosting I spread on top of my Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Rolls and it’s definitely a winner. Cream cheese icing is a classic pairing with carrot cake and this one gets a little elevated with the addition of toasty brown butter. I take a little bit of the icing and color some orange and a little green using gel food coloring. Then I pipe on tiny carrots with green leaves all over the top of the cake for a fun and festive yet simple design.
How to make Carrot Snack Cake
- Make the cake batter. This cake batter comes together super quick and the best part is, you don’t even need an electric mixer for this one. You’ll start by combining all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl with a whisk. Then wet ingredients which include eggs, oil, and buttermilk are mixed in. Lastly, carrots, pineapple, and walnuts are folded into the batter.
- Bake the cake. The cake bakes at 350°F for 35-40 minutes. The best way to check if a cake is done is to gently press the center of the cake with your finger. If the cake springs back, it’s ready to pull out but if your finger leaves an indent and the cake doesn’t spring back, add more baking time.
- Make the brown butter cream cheese frosting. This frosting starts with browning some butter. The butter turns a deep golden brown and will develop brown bits on the bottom, as well as a have a nutty aroma. Then cream cheese
- Frost and decorate the cake. Color a little of the frosting orange and a little green, for piping on the carrots. Spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake, pushing it to the edges and into the corners until the surface is evenly covered. Place the colored frosting in piping bags fitted with piping tips or just snip a hole in the end of the bag. Pipe carrots with leaves all over the top.
- Slice, serve, and enjoy! I like to cut the cake into 9 large slices but you could definitely make smaller pieces to serve more people or if you don’t want quite so big pieces.
Carrot Cake FAQs
Can I use canned pineapple instead of fresh?
Yes, canned pineapple can be used in place of fresh. I love the texture that the fresh pineapple adds and you can control the size by dicing it however large or small you’d like. But canned pineapple works in a pinch – be sure to use crushed pineapple and thoroughly drain it before adding it to the batter.
Can I leave out the walnuts?
The walnuts can be omitted from the recipe for a nut-free version. Pecans would be another great alternative if you just don’t love walnuts. I like to buy walnut pieces but you can also buy whole walnuts and roughly chop them before adding them to the batter.
Would this recipe work in a different pan?
This carrot cake batter is versatile and can be made into a layer cake or even cupcakes. Split the batter into two – 6” size cake pans for a small two-layer cake.
How should I store the cake?
Store the cake in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.
Tips for the Best Carrot Cake
- Freshly grate the carrots. Pre-shredded carrots will be much drier and not give you the same amount of moisture that freshly grated carrots do. Most of the pre-shredded packages are also greatly pretty thick so grating your own also allows you to choose how finely you grate them. I like to use a grater about this size for the carrots.
- Don’t overmix the batter. This batter comes together very quickly and does not require much mixing. Be sure not to overmix or it will result in a tough cake that turns out dense and gummy. All the mixing can be done by hand. I like to combine the dry ingredients and incorporate the wet ingredients with a whisk, mixing just until combined. Then use a spatula to gently fold in the carrots, pineapple, and walnuts just until everything is evenly mixed.
- Don’t walk away from the brown butter. Anytime you are browning butter, you want to keep a very close eye on it. Butter can go from browned to burnt quickly so don’t walk away from it. Once you see the toasted brown bits on the bottom of the pan and the butter has a nice nutty aroma, you’ll know the butter is ready.
- Use a saucepan with a light-colored interior. For brown butter, the milk solids in the butter get toasted and settle to the bottom of the pan and these brown bits are what you’re looking for to let you know that the butter is done. This can be very difficult to see when using a black or dark-colored pan. I’ve found that using a ceramic saucepan like this with a white interior helps quite a bit to see the true color of the butter and toasted milk solids so it doesn’t burn.
More Spring Recipes You’re Going to Love
- Lemon Curd Cookies
- Mixed Berry Streusel Bars
- Mini Egg Oat Cookies
- Tiramisu Cupcakes
- Raspberry Orange Pistachio Cake
Lastly, if you make this recipe, be sure to leave a comment below and tag @sweetkitchencravings on Instagram or TikTok. Or if Pinterest is more your style, you can save my recipes to your collection there. Happy baking!
Carrot Snack Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Carrot Cake
- 2 cups (262g) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (110g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (110g) brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¾ c (152g) canola or vegetable oil
- ⅔ c (162g) buttermilk, at room temperature, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups (172g) freshly grated carrots (about 3 medium carrots)
- ½ cup (102g) fresh, finely diced pineapple or crushed canned pineapple
- 1 cup (108g) walnut pieces
For the Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing
- 4 Tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter
- 8 oz (1 block or 227g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 ½ cups (280g) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Carrot Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9” x 9” square pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper to create a sling, with an overhang on all four sides.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugars, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt with a whisk. Add the eggs, oil, and buttermilk to the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the grated carrots, pineapple, and walnuts.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back to the touch (or a toothpick comes out clean). Allow the cake to cool completely at room temperature before frosting.
- Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting: While the cake is cooling, make the frosting. In a small pot, add the butter and melt it over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly, brown the butter until it becomes foamy on top and turns a deep golden brown color. You’ll know it’s done when you see darker brown bits on the bottom of the pan and the butter has a nutty aroma. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth with no lumps remaining. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and brown butter and mix just until fully combined.
- Assembly: For the piped carrots, color about ¼ cup of the frosting orange and about 1 Tablespoon green, using gel food coloring. Fill piping bags with the frosting and snip the ends or fit the bags with piping tips before filling.
- Spread the remaining (uncolored) cream cheese frosting over the top of the cooled cake using an offset spatula and push the frosting just to the edges and corners until covered. Pipe frosting carrots with leaves all over the top of the cake.
- Cut into slices, serve, and enjoy!
- Storing: Store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.