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Grandma's Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Old-fashioned moist 2 layer carrot cake with pineapple and craisins, topped with a melt-in-your-mouth orange cream cheese frosting. A delicious labor of love perfect for Easter or a birthday party!

Old-fashioned moist 2 layer carrot cake with pineapple and craisins, topped with a melt-in-your-mouth orange cream cheese frosting. A delicious labor of love perfect for Easter or a birthday party!

Grandma's Carrot Cake is the only carrot cake I can remember ever eating as a child and the only carrot cake I myself have ever made. Be warned: Grandma's Carrot Cake takes several ingredients, a bit of time, and some elbow grease. So, if you're looking for a quickie carrot cake imitation, this is not the recipe you'd pull out. However, if you are looking for a memorable, moist but dense, scrape-your-plate-to-the-last-crumb kind of cake, this is the recipe you'd laminate!

Did You Know?

February 3 is National Carrot Cake Day! Note to self: remember to celebrate next year after Groundhog's Day.

Grandma's Carrot Cake: A Family History

One side of my family emigrated from the Netherlands to Michigan in the late 1800s. They brought with them the skill of farming. I am told that it is through this family connection that I am somewhat related, albeit a little distantly, to the Bolthouses of the well-known Bolthouse Farms in Bakersfield, California. Bolthouse Farms is one of the leading producers of carrots in the United States! I think they grow the best baby-cut carrots in the world.

Grandma said this cake is a family recipe, but I am not sure if it is from the carrot-farmers or if it is just one she kept because it is good. Regardless of it's possible famous connections, it is a cake I enjoy making for my family for Easter. Then again, if you are a fan of cream cheese frosted cakes like me, it is a cake I would recommend for any occasion.


You can see the ingredients: flecks of yellow of the pineapple, orange of the carrots, and red of the dried cranberries all amidst the cinnamon batter.  My mouth is watering.

You can see the ingredients: flecks of yellow of the pineapple, orange of the carrots, and red of the dried cranberries all amidst the cinnamon batter. My mouth is watering.

Tips:

  • Softening Time: The day you want to make the cake, pull out your cream cheese and butter several hours in advance so it has time to soften. The frosting just isn't the same when you microwave the ingredients.
  • Serving Size: This cake serves 12-16, depending on how large you cut the slices. I usually score the frosting into quarters, then each quarter in half, then each of the halves in half again so there are 4 slices in each quarter.
  • Make Ahead & Refrigerate: This is a cake that actually tastes better if it sits for a day in the fridge! If you are serving this on Easter Sunday, for example, consider making it on Friday or Saturday. It is also important to note that you'll need to clear out a space for you to keep it in the fridge, which can be a bit tricky during holidays.
  • Decoration: This cake is so yummy, that I simply let it star on its own without fussing with decorations. However, you can be as creative as you like and pipe carrots on top as is often customary with store-bought carrot cakes, or gently pat chopped walnuts onto the sides.
  • Timing: Between preparing the batter (20 minutes), baking the cake (1 hour), preparing the frosting (15 minutes), letting the cake thoroughly cool (40 minutes), and frosting the cake (15 minutes), the total time is about two and a half hours.

Let's Begin with the Frosting...

This frosting melts in your mouth as you enjoy Grandma's Carrot Cake!

This frosting melts in your mouth as you enjoy Grandma's Carrot Cake!

For The Frosting, You'll Need:

Six ingredients to make orange cream cheese frosting.

Six ingredients to make orange cream cheese frosting.

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind
  • 3 Tablespoons orange juice
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 pound powdered sugar

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Now that you're ready to begin, gather your softened cream cheese, softened butter, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla and orange.

