This mini carrot cake is perfect for a small Spring or Easter celebration! It's a moist, plush 6-inch cake with 2 layers. It has cream cheese frosting and is loaded with freshly grated carrots, walnuts, and warm spices.
If you're a fan of carrot cake and looking for a smaller version, you've come to the right place. This mini carrot cake is incredibly soft and ultra moist, with just the right balance of sweetness and spice. It's a smaller version of the classic carrot cake, perfect for serving 6-8 people.
This mini cake packs all the flavor you love- sweet, spiced, and full of grated carrots- in a compact size that's perfect for intimate gatherings or when you want a sweet treat without the leftovers. The best part is the cream cheese frosting, which adds tangy sweetness to every bite.
This cake is so adorable decorated with mini carrots! Don't worry, I've outlined how to make them in this blog post. It's perfect for a small Spring or Easter party or even a birthday party. You'll get soooo many compliments from your guests, trust me.
I've been on a cream cheese frosting kick lately with my small batch vanilla cupcakes and small batch cream cheese frosting! If you love small cakes, try my mini flourless chocolate cake, strawberry vanilla cake, and small vanilla cake (which also has cream cheese frosting, drool).
Here are some notes about the ingredients used. For quantities and full instructions, see the recipe card below.
- Flour- This recipe uses all purpose flour and cake flour. All purpose flour gives a hearty texture while cake flour creates a soft, tender crumb. Use both or the texture won't be right.
- Granulated sugar- White sugar adds the perfect amount of sweetness, letting the carrots and spices shine.
- Brown sugar- Light or dark brown sugar adds a deep flavor and more moisture.
- Baking soda- This leavener interacts with acid to release gas and make the cake rise. Make sure it's fresh and don't use baking powder since it isn't strong enough.
- Spices- The cake is spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. It's full of flavor!
- Sea salt- Fine salt activates the baking soda and keeps the cake and frosting from being cloyingly sweet.
- Butter- Unsalted butter adds rich flavor and makes the cake light and fluffy. Use room temperature butter because it mixes in more easily. Room temperature butter will be cool to the touch and easy to indent with your finger. It should look smooth, not greasy.
- Oil- A little vegetable oil adds more fat, making the cake super moist.
- Eggs- Two large eggs bind the ingredients together and add fat and moisture. Make sure they're room temperature so they blend into the batter evenly. Pull them out of the refrigerator an hour before baking with the butter.
- Vanilla- Pure vanilla extract rounds out the flavor profile of the cake and frosting.
- Applesauce- Use applesauce to make your carrot cake extra, extra moist! Be sure it's unsweetened or the cake will be too sweet.
- Carrots- Freshly grate your carrots into small pieces. Don't use pre-shredded carrots from the grocery store because they're too thick and dry.
- Walnuts- Walnuts are a classic in carrot cake recipes for a little crunch.
- Cream cheese- Use full fat cream cheese for the best, silky texture. Pull it out 2 hours before making the frosting so it softens and blends easily.
- Powdered sugar- This sweetens the frosting and adds structure. Don't worry about sifting it!
- Gel food coloring- To pipe little carrots all over the cake, use green and orange gel food coloring. Gel color is more vibrant than water-based food coloring.
- Vegetable oil: Use any mild oil like avocado, grapeseed, or canola oil.
- Applesauce: Crushed pineapple (what's traditionally used in carrot cake recipes), pureed apples, or pureed pears can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio. You can also try using sour cream or Greek yogurt.
- Walnuts: Substitute different chopped nuts, like pecans, macadamia nuts, or almonds. You can also toast your nuts before adding them to the cake batter for extra flavor.
Helpful Equipment and Tools
- You need a box grater or a coarse grater for preparing the carrots.
- Use 2 non-stick metal 6-inch round cake pans, not glass or silicone. Glass pans don't heat evenly and your cake will burn in a silicone pan. Remember to spray them with baking spray before lining with 6-inch parchment rounds.
- A 5-quart stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment works best for mixing. An electric hand mixer works too.
- For decorating, I recommend an offset spatula and a bench scraper. The latter is optional, but so helpful for smoothing everything out!
- A revolving cake decorating stand with a non-slip pad is helpful, but not necessary, for decorating.
Step by Step Instructions - Carrot Cake
Before you start, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Don't forget to grease two 6-inch cake pans with non-stick baking spray and line them with parchment paper rounds. Grab your trusty box grater and use the small side to grate the carrots.
