Amazing Orange-Carrot Cake (Cream Cheese Frosting)

Orange Carrot Cake slice being grabbed with a cake spatula from the cake with orange in front and zest to the side.
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Posted On: March 25, 2023
Last updated: October 13th, 2023

I’ve been making and perfecting this carrot cake for as long as I’ve been married, 17 years now! Carrot Cake is my husband’s absolute favorite cake, so I made it my mission to make him the perfect carrot cake, but, I had to put my own twist on it. I first made it for him on the his first birthday we celebrated as a married couple. I knew it had to stand out from all others he had ever had. It was a huge hit. Or the years I added a secret ingredient to make it more moist and tweaked my original rendition a bit. So, not to toot my horn, but I will…this truly is an Amazing Orange Carrot Cake. Perfectly balanced with a hint of sweetness, a little extra spice, this delectable treat is sure to be remembered long after the last crumbs are gone!

Over top view of orange carrot cake on wooden cake board with coconut flakes, pecans and orange zest. carrot strips in background with frosting spatula
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Is this a True Carrot Cake?

Yes, absolutely! If you tasted this cake you would know it was carrot cake from it’s classic flavors, but you might not be able to guess why it tastes extra special. The orange flavor is subtle, but it might take you from “Liking” carrot cake to “Loving” it! It just has a little bit of orange juice and orange zest added to the batter. It’s just enough to give it that extra yumminess you wouldn’t expect from a standard carrot cake.

Close up of frosted carrot cake with roasted pecans on bottom edge, coconut flakes on top edge with orange zest all on wooden board
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Where did Carrot Cake Originate?

So, I’ve always been of the mindset that carrot cake is as American as it gets, but apparently I was wrong. Turns out, the modern version of carrot cake as we know it, with cream cheese frosting originated in England, back in World War II when housewives were looking for ways to sweeten their cakes due to sugar rations. Carrots were also touted as helping to improve eyesight, so maybe in some way they were justifying their love of this amazing cake. Apparently even the Queen of England enjoyed a little carrot cake with her afternoon cup of tea on occasion. In the middle ages though, the sweet roots, i.e. carrots were also used to sweeten cakes, but the cakes are not like what we know today to be a traditional carrot cake.

Slice being cut out of carrot cake with grey and silver knife on wooden board
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Why Orange in Carrot Cake?

My husband jokes with me all the time that I can’t make anything plain or standard. It might be true. I had to go off and add orange to this cake, but I think it gives it that special subtle flair that makes it stand out. Orange flavor goes beautifully with carrots. There’s something about “orange-colored” fruits and vegetables that go well together and their natural sweetness is so special. All I add is juice of the orange along with orange zest in this cake. Also, I add a little orange liqueur or orange extract to the frosting as well for a delicious twist.

Up close slice of cake on blue plate with cream cheese frosting and orange zest and coconut flakes on top with orange in background
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How to Make Orange- Carrot Cake

  • Pre-heat– Firstly, anytime you bake, make sure you fully pre-heat the oven first and foremost. In this case, set it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Prepare Optional Toppings– Once the oven is up to temp, you can toast coconut flakes and/or chopped pecans.
  • Prep Cake Pans. I use 9-inch round cake pans for this recipe. Grease the pans and then add a 9 inch round cut sheet of parchment paper just to the bottom of each pan.
  • Shred Carrots- I use my food processor to shred the carrots. It just saves so much time instead of using a hand-held shredded. Plus, I like the big shreds in the cake, I think it makes it feel and taste more authentic.
  • Dry Ingredients- Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl and stir: all-purpose flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground ginger and sea salt
  • Stand Mixer – I use the large mixer whisk to make the cake batter. First, add all of the dry ingredients to a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Then add the butter and sugar to the mixer bowl and cream until smooth. Add the eggs, then the dry flour mixture.
  • Zest & Juice Orange– You can use 1 extra large orange or 2 smaller oranges, zest 1st then juice. Add these to the mixer on low along with the extract and coconut oil. Do not overmix.
  • Fold In, Divide & Bake– Stop the mixer, fold in the carrots, divide the cake batter into the 2 lined cake pans and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let it Cool– After baking allow your cake pans to cool about 15 minutes in the pans, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
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Decorating the Cake