  1. Using a mixer, beat together the softened cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, or about 2 minutes. Add salt and vanilla. Mix.
  2. Gradually add the powdered sugar. I usually add 1 cup at a time.
  3. When well-combined, add the zest of one orange (about 2 teaspoons, if you want less orange flavor, use less zest) and the juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup). Gently mix in.
  4. Taste it. (Note: you may have to remind yourself to stop licking your fingers!) If you'd like to change the consistency, add a little milk to thin the frosting out or a little more powdered sugar to thicken it up.
  5. Keep in the fridge until just about ready to frost the cake (while the cakes are cooling, the frosting can adjust to room temperature). Can keep in fridge for a few days before frosting, if desired.

Now, Onto the Carrot Cake Batter...

Step 1: Mix the dry ingredients.

Step 1: Mix the dry ingredients.

  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  • Prepare two round cake pans with shortening and flour. I like this part. Fold a piece of paper towel into quarters. Then dip the folded piece into the shortening can. Smear it around the cake pans. Discard. Pour in a little flour on top, then gently tap the outside of the pan and turn the pan gently around until the base and sides have been covered with flour. Tap the excess into the other pan and repeat.
  • Pour sugar (2 cups), flour (3 cups), baking powder (2 teaspoons), cinnamon (2 teaspoons) and salt (1 teaspoon) into a large bowl and mix.
2. Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.

2. Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.

  • Prepare a small bowl with 1/3 cup of buttermilk and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Mix to dissolve.
  • In a separate bowl add vegetable oil (1 1/2 cups), eggs (3), the buttermilk-baking soda mixture, and vanilla (1 teaspoon).
3. Pour wet into dry ingredients and mix until well-combined.

3. Pour wet into dry ingredients and mix until well-combined.

  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with an electric mixer on medium speed. Then beat for three more minutes.
  • The batter will be very thick and a brown color, similar to spice cake.
Scroll to Continue
4. Gently mix in the fruits, carrots and walnuts.

4. Gently mix in the fruits, carrots and walnuts.

  • Grate about 4 carrots (2 cups) and pour into the batter mixture.
  • Chop pecans or walnuts (1/2 to 1 cup, I prefer the smaller amount). Add.
  • Add golden raisins or craisins (1/2 cup, I prefer craisins) and crushed pineapple (8 ounces).
  • Mix this by hand until the ingredients appear incorporated throughout.
5. Pour into greased pans, tap out air bubbles, and bake.

5. Pour into greased pans, tap out air bubbles, and bake.

  • Pour the batter into the two prepared cake pans.
  • Cook in 300 degree preheated oven for one hour, or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Yes, one whole entire hour. Your kitchen will smell scrumptious!
6. My least favorite part.  Waiting and doing dishes.

6. My least favorite part. Waiting and doing dishes.

So, while you are waiting that hour for the cake to bake, you have a perfect time to wash all those dishes! Remember, this cake is a labor of love! Of course, if you haven't made the frosting yet, now is a good time to do that as well.

7. After the cakes have thoroughly cooled, frost, stack, and frost again.

7. After the cakes have thoroughly cooled, frost, stack, and frost again.

When the cakes are done baking, let them cool completely. This takes about 30-45 minutes. I have a hard time waiting for them to cool completely, so I have this step underlined in my cookbook! They just smell so good and by now I want to finish this project. But, it is not worth rushing the wait to have icing slide right off the cake. Not so pretty.

Layer 1 (the base):

  • When the cakes are cooled completely, grab your cake stand or plate. Gently place one hand on top of one layer and your other hand on the base of the cake pan and flip the cake over. If it was greased well, it should come out with ease. Place this layer on your stand or plate so the round side is face down. This is important because it gives the cake a little more stability. A regular dinner plate works great because it has a natural curve to cradle to cake.
  • Generously frost the flat side of the cake,

Layer 2 (the top):

  • Repeat the process as before with the top layer by carefully placing your hand on the top of the cake and the other hand on the base of the cake pan, gently lifting the base off. Holding the layer between both hands, carefully flip the layer over and place on top. The rounded side should be facing up.
  • Now you can frost the top and then the sides!
  • Wipe plate's edges clean with a damp paper towel.