STEP 1: First, add the all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt to the bowl of a 5-quart stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl if you're using a hand mixer as pictured). Once everything's in the bowl, mix on low speed about 5 times.
STEP 2: Add the butter to the bowl and beat on low for 5 minutes until it looks like wet sand. Next, add the oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Keep the mixer on low and mix everything together until a batter forms.
Finally, add the applesauce and mix everything together until well combined. This is what gives our mini carrot cake moistness and an extra burst of flavor!
STEP 3: Now it's time to add the carrots. Keep the mixer on low and mix them in gently. Once they're incorporated, stop the mixer and grab a rubber spatula. Fold in the walnuts gently until they're evenly distributed throughout the batter.
STEP 4: Fill the prepared pans evenly with batter. Make sure they're both filled the same amount so the cakes cook evenly. If you want the most level cakes possible, consider using cake strips.
After that, pop them in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs.
STEP 5: Take the cakes out of the oven and let them cool in their pans for about 10 minutes. After that, transfer them to a wire rack and let them cool completely.
Step by Step Instructions - Cream Cheese Frosting
STEP 1: Start by beating softened butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl on high speed until they're super smooth. This is gonna give our frosting that creamy, dreamy texture everyone loves!
STEP 2: Next, add some flavor to your frosting by adding a dash of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Give it a quick mix on low speed, just until they're incorporated.
STEP 3: Next, add the powdered sugar, but make sure to add it gradually. We don't want to make a huge mess! Mix it in one cup at a time on medium-low speed until it's completely combined with the rest of the ingredients. Keep mixing until the frosting reaches a smooth, spreadable texture that holds its shape.
STEP 4: If you're feeling fancy and want to decorate your cake with some cute little carrots, start by setting aside two big scoops of frosting in separate bowls. In one bowl, add orange gel food coloring and mix it in. In the other bowl, add some green gel food coloring and mix it in until you get a lovely shade of green.
Assembling the Cake
STEP 1: If your cakes have domed tops, grab a cake leveler or serrated knife and level them out. This creates a nice, smooth surface to frost.
STEP 2: Add 1 tablespoon of frosting to the center of your cake stand and fan it out with an offset spatula. This acts as the glue to keep your cake from slipping. Place the first cake layer in the center of the cake stand and spread about ¾ cup of frosting evenly over the top. Make sure to get it all the way to the edges so every bite is filled with cream cheesy goodness.
STEP 3: Place the second layer of cake on top of the first upside down with the flat side facing up. Once it's centered, press down on it firmly with both hands to get rid of any air bubbles.
After that, spread a thin layer of frosting, or crumb coat, all over the cake. This first layer helps catch any loose crumbs and creates a smooth surface for the final layer of frosting. Once the crumb coat is applied, pop the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes to set.
STEP 4: Take the cake out of the freezer and apply a smooth, final layer of frosting to the cake. You can leave it like this or use the remaining frosting to pipe swirls or a boarder.
If you colored your frosting for carrot decorations, get your piping bags ready. Fill each one with the colored frosting, making sure to use separate bags for each color. For the carrots, use a small piping tip, like a Wilton 4. For the stalks, use a smaller piping tip, like a Wilton 2, to pipe green frosting on top of each carrot.
After the cake is decorated, it's ready to slice, serve, and enjoy!
Expert Baking Tips
- Use freshly grated carrots. Pre-shredded carrots you can buy at the grocery store are way too thick and dry. They'll mess up the cake's texture.
- Use a kitchen scale to measure ingredients for accuracy. If you don't have a scale, use a spoon to measure your flour and be sure to fluff it up before spooning it into your measuring cup. Avoid packing it in too tightly!
- Use room temperature ingredients such as eggs and butter to create a smooth, fully blended batter that will bake evenly with a uniform texture.
- Don't overmix the batter. Overmixing can result in a dense cake with a sunken center.
- Don't frost the cake while it's still warm. Allow the layers to cool completely before frosting to prevent the frosting from melting off.
Additions and Variations
There are so many ways to mix up the flavors of this mini carrot cake to suit your preferences. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Dried fruit: Add chewy sweetness to the cake by mixing in raisins (a classic carrot cake ingredient), dried cranberries, or apricots.
- Coconut: Mix shredded coconut into the batter or use it as a topping.
