Best-Ever Homemade Carrot Cake

The best-ever homemade carrot cake decorated with cream cheese frosting and candied carrot peels.

This carrot cake is perfectly spiced, moist and unbelievably good! Using candied carrot peels as decoration (optional), cream cheese frosting and sweetened shredded coconut, this cake is simply the best — I make it all the time.

My Ultimate Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Peels recipe is one of my favorites from Zoë Bakes Cakes. I make it a lot. For birthdays, for Tuesdays, for family gatherings, it was the first cake my boys ate, because I could justify giving a baby cake, if it had carrots. I’m not suggesting it replace baby food, but for their first birthday cakes, it was my go to. I put this cake and many more of my all time favorites into my new book, Zoë Bakes Cakes: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Favorite Layers, Bundts, Loaves, and More:

Zoë Bakes Cakes, Zoë François's cookbook.

I was inspired to use the whole carrot after making Cenk Sönmezsoy’s Perfect Apple Pie, which uses every single bit of the apple to make the pie, core, peel, and seeds are all used to extract as much apple flavor as possible. I love that he didn’t waste a bit of the fruit. I usually peel the carrots and toss them away into the composter, which honestly doesn’t cause me too much guilt, but why not use them for the cake? I just washed the carrots, peeled them, and candied the peels. They go through several stages while baking. First they turn to carrot leather, chewy and soft, then they dehydrate fully and turn to a snappy, brittle, sweet, but earthy candy. Delicious.

A slice of homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, decorated with candied carrot peels.

You can watch me make the cake and carrot candy (plus a picture of my son eating his first carrot cake – 19 years ago) in my instagram video and find the recipe below. 

The ultimate carrot cake with candied carrot peels | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François
The ultimate carrot cake with candied carrot peels | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François
The ultimate carrot cake with candied carrot peels | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François
Ultimate Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Peels | ZoëBakes | Zoë François

Best-Ever Homemade Carrot Cake

This carrot cake is perfectly spiced, moist and unbelievably good! Using candied carrot peels as decoration (optional), cream cheese frosting and sweetened shredded coconut, this cake is simply the best — I make it all the time!
4.3 from 10 votes

Ingredients

Candied Carrot Peels

  • Peels from 2 pounds organic carrots washed – Make sure you get a nice thick peel, if they are too thin, they will fall apart while you candy them. My peeler produces just the right thickness, but you may need to press a bit harder to get a nice peel.
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) water
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • Pinch kosher salt

Carrot Cake

  • 4 cups (450g) loosely packed finely grated carrots
  • 2 1/3 cup (280g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (200g) lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup (300ml) mild flavored oil (such as canola or vegetable)
  • 4 extra large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 1 1/2 cups (150g) sweetened shredded coconut, plus more for decorating the outside
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit apricots and cherries

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 1/2 pounds (680g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (330g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract optional
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 5 cups (600g) confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut for pressing on the outside of the cake
  • Sprinkles icing sugar and dragees for decorating

Instructions

  • To make the candied carrot peels: Bring sugar, water, orange essence, and salt to a simmer, cook until the sugar has melted. Add carrot peels and gently simmer until the carrot peels are turning translucent. Strain the peels and lay them out on a silpat. See my instagram video to watch me make the carrot peel candy.
  • Bake at 200°F until the carrot peels start to curl up, can be 30-60 minutes, depending on how thick they are. Turn the oven to 100°F and bake until completely dry, this can take up to several hours. Keep in a dry place until ready to use. Once you put them on the cake you want to serve it. If you refrigerate the carrot peel candy it will wilt.
  • To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two 8 x 3 inch cake pans and line with greased parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg until well combined. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, oil, eggs, orange zest and vanilla. Then gently whisk in the dry ingredients. Add the carrots and dried fruit. Fold in the coconut.
  • Divide the batter into the two prepared pans and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Gently tap the pans on the counter several times to release excess air bubbles. Bake until a tester comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cakes cool completely in the pans on a wire rack.
  • Make the icing by blending the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon extract, lemon juice, confectioners’ sugar and Lyle’s Golden Syrup, until smooth.
  • Put one of the layers of cake on a 8-Inch Cake Circle and then top it with 1 cup of the cream cheese icing.
  • Cover the cake with a thin crumb coat (watch video for crumb coat instructions). Then finish with a smooth coating of the cream cheese icing (watch video for smooth icing instructions). Arrange candied carrot peels around the cake.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

6 thoughts to “Best-Ever Homemade Carrot Cake”

  1. If I were to make this with shorter carrot peels, would it then keep in the fridge? (If they were flush with the frosting).

  2. I don’t see in recipe instructions where you add the zest. Also, my cakes started to get overbaked at 32 minutes, are you sure about 50?! 🙂

    1. Thank you, I have updated the recipe! And yes I confirmed it should be 50-55 minutes at 350. If yours started to get overbaked at 32, it may be that your oven runs hot. Zoe suggests using an oven thermometer to check your oven temp.

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