How To Decorate A Carrot Cake

Want to Make Yours Look Like A Bakery Cake?

Since the cake itself takes a bit of time, and I think this cake is good enough it doesn't need any embellishment, I usually leave the frosting as it is. However, if you would like to decorate it, I have found a useful video on how to make those cute traditional carrots bakeries commonly pipe on top of carrot cakes along with images of other ideas to spark your creativity below.

Then, after frosting the cake comes my favorite part...

8. Refrigerate for later or slice and enjoy as soon as possible.

8. Refrigerate for later or slice and enjoy as soon as possible.

This step needs little explanation. The first piece is always the hardest to pull out, but tastes every bit as delicious as the rest. It is quite a dense cake, so it is helpful to cut with a wide knife or cake server. To minimize crumbs, dip the knife in warm water in between cuts. When you are finished slicing, place the cake back in the fridge. It will last for at least a week if kept in the fridge! Of course, I am not quite sure how it would be possible for it to not be eaten by then!

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Grandma's Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

1 hour 30 min

1 hour

2 hours 30 min

1 delicious frosted cake (about 16 servings)

Can I use dry buttermilk?

Absolutely! You can replace 1/3 cup buttermilk with 1/3 cup of water mixed with 1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons dry buttermilk mix, which is found in the baking aisle.

Cake Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounce can (or 1/2 cup) crushed pineapple, un-drained
  • 1/2 to 1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup craisins or golden raisins
  • 2 cups (about 4 large) grated carrots

Unsure of the orange flavor?

This frosting has a strong orange flavor. If you want a more mild flavor, use less zest and juice. Substitute some of the juice with milk. The original recipe actually called for 4 teaspoons of zest, but we like it much better with 2.

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind (about one large orange)
  • 3 Tablespoons juice from an orange (about one large orange)
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 pound powdered sugar (about 2 3/4 to 3 cups)
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare 2 round cake pans with shortening and flour.
  2. Begin preparing the cake batter. Put sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt into large bowl and mix.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix oil, eggs, soda-buttermilk mixture and vanilla. Add wet into dry.
  4. Mix with electric mixer on medium speed and then beat 3 minutes longer. Batter will be very thick.
  5. Stir in pineapple, nuts, raisins and carrots.
  6. Pour mixture into 2 pans. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour until toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, invert onto wire rack, and cool completely.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare frosting. Beat butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, or about 2 minutes. Add remaining frosting ingredients except sugar. Mix. Add a little bit of sugar at a time, about one third.
  8. Once cake has completely cooled, spread frosting on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cake can be refrigerated for a week.

The Finished Product...

carrot-cake-with-orange-cream-cheese-frosting

Custom Carrot Cake Invitation

Custom Carrot Cake and an Egg Hunt Easter Invitation available on many paper types.   Made in 24 hours.

Custom Carrot Cake and an Egg Hunt Easter Invitation available on many paper types. Made in 24 hours.

About the Author

Thefedorows is a regular contributor to Hubpages, an avid pinner, and frequent blogger.

A Labor Of Love

Grandma's Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting is a labor of love. What began with a counter full of ingredients, continued into a pile of dishes, and led to sticky hands is now a delicious cake to be shared with those you love, and perhaps the start of a new family tradition for:

  • Easter (a perfect addition to any egg hunt!)
  • Birthdays (popular with kids and adults!)
  • Thanksgiving (an unexpected alternative to pumpkin pie!)

Enjoy!


Interested in More of Our Cake Recipes?

This hub was chosen as Editor's Choice on April 25, 2014 and Rising Star on May 28, 2014. Thank you for your votes!

© 2014 thefedorows

Comments

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on June 25, 2014:

Thank you rebekahElle! I hope you enjoy it!

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on June 02, 2014:

This looks and sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing your family recipe with us. I'll definitely give it a try. We love carrot cake around here!

