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Closeup of three layer carrot cake

Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Soft and moist carrot cake, generously spiced, perfectly sweet, and topped with an incredible brown butter cream cheese frosting.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Chill time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings 16
Calories 506kcal


Carrot cake:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon tablespoon not teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves or ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • cup light brown sugar packed
  • ¾ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups grated carrots* grated on the small holes of a box grater

Brown butter cream cheese frosting:

  • ¾ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter cut into large pieces
  • 12 ounces full fat cream cheese softened
  • ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • cups powdered sugar
  • chopped toasted pecans optional garnish


Carrot cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and grease the pans. If you'd prefer you can use a 9x13 pan instead. Grease it and set it aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and both sugars on medium speed until thickened, about 4 minutes. With the mixer still running, slowly stream in the oil, then add the vanilla.
  • Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, in 5 additions total (flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour), beating well as you add each. Once the last bit of flour has been added, stir in the carrots. Use a rubber spatula to stir the mixture well, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans (or pour into a 9x13). Spread the top into an even layer. Carefully drop/rap the pans onto the countertop a couple times to remove excess air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 18-22 minutes for the 8-inch cakes or 27-32 minutes for the 9x13.
  • Place pans on a wire rack to cool completely. Proceed with the frosting.

Brown butter cream cheese frosting:

  • Begin by browning the butter. Place the butter in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until light brown bits form on the bottom of the pan and the butter begins to turn golden and smell nutty. Watch it closely as it can go from brown to burned quickly. Immediately transfer the butter into a bowl along with any accumulated brown bits (see photo).
  • Place brown butter in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to one hour, stirring occasionally. Once the brown butter has solidified but is still soft, you can remove it from the fridge and proceed with the frosting. Do not use the butter if it is still melted and warm and do not let it chill so long that it is rock hard.
  • Beat brown butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Add half the powdered sugar, beating until combined, followed by remaining powdered sugar. Turn speed up to medium-high and beat for one minute until smooth and creamy. If necessary, you can adjust the consistency of the frosting by adding a splash of milk to thin it, or adding a bit more powdered sugar to thicken. Note: It will firm up once the cake has been frosted and refrigerated.
  • Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Top with one third of the frosting, repeat with remaining layers. I chose not to frost the sides of the the cake, allowing for a generous portion of frosting between each layer. If using a 9x13 pan, scoop frosting onto the cake and spread into an even layer (you will have enough frosting to generously frost the 9x13). Garnish with pecans, if desired. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so that the frosting can set.


*When measuring the grated carrots, gently scoop them into the measuring cup. Do not pack them in.
Store this cake in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 
Prefer a different frosting? Use our traditional Cream Cheese Frosting recipe or our Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe instead.


Calories: 506kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 231mg | Potassium: 194mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 46g | Vitamin A: 3300IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 84mg | Iron: 1mg