- Cream cheese frosting variations: While cream cheese frosting is the classic topping for carrot cake, you can mix it up by adding different flavors such as orange zest, lemon juice, or maple syrup. You can also scrap the cream cheese all together and make a classic vanilla buttercream or try brown sugar buttercream.
- Chocolate: Carrot cake can be paired with chocolate in so many ways. You can add chocolate chips to the batter, drizzle chocolate sauce or ganache over the cake, or top with chocolate shavings.
- Boozy twist: For an adult version, add a splash of your favorite liquor to the batter or frosting, such as rum, bourbon, or Grand Marnier.
Storage and Freezing
To keep your mini carrot cake fresh, store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. The frosting helps seal in moisture, keeping it soft for days! Keep it in a large airtight container, such as a cake carrier, and cover the cut section with extra frosting to maintain its moisture.
You can store any leftover cream cheese frosting in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. When you want to use it, simply give it a stir to make it smooth and spreadable again.
To store leftover cake slices, wrap them in plastic wrap and place them in an airtight, freezer-safe container. These slices can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months, making it convenient to satisfy your cake cravings whenever you want! Before enjoying, unwrap a slice and let it thaw on the counter for about an hour.
I don't recommended freezing the entire frosted, unsliced cake. Instead, a great tip is to freeze the cake layers beforehand. This helps break up the baking and decorating steps, making the whole cake-baking process more manageable. Fewer crumbs break off when frosting frozen cakes too!
Similarly, leftover frosting can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and mix well to make it creamy before using again.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can make this cake in an 8x8" or 9x9" square baking pan or a 9x5" 1-pound loaf pan. The bake time may take a little longer, so check them often after 20 minutes for doneness.
Yes you can! This recipe will make 6-8 cupcakes. Bake them for the same amount of time, but keep an eye on them for doneness just in case.
If you want to keep your carrot cake fresh, it's best to store it in the fridge. You can bring it out and leave it at room temperature for a couple hours while you enjoy it, but make sure to pop it back in the fridge afterwards. The cream cheese frosting it spoils quickly, so it's better to keep it refrigerated.
More Cake Recipes You'll Love
Mini Carrot Cake
- 70 g all purpose flour
- 60 g cake flour
- 100 g granulated sugar
- 50 g brown sugar light or dark
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 85 g unsalted butter softened
- 54 g vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 55 g applesauce unsweetened
- 150 g fresh grated carrots
- 75 g chopped walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C, grease 2 6-inch cake pans with non-stick baking spray, and line them with 6-inch parchment paper rounds. Grate the carrots using the small side of a box grater.
- Add the all purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low, spinning about 5 times.70 g all purpose flour, 60 g cake flour, 100 g granulated sugar, 50 g brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves, ⅛ teaspoon allspice, ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Add the butter to the bowl and beat on low for 5 minutes until the texture looks like wet sand.85 g unsalted butter
- Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Mix on low until a batter forms. Then add the applesauce and mix until well combined.54 g vegetable oil, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 55 g applesauce
- Mix in the carrots on low. Stop the mixer and gently fold in the walnuts with a rubber spatula.150 g fresh grated carrots, 75 g chopped walnuts
- Fill the prepared pans evenly and bake them for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean with a few moist crumbs.
- Let the cakes cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Using a mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on high speed for 3 minutes until it is fluffy and smooth with no lumps.113 g unsalted butter, 226 g cream cheese
- Add the vanilla and salt and mix on low.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Mix in the powdered sugar one cup at a time on medium-low speed until completely combined.500 g powdered sugar
Assembling the Cake
- If the cake layers are domed, level them with a serrated knife
- Place the first layer in the center of your cake stand and spread ¾ cup of frosting evenly over the cake.
- Flip the second cake layer upside down and place it on top of the first layer. Press down on top with both hands firmly to remove air bubbles.
- Apply a thin layer of frosting, or crumb coat, over the entire cake. Freeze for 30 minutes to allow the crumb coat to set.
- Spread a thick, smooth layer of frosting over the entire cake.
- With any remaining frosting, you can frost swirls on top of the cake or pipe little carrot decorations. Add 2 scoops of frosting to 2 separate bowls. To one, add 1-2 drops of green gel food coloring and mix. To the other, add 1-2 drops of orange gel food coloring and mix.Orange gel food coloring, Green gel food coloring
- Transfer the colored frosting to two separate piping bags fitted with small piping tips (I used Wilton 4). Pipe small carrots all around the cake followed by the green carrot stalks. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for 1 hour, slice, and enjoy!