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 30, 2014:

Thank you, Seafarer Mama! I appreciate your kindness!! It was fun to write and I was honored to have it chosen as a rising star.

Karen A Szklany from New England on May 30, 2014:

This carrot cake looks scrumptious! Great hub with very descriptive content and media. You definitely deserve your feature as a rising star!

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 28, 2014:

Thank you, Rainsanmartin!

Rain San Martin from Fort Wayne on May 28, 2014:

Congrats on this Hub being featured in "This Week's Rising Stars".

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 26, 2014:

Thelma Alberts, thank you for your vote! I hope you do try it!

Thelma Alberts from Germany on May 25, 2014:

Oh, my! That looks so delicious. I have to try it. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Voted up and away.

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 23, 2014:

Mamamikks, coconut would be an amazing addition!!

mamamikks from Dubai, UAE on May 23, 2014:

Yummy! I agree with healthmunsta, this would taste (for me) a lot better with coconut. Yum, yum, off to the kitchen I go, I need my carrot cake fix!

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 21, 2014:

Healthmunsta, it is an honor to have you read one of my hubs! I do so enjoy yours. :) Please pull up a chair and I'll serve you a slice (with added coconut just for you)! Thank you for your kind words about the hub and photos.

healthmunsta on May 20, 2014:

May I have a slice?! Or two...or five?! Screw it, I'll have the entire cake, thank you!

What a scrumptious recipe, Marissa! Loved the entire hub and photos. Those carrot frosting ideas sure are unique and creative, too.

My least favorite part of cooking is waiting and doing the dishes, too! Ugh.

And I voted "Coconut in addition to the carrots." I do love coconut!

Heirloom recipes are the way to go!

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 07, 2014:

Choosetolive, thank you for your kind words about my instructions and photos! I appreciate your vote!

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 07, 2014:

Blond Logic, this would be quite a large cake for one person! I have never halved the recipe, but I don't see why you couldn't! I would do half in just one pan and keep the cooking time the same. As for the frosting, you could make half and probably still have some extra left over, which you could use on brownies or another cake. Thanks for sharing and pinning!

Ravi and Swastha from London, Canada on May 06, 2014:

Wow. Simply nice. Too good. Step by step instructions and photos are neatly given. Easy for anyone to try at home. Voted up !

Mary Wickison from Brazil on May 06, 2014:

Wow. Firstly carrot cake has always been one of my favorites. I love the addition of pineapple. My problem is, my husband doesn't like it. That is a pretty big cake for just one person.

Are you aware if halving it would work? I don't need the layers.

The frosting reminds me of one my grandmother made as well.

I may just have to blow my diet for this one. LOL

Voting up and awesome. Sharing and pinning.

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 06, 2014:

Thank you, Vvitta! It is fun to make this recipe for special occasions, like Easter! If I made cake all the time it wouldn't be so much fun :).

Kalaichelvi Panchalingam from PETALING JAYA on May 06, 2014:

Cake really looks good. i love carrot cake especially with the lemon cheese frosting. Lovely article. Yu must be a good cook.

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 03, 2014:

The frosting is definitely a keeper! Thank you for your comment, Kmes. It was my pleasure to share this recipe and the tips. I'm glad you found it useful!

Mueblesdejardin, you are welcome! Thank you for reading!

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 03, 2014:

Journey, thank you for your comment. Maybe this carrot cake will become one of your favorites as well. It was my pleasure to share!

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 03, 2014:

Eddy, thank you for stopping by! We think it is delicious. Enjoy your weekend as well.

Muebles de jardin from madrid on May 03, 2014:

Many thanks for your good information

Kayla Swanson from Wyoming on May 03, 2014:

This sounds delicious, especially the frosting with orange zest. Thanks for sharing your secret recipe as well as the many useful tips.

Nyesha Pagnou MPH from USA on May 03, 2014:

This recipe seems so delicious. I love carrot cake! The photos are great. Thanks for sharing.