I give myself credit for baking things well and making baked goods delicious, but I will admit, I am terrible about decorating! I do the best I can, but my cakes look “rustic” because I am not an expert cake decorator. Here I show you the basics of what I do to frost the cake and show you how I place my toppings, but if you need cake decorating help, I am not your girl. 🤣 Here’s a great video from Chelsweets on how to frost a Cake! 😉

4 photos shown on partial decoration of the orange carrot cake and sliced top
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Orange Carrot Cake Toppings

Roasted Pecans– I do not add nuts to this cake batter so that is is more popular with the masses as a lot of people are picky about nuts. By leaving the nuts out of the cake itself, you can just use them as a cake topper. I just place some on the frosting so people can pick them off if need be.

Coconut flakes– I just love the look and taste of toasted coconut on this cake, it just it sort of a tropical cake feel.

Orange peel– I like to add either some soft swirls of zest to the top of the cake for a pretty presentation. If you want to give it a more dramatic look, add actual larger twirls of orange peel, like some bartenders add to cocktails.

Orange Carrot Cake slice on silver cake spatula with roasted pecans, coconut flakes and orange zest with cream cheese frosting on wooden board
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How should I store Carrot Cake?

Since this carrot cake has a cream cheese frosting, It should be stored in the refrigerator. As a rule of thumb, any frosting with cream cheese should be refrigerated. Once you’re ready to serve the cake, if you don’t like it very cold, let it sit out for 30 mins to 1 hour so it’s not quite as cold.

If you have a cake dome holder that’s the ideal was to store the cake in the fridge without ruining your beautifully decorated cake.

Ingredients for Orange Carrot Cake shown on wooden tray on counter: flour, butter, sugar, brown sugar, carrots, oranges, milk, baking soda, coconut oil, vanilla extract, eggs and spices
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Orange Carrot Cake Ingredients

  • all-purpose flour
  • baking soda
  • butter
  • sugar
  • brown sugar

Spices

  • ground cinnamon
  • ground nutmeg
  • ground ginger
  • salt- I use sea salt

Wet Ingredients

  • eggs- I use my backyard eggs, room temp
  • milk- I use whole milk
  • vanilla extract
  • Orange Zest & Juice-1 large orange or 2 small oranges (about 1 Tbsp. zest, 1/3 cup juice)
  • coconut oil- This is my secret ingredient for an extra moist carrot cake
  • carrot- I love to use my food processor to make this a super fast step!
Ingredients shown on wooden table for orange carrot cake cream cheese frosting: powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter, orange liqueur and optional mention of vanilla extract
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Frosting Ingredients

  • cream cheese- regular, not whipped
  • butter- unsalted
  • powdered sugar
  • orange liquor or orange extract (extract will be a bit stronger in flavor, so try half the amount 1st and then you can addon a little)
  • vanilla extract
  • dash of salt- just a dash is always nice in sweets
Slice of Orange Carrot Cake on plate laying down on white plate with fork on right
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If you love this recipe and try it, please be sure to comment below and share a photo to our Social Media, @WholeMadeLiving.

Happy Baking!!

