Carrot Cake with an Orange Cream Cheese Icing

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Multi-layered cakes need not require multiple pans. This wonderfully spiced cake with a citrussy icing is baked in a single sheet tin, and then sliced to create a tiered showstopper

Not that my Best Carrot Cake Recipe needs any makeover, but it is sometimes fun to play around with flavours and the shape of a bake.

My carrot cake is wonderfully moist without being too heavy. It is packed with depth of flavour from all the different spices. Here, I have opted to switch out some of the cinnamon for ginger to provide a warm complementary flavour to the toasted pecans.

Of course the icing on a carrot cake is equally important, and I deviate slightly, by swapping out some of the icing sugar for honey. The result is an icing which is not cloyingly sweet, retains a bit of tang from the cream cheese and is not too runny. Adding the zest and some juice of an orange marries well with the carrots within the cake.

Finally, to be able to neatly cut the tiered cake into slices, I have opted to bake this in a sheet cake pan but then cut it into three equal layers. A single tin, no need to faff with lining multiple tins, but still creates a multi-layer cake. This then makes neat rectangular slices which is great if you are feeding many.

As I am often described by friends as being “extra”, I always have to add a little something extra and here I have added some walnuts, cranberries and seeds to accessorise this beauty and add some colour, but this is purely your choice. Here you have free reign to make the recipe your own.


Eggs – the size of eggs are important and ensure that they are at room temperature so that they incorporate well into the batter.

Sugar – a combination of sugar adds both structure to the cake as well as moisture and flavour.

Flavourings – vanilla and an array of spices mast the taste of egg in the cake as well as add different flavour to the cake.

Oil – the key to a moist carrot cake is using the correct amount of oil. Choose a flavourless oil like canola or sunflower. Olive oil has quite a distinct, fruity taste and will not work well here.

Flour – using cake wheat flour (or all purpose flour, as it is called overseas) gives this cake its wonderful crumb. Do not use brown flour or bread flour as the gluten content is different and will likely lead to a tougher crumb.

Leavening agents – baking powder and baking soda are both used to provide the required amount of rise in the cake. There are carrots and nuts in the cake, both which are quite dense, and therefore requires a fair amount of leavening.

Carrots – what would a carrot cake be without carrots! Try to stay away from baby carrots as the moisture content is different to regular carrots. Grate the carrots as coarse as possible as they do shrink when baking. Grating them too fine and the texture they add will be muted.

Pecans – I love the flavour and warmth that toasted pecans add to a carrot cake. This is completely optional and can be omitted if you have a nut allergy, or prefer not to have the texture in the cake.

Butter – ensure that your butter is at room temperature. I really do not mind whether the butter is salted or unsalted. In fact, I prefer salted for this (and salted is cheaper, where I live).

Icing Sugar (also called powdered sugar or confectioners sugar) – make sure that this is well sifted or you will end up with an unpleasant lumpy icing. Icing sugar does effect the consistency of the icing, so be weary if you add to little or too much.

Honey – try to use a mild flavoured honey so that any floral (or other flavours) do not compete with the orange in the icing.

Orange – finely zest the rind of the orange with a microplane or the zester side of a grater. Then squeeze the juice of half of an orange.


  • Can I make this cake in advance? You can make the cake two months in advance, tightly cling wrap and freeze the cake. You can make the cream cheese icing three days in advance and store in the fridge.
  • Make sure that all your ingredients are at room temperature. This is particularly important when making your icing, otherwise your butter and cream cheese will not cream well and you may overbeat the icing.
  • Can I change the flavour of the spices? You can modify the amount of spices you choose to use. I prefer to use freshly ground spices as it really packs a more punchy flavour. Whilst you can tone down the spices, I do urge you not to completely omit it, as the cake is then just generically sweet. The spices help to balance the sweetness.
  • Can I add other extras to the cake? I have not tested all the possibilities myself. I have once added desiccated coconut, but this tended to make the cake texture a fair bit drier. I have tried another cake recipe which called for canned, drained pineapple, but that led to quite a heavy cake. I have not tried adding raisins or cranberries, but suspect that should be fine provided it is not a substantial amount.
  • Can I omit the pecans from the cake? If you do not like pecans, walnuts or sliced almonds work well too. If you prefer, you can omit completely.
  • Can I omit the honey from the icing? You can, and use an equal amount of icing sugar in its place. It may be a bit sweeter, however.
  • Why do you beat the cream cheese separately? Sometimes, depending on the weather, the butter and cream cheese may be difficult to beat together, resulting in overbeating. This then leads to a very soupy, running icing which does not hold its shape.
  • Can I bake these as cupcakes? I have tested the recipe as cupcakes and it works wonderfully. I do not recall the exact number, but I think you should get around 12 – 15 cupcakes depending on the size of your tin.
  • How do I know when my cake is done? Everyone’s oven is different and the below is just a guide. It is best to invest in an oven thermometer, so that you can know the exact temperature. Monitor the cake regularly to ensure that the top is not getting too dark, the cake is not wobbly or liquid like and a toothpick/skewer inserted comes out clean (no batter on it).
  • Can I freeze the cake? The carrot sheet cake can be cut into three equal pieces and frozen for up to a month, if covered in cling wrap.
  • How do I store leftovers? The unfrosted cake can remain out of the fridge for a day, but make sure it is well covered in cling wrap. The frosted cake would need to be refrigerated and will last for around 4 days.


If you make this recipe, please share it with me by tagging me on Instagram @adventureswithsugar or on Facebook at Adventures with Sugar. Please also leave a comment below to let me know how you got on with the recipe.


  • 3 large eggs
  • 125g castor sugar
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 280ml sunflower oil
  • 190g cake flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 3 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 300g carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 100g pecans/walnuts, toasted and chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius. Grease and line, with baking paper, a 33cm x 23cm x 5cm baking tin and set aside.
  2. Toast the pecans for 5 – 8min. They burn easily so keep an eye on them. This step is optional but really improves their flavour in the cake.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla into a bowl and beat for around 2 minutes until slightly thickened.
  5. Whilst beating, slowly pour in the oil and beat until well combined.
  6. Add the sifted ingredients to the beaten egg, oil and sugar, and gently fold.
  7. Then add the carrots and fold, followed by the pecans.
  8. Bake for around 35 – 40min, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.


  • 350g cream cheese
  • 150g butter
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 50g honey
  • zest of an orange
  • 1 tablespoon of orange juice, freshly squeezed


  1. Cream the butter until light and airy.
  2. Then add in the honey and icing sugar and beat until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.
  4. Then gently fold the cream cheese into the butter and icing sugar mixture.
  5. Beating the cream cheese separately ensures that it is not over beaten.
  6. Finally, add in the orange juice and zest and mix to combine.

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