Eiddwen from Wales on May 03, 2014:

I love carrot cake and this recipe is a must try. I now look forward to so many more of your hubs. Enjoy your weekend.

Eddy.

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 02, 2014:

Vespawoolf, I left you some fan mail earlier today! Thank you for taking some time to stop by and share your kind words! It is always fun to meet other writers who have similar interests. Please do come back to share if you try this recipe or the frosting carrots some time! Perhaps another opportunity will arise in the near future for you to test it out!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on May 02, 2014:

Oh my goodness! I can't wait to try this carrot cake. I was looking for a recipe last month and I wish I'd found this back then. One of my criteria for carrot cake is that it have crushed pineapple and raisins and this one fits the bill. The orange frosting is unique and I know we'll enjoy it. I love your tips and the video on making frosting carrots would be handy for a special occasion.

After reading your profile I realize that my husband and I have a lot of the same interests as you both. I look forward to reading more of your useful and well-written Hubs.

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 01, 2014:

Kitkat, thank you for your kind words. I had fun writing it! The orange is a delicious twist, but I give the credit for that to Grandma!

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on May 01, 2014:

Thank you for stopping by, bethperry! Sounds like your son has good taste. :)

kitkat1141 from Ontario, Canada on April 30, 2014:

What a beautiful, well written hub. I love cream cheese frosting, but have never thought of adding orange to it. Sounds like a great twist! Thanks.

Beth Perry from Tennesee on April 29, 2014:

Ooh, I'll have to bookmark this one! Our youngest has loved carrot cake since he was a toddler. Thanks much for posting, and the photos were terrific!

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on April 29, 2014:

DzyMsLizzy, I appreciate your enthusiasm in voting 5 stars! I think it's a 5 star recipe too! It is sad indeed that your husband detests carrot cake and cream cheese, that is quite a dilemma. I know I could eat it all myself....but probably not the most wise of decisions! As for freezing, that is a good question. I do not know how it would freeze. My guess is if you did so, it would be best to pre-slice the cake, wrap each in saran wrap, then thaw. If you try to freeze it please come back to share how it went!

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on April 29, 2014:

Phyllis, thank you for bookmarking it and voting up! I hope it is successful for your upcoming gathering! Please do come back to comment on your venture. :)

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on April 29, 2014:

Glimmer Twin Fan, I am happy to hear you are going to make this! I hope you and your husband like it as much as we do! :)

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on April 29, 2014:

Wow--this sounds and looks so good that I immediately voted it at 5 stars before I even read the recipe!

I'm definitely bookmarking this one...and thinking, " whom shall I invite," because it is only my husband and I, and unfortunately, he detests carrot cake and anything with cream cheese. I daren't eat an entire cake all by myself!

I wonder--does it freeze well? Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on April 29, 2014:

The first thing I did when I saw your picture of the cake was to bookmark -- I want to make this ! Your hub is great with the instructions, history, and photos. I have been thinking of a good dessert for an upcoming gathering and I just found it. Thanks for sharing this recipe. Now I will share it and voted up and across.

Claudia Mitchell on April 29, 2014:

Beautiful recipe! I will definitely be making this for my husband since it's his favorite. Shared around.

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on April 26, 2014:

Thank you, ShinyM! It was how my Grandma always made it, so I didn't realize it was unique until I had my first carrot cake bought from a bakery! If you do give it a try, please let me know how it turns out!

ShinyM on April 26, 2014:

This looks so delicious. The orange cream cheese frosting sounds unique. I don't think I've ever tasted it before, but I would love to give it a try with this recipe.

thefedorows (author) from the Midwest on April 25, 2014:

Flyfishmaine, Thank you for your kind words!

Richard Scott from Presque Isle, Maine on April 24, 2014:

OMG. I am diabetic but this is incredibly tempting. The photos look good enough to eat.

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