My Mom’s Carrot Cake Recipe is Famous Thanks to This Secret Ingredient

By Camille Styles
orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Back when my mom was working as a nurse, she’d occasionally bring her famous carrot cake to share with co-workers, and let’s just say… people got a little greedy in the break room. This is one of those cakes that people actually fight over—it’s that delicious. The secret ingredient? A triple dose of citrus thanks to orange zest and orange extract in the cake, plus the most drool-worthy orange cream cheese frosting slathered all over it. It’s bomb.

I usually request this orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for my birthday (yes, my mom still makes my birthday cakes—I’m lucky!) yet I realized I’d never shared it here with you! And since it’s the perfect spring recipe for all the warm weather gatherings ahead, it felt like the perfect time. Who knows, maybe I’ll even turn the tables and make it for my mama as this year’s Mother’s Day dessert. Scroll on for everything you need to know about the best orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

How to make this carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Impressive-looking? Yes, but it’s not at all complicated. This carrot cake with cream cheese frosting comes together in one bowl, and then you get to choose whether to make it a two-layer or three-layer carrot cake. Here’s the rundown:

In the bowl of a standing mixer, you blend the wet ingredients, then add the dry ingredients.

Then you stir in all the good stuff: grated carrots, orange zest and orange extract for a double-whammy of citrus, toasted pecans, and sweet currants. Yum.

If you want a taller cake with lots of frosting, you’ll divide into three 9-inch cake pans. If you want to keep it a bit simpler and rustic looking, just use two cake pans. The amount of batter works for either one—the two cake pan route will just result in thicker layers.

After the cake comes out of the oven, you let it cool and then slather with the most dangerously delicious orange cream cheese frosting.

orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting - camille baking / cooking in kitchen - mixer

How to frost a beautiful layer cake

I’m no pro, but I did learn a few things in the cake decorating class that my mom and I took at Michaels Arts & Crafts together in 2001 (true story.) The main thing to remember? Don’t sweat it—have fun! This isn’t rocket science and you really can’t mess it up. Here are a few cake decorating tips that are helpful for me:

Refrigerate or freeze the cake layers

You don’t want them frozen, but you do want them to be chilled enough to hold up and not crumble when you start adding the frosting. A chilled cake is a firmer cake, and it’s way easier to frost.

Line your cake stand with strips of parchment paper.

I add a few strips of parchment paper (see photo below, right) under my bottom cake layer to catch any stray frosting. When I’m done frosting my cake, I simply pull out the parchment strips for a clean edge.

orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting - camille baking / cooking in kitchen - frosting a cake

Hold your frosting tool at a 45-degree angle

Whether you’re using an offset spatula or a bench scraper, hold it at a 45-degree angle so you get those smooth edges for your cake. It also helps if you get eye level with your cake, so you can see exactly what’s happening as you smooth everything out.

Smooth it all out with a bench scraper

Though I like to apply my frosting with an offset spatula, I always finish things off with a bench scraper to achieve a smooth final look. You’re going to hold the bench scraper in your dominant hand and then use the other hand to grip your cake stand or turntable. Rotate the cake and then gradually press the bench scraper up against the side, continuing to rotate at an even pace, until smoothness is achieved.

orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Tips for making this carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

As promised, this carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is simple, but I’ve got a few tips to make it even easier:

Grate carrots in the food processor

My food processor has a “grater” attachment, and I always bust it out when I need to grate a large quantity of carrots for a recipe. It gets the job done in literally 5 minutes. And hey, while you’ve got it out, you might as well use it to chop the nuts, too.

A few delicious swaps I’ve tried

This recipe lends itself to a few easy adaptations based on your personal preference and what you’ve got on hand. Here are a few swaps that work really well:

  • Swap half the flour for whole wheat flour if you like a nuttier, more complex flavor.
  • Swap in toasted walnuts instead of pecans.
  • Swap raisins or chopped dates instead of currants.
  • Use the oil of your choice—I like the neutral flavor and health benefits of avocado oil, but you could certainly use canola oil or olive oil instead.
orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

A few other spring cake recipes we love!

Berries and Cream Layer Cake

This is my absolute fave cake to make for kids’ birthday parties—and yes, you can totally use a cake mix in a pinch.

Rhubarb Meringue Cake

Aran Goyoaga whipped up this cake for our brunch together last spring, and I’m still dreaming of this light and airy meringue cake with spring rhubarb.

The Best Lemon Loaf Cake

We tried and tested the best lemon loaf cake recipes on the internet, and this one is 100% better than Starbucks.

orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
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orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Orange Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Camille Styles


This orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is truly the best. It’s a Styles’ family classic! It’s the perfect dessert for Easter, Mother’s Day, or any springtime gathering.


Units Scale
  • 1 1/4 cups oil of your choice*
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  • Grated zest of one fresh orange
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped, plus more for garnish

for the cream cheese orange frosting:

  • 12 ounce cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract


  1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour two or three 9-inch round cake pans (you decide how many layers you want!)
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat oil and sugars on medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. 
  3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and use a fork to whisk dry ingredients together before turning mixer to low. Beat just until blended.
  4. Stir in carrots, zest, extracts, nuts, and currants.
  5. Divide among prepared cake bans and bake in center of oven for 30 – 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
  6. Cool 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks. Let cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Orange Frosting:

  1. Beat cream cheese, butter, zest, and extract until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
  2. Frost cake between layers, as well as sides and top. Decorate with chopped toasted pecans if desired, and store in refrigerator.


*I like to use avocado oil, but you can use olive oil or canola oil if preferred.

Comments (3)

  1. Joanna says:

    Looks amazing. Are you able to link the plates and cake stand too?

  2. Emily says:

    Looks amazing! Do you think would work as a sheet cake in a 9×13?

    1. Camille Styles says:

      That’s a great question – I haven’t tried it in that size pan, so I’m not sure if the amounts will work out exactly. However, if there’s extra batter you could always use it to bake a few carrot cupcakes! Report back if you make it, I’d love to know.

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