Up close slice of cake on blue plate with cream cheese frosting and orange zest and coconut flakes on top with orange in background
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Amazing Orange Carrot Cake (Cream Cheese Frosting)

Katia
This recipe makes 2 9-inch round cakes that will be layered on one another with frosting in between and all over outer edge of cake.  I use about 3/4 of the frosting, but there's plenty if you like it extra thick! 
4.67 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Desserts
Cuisine American
Servings 20 slices
Calories 447 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1/2 cups flour sifted or spooned into a measuring cup
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 16 Tbsp unsalted butter 2 sticks - softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs room temperature
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Zest & Juice of 1 orange about 1 Tbsp zest, 1/3 cup juice
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted (not hot)
  • 2 1/2 cups carrot about 6 medium carrots (shredded)

*Optional: Cake Topping/Accent Topping

  • I don't use more than 1/2 cup of each with how I decorate the cake on just the edges but I toast about a cup to have extra in case I want more to decorate or for a yogurt topping that week. 😉 Also, you'll have plenty if you want to cover the cake.
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans toasted
  • 1/2 to 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes toasted

Frosting

  • 8 oz. package real cream cheese not whipped, softened/room temperature
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter 1 stick softened/room temp (if not the frosting could be clumpy.
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp orange liquor or orange extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 dash sea salt

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • *OPTIONAL (Skip to Step 3 if you don't want these toppings) Once the oven is up to temp, spread pecans and coconut flakes separately on 2 small sheet pans.  Toast pecans for 6-8 mins, coconut flakes for 3-5 minutes, watching closely so they do not burn.  Once toasted, remove from oven immediately, stir and let cool.  (Once cool you can store it in an air-tight container till ready to use for topping the cake)
  • Grease the bottoms of 2 9 inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper.
  • In a medium mixing bowl add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, and sea salt.  Stir to combine.
  • Cream butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed.
  • Reduce speed to low and add one egg at a time.
  • Once well blended, add milk, then slowly add about 1/2 cup of flour mixture in at a time, stopping to scrape sides till all mixture is blended in and smooth. Do not over mix, just until flour mixture incorporated.
  • Add in coconut oil, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla extract and give it one quick stir just to combine.
  • Remove the stand mixer bowl, scrape the whisk, and fold in the carrots.
  • Pour batter evenly into the prepared cake pans and smooth out to even, place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes (or until the toothpick comes out clean.  Start checking at 30 mins since every oven is different. For me, 33 mins is perfect.) 
  • Once baked, let cool in pans for about 15 minutes
  • Then carefully remove cakes from pans, gently tapping on the backs, and place flat side down with parchment paper attached on cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.  

Frosting/Decorating the Cake

  • Notes: Do not try to frost cakes while warm, you will be sorry.  (I learned the hard way many years ago.)
    I recommend chilling the frosting in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before frosting the cake. 
  • Beat cream cheese, butter, with a dash of salt, then add liqueur and/or extract and slowly add in powdered sugar on low till smooth. 
  • Level the top of the cakes by slicing the domed side off.
  • Flip over the bottom cake (upside down) and add frosting on top and smooth out
  • Add the second layer atop the frosting, again upside-down, then add the frosting to the top of the 2nd layer and sides if you like. (I usually use about 3/4 of the frosting, so if you like it thicker than I do, you should have plenty!)
  • I add a little of the roasted pecans and toasted coconut to the sides and top of the cake.  You can get creative here.  
  • Enjoy! 

Notes

I usually make the cakes the day before I need them to be ready, that way the cakes are perfectly cool and all I have left to do the "day of" is frost and decorate. 
Store carrot cake in the refrigerator after it's been frosted.  Enjoy within a few days, but I guarantee it won't last that long! 
*The nutritional information does NOT include the toppings

Nutrition Disclaimer:

The nutritional information provided is only an estimate based on a third party nutritional plugin. Different online calculators may give different results depending on their own sources. The estimates may also change based on the ingredients you use. If you have dietary restrictions and need to accurately calculate the nutrition of this recipe, Whole Made Living recommends consulting a professional nutritionist.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 447kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 4gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 81mgSodium: 207mgPotassium: 145mgFiber: 2gSugar: 40gVitamin A: 3300IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 46mgIron: 1mg
Keyword cake, carrot, dessert, Easter, orange, Spring recipe
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