Sliced carrot cake traybake on baking paper

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A perfect afternoon coffee break snack, this carrot cake traybake is rich and delicious An incredibly soft moist cake flavoured with cinnamon and walnuts (optional) balanced with a slightly tangy cream cheese frosting.

What is it?

Carrot cake has been around for hundreds of years, although its exact roots are unclear other than it seemed to originate somewhere in Europe. Its popularity was heightened during the war since the ingredients are simple and were accessible during years of rationing.

It’s a super moist and soft cake that is made from grated carrots and typically topped with a cream cheese topping. In this recipe, I use dark brown sugar which gives an extra rich flavour and deep colour, along with a little cinnamon for extra taste and walnuts for crunch, although you can omit one or both if you prefer a plainer cake.

How do I make the perfect cream cheese frosting?

When it comes to making carrot cake, I always find the cream cheese is the trickiest part to get right. If you are finding that your cream cheese is too thin then this can likely be resolved by a stint in the fridge or adding a little more icing sugar to the mix. You can also follow these basic tips to get a perfect result every time:

Don’t overmix

The icing sugar contains a little cornflour/cornstarch, which can bind, making the mixture stiff and sticky. Be careful not to overbeat the mixture and add the sugar last, once the butter and cream cheese are fully mixed. Overmixing the cream cheese can also make it release more water, so I like to whip the butter, then add the cream cheese and mix before adding the sugar.

Use full-fat cream cheese

This is not an occasion for calorie counting. Full fat cream cheese is denser and has lower water content, so will be thicker and richer.

Use soft, but not too soft, butter

You should be able to stick your finger into the butter and leave an impression, but it should still have a little resistance. You also shouldn’t be able to see any oiliness on the surface (if so it’s melting, not soft). A full block of butter should take around 2 hours to reach the right consistency when left out at room temperature.

How do I store the cake?

Carrot cake should be stored in the fridge. It can be kept for around 5-6 days before cutting or 2 days after cutting.

If you are wondering why you need to store the cake in the fridge, this is because carrot cake, unlike many other cakes, contains the grated carrot, which can go mouldy if kept at room temperature. Also, the cream cheese must be kept in the fridge.

Carrot cake traybake on a plate with coffee cups

Can I make it in advance?

The cream cheese can be made in advance and kept sealed in the fridge for up to 10 days (as long as that doesn’t extend past the use-by date of the cream cheese). You can also freeze the cream cheese for up to 3 months. Defrost thoroughly before using and you may need to briefly re-whip it to revive the texture a little. 

The cake can also be frozen for up to 3 months, either frosted or unfrosted. Wrap well in clingfilm and foil and defrost in the fridge.


For a full list of ingredients with weights and volumes jump to the printable recipe card.

Carrot cake traybake ingredients

For the cakes:

  • Dark brown sugar – you can use light brown sugar instead (although the result will be lighter and less rich. You cannot use white sugar as the slight acidity in the dark sugar is essential for the bicarbonate of soda to react with)
  • Plain flour
  • Baking powder
  • Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • Ground cinnamoncan be substituted with nutmeg for a more subtle flavour
  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • Eggs
  • Carrots, peeled and grated
  • Walnuts, roughly chopped – optional, or can be substituted with pecans

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • Full fat cream cheese
  • Butter, room temperature – see notes above for butter temperature
  • Icing/confectioners sugar

To decorate

  • Orange zest and/or chopped walnuts


How to make it

For more detailed recipe steps with tips jump to the printable recipe card.

Recipe Steps

First, make the carrot cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/340F.
  2. Mix the sugar, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon together.
  3. Whisk together the oil and eggs until fully combined.
  4. Add the flour to the egg mixture and whisk together until you have a thick even consistency.
  5. Stir in the carrots and walnuts.
  6. Spoon the mixture into a lined baking tray and bake for 45 minutes.

Next, make the cream cheese frosting

  1. Beat the butter using a hand or stand mixer until pale.
  2. Add the cream cheese and briefly beat until fully combined.
  3. Add the icing sugar a little at a time and beat until incorporated into the mixture.

Looking for more great sweet treat recipes? Try:

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Sliced carrot cake traybake on baking paper

Carrot Cake Traybake

  • Author: caroline
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 16 1x


A perfect coffee break snack, this carrot cake traybake is rich & delicious. Flavoured with cinnamon & balanced with a slightly tangy cream cheese frosting.

The default recipe makes around 16 pieces



For the cakes:

  • 200g / 7oz dark brown sugar (see note 1)
  • 150g / 5.3oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (see note 2)
  • pinch of salt
  • 125ml / 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 250g / 7 oz carrot, peeled and grated
  • 50g chopped walnuts (see note 3)

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 150g / 5.3oz full-fat cream cheese, cold straight from the fridge
  • 100g / 3.5oz room temperature butter (see note 4)
  • 150g /  5.3oz icing/confectioners sugar

To decorate

  • Orange zest and/or chopped walnuts



First, make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/340F.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  3. In another bowl whisk together the egg and oil until well combined.
  4. Add the flour mix to the eggs and whisk until you have a thick, smooth consistency.
  5. Place the grated carrots into the mixture and stir until evenly mixed.
  6. Grease the baking dish with a little butter or oil and then line with baking/parchment paper.
  7. Spoon the carrot cake mixture into the baking tray and then place it in the oven for 45 minutes. (see note 5)
  8. Transfer the baked cake to a wire rack and allow it to fully cool before decorating.

While the cake is baking, make the cream cheese frosting:

  1. In a large bowl beat the butter until and pale, around 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the cream cheese and beat for a further minute, until evenly combined and light.
  3. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat, until fully incorporated around 2-3 minutes.


  1. You can use light brown sugar instead of dark brown, although dark brown will result in a slightly richer colour and flavour. However, don’t substitute white sugar as it doesn’t have the necessary acidity to react with and activate the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).
  2. You can substitute the cinnamon with nutmeg if prefered
  3. You can omit the walnuts if you aren’t a fan, or substitute them with pecans.
  4. Room temperature butter should be soft but have a little resistance when pressed. It should have no visible liquid or oily parts
  5. The cake is done when the top is springy but set and not sticky, and when you can insert a skewer or toothpick into the middle of the cake and it comes out clean. 
  6. Keep the baked cake in the fridge. It will keep for 5-6 days uncut and 2 days after cutting. 
  7. The cake and/or cream cheese can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap well in clingfilm and foil and defrost in the fridge.
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Snack
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: British


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 290
  • Fat: 17g
  • Carbohydrates: 31g
  • Protein: 3g

Keywords: cake, snack, carrot, sweet, cream cheese, afternoon tea

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