Make Ahead

Neva Tee's Carrot Cake

March 15, 2021
20 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 12
Author Notes

Neva (my late Mom Mom)’s carrot cake recipe is flawless. It's got the most perfect texture combination between the moist, rich cake and the crunchy, pecany (is that a word?) frosting. People literally lined up for one of these beauties. It even won a blue ribbon at the North Carolina State Fair. Note: to make your own self-rising flour, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 3 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt. This cake can be frozen. Simply wrap in foil. —Mary Catherine Tee

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (such as Crisco)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  1. Line 3 round 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and heat the oven to 350*F. Add sugar, oil, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to a bowl. Beat well.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add slowly to the sugar/oil mixture, stirring to incorporate.
  3. Fold in the carrots. Divide among 3 prepared pans.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Once cake passes the toothpick test, remove from oven and cool on wire racks.
  5. For the filling/frosting, use an electric mixer to mix the confectioners' sugar, butter, remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla, and cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth. Turn off mixer. Add chopped pecans and mix on medium-low speed until nuts are incorporated. Refrain from eating all of it with a spoon. Spread between layers and on the side and top of cake once the cake has cooled completely.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Yiannis Psaroudis
    Yiannis Psaroudis
  • mtrelaun
  • Sabine Gagnon
    Sabine Gagnon
  • 43Cravings
  • Babs
I’m an old soul. My favorite Saturday morning activity is watching birds on the feeder while drinking strong, black coffee out of my favorite hand-thrown mug. My favorite place to kill time is in antique stores. The less organized the better. I like full-bodied red wines and bitter IPAs. I live for feeling the warmth of sunshine and hearing the stillness of freshly fallen snow. I can thank my stint in Alaska for that. I have salt water in my veins, having grown up in Eastern NC, and (shhh…don’t tell any of my Mainer friends this about me) I prefer blue crab over lobster.

36 Reviews

Yiannis P. February 2, 2023
I am _not_ mad at this cake. I've been looking for a raisin-free carrot cake recipe, as raisins are the _only_ thing my boyfriend does not eat, & this'un really ticked all the boxes. I was super impressed by how quickly it came together & I love the tips others have provided about making it less sweet, as the original recipe was a little too sweet for my own taste. I also felt it was a little more frosting-forward than cake-forward, but suspect that adjusting the sweetness may address that, too. If anyone has any recos for pumpin' up the carrot cakey-ness of it, as well, I'm all ears.
kerrie Q. February 25, 2021
The less sugar/butter idea worked really well. I added a half cup of chopped crystallized ginger to the frosting-a nod to Ina Garten’s carrot cake.
beaninthekitchen February 24, 2021
I never write reviews but am compelled to after making your Grandmother's cake, Mary Catherine - it was simply perfect!! I've always made a family recipe with crushed pineapple, but my now stepsons detest pineapple ... and so the search was on. I landed on your recipe and followed it almost to the letter - I subbed olive oil as that's what I had and it turned out to be the carrot cake of my dreams!!! Never going back to my family's version ... thank you also for sharing your Grandmother's story, so touching, my Mother has dementia <3
Kathleen S. January 22, 2021
I love this cake’s flavor but I am having some issues with the structure. Specifically, the cake sags in the center. It’s almost like a cake that relies on egg whites or a soufflé that falls. Anyone else have this problem? If so, how did you remedy it? It hasn’t stopped me from making this delicious cake!
beaninthekitchen February 24, 2021
I had some sagging in the middle - but for me it just meant more cream cheese frosting :)
Kathleen S. February 25, 2021
Not a bad fix!
mtrelaun October 5, 2019
The search is over! This carrot cake plus the Silver Palate’s cream cheese frosting is like taking a time machine to the Just Desserts bakery of my childhood 💕
Sabine G. June 30, 2019
I make my husband a carrot cake every year for his birthday, trying new recipes each year. I'm done with that and only making this one from now on. It's perfection. Absolutely perfect! Thank you for the best carrot cake recipe EVER.
43Cravings May 22, 2018
I made this recipe last Friday for a large family graduation gathering Sat. It was unbelievable! I got so many compliments and people asking for future orders! I added pecans and walnuts in my batter plus pecans in the frosting because they all love nuts. I only did 2.5C of powdered sugar + an extra 8oz cream cheese to make it less sweet & have more to spread. I also added some nutmeg but other than that followed the recipe to perfection. I wish I could post photos of it. It was my first 3 layer cake. This cake comes out moist, flavorful and light. love love love.
sonya December 2, 2018
thank you for your note on your frosting! i followed your amounts of cream cheese and sugar, and dropped the butter further by a third.

additionally, thanks also to mary for such a great recipe! i threw in a handful of currants (eyeballed it), and if anyone’s wondering, half this recipe makes an excellent loaf cake (and a quarter of the frosting recipe makes for plenty icing on top).
Leah April 2, 2018
I made this for my Mom and brother’s birthday that happened on Easter this year, so a lot of pressure. I didn’t use the pecans, but otherwise stuck to the recipe. Delicious. I got raves from my family that is used to me buying cakes from my pastry-chef cousin!
Babs April 1, 2018
Hello! I’m interested in using coconut oil rather than Crisco oil too. Has anyone tried it?
Leigh April 2, 2018
I also had the same question and the results were fantastic. The cake was moist and flavorful.
Francesca A. March 30, 2018
This is a delicious carrot cake! It was moist, super flavorful and the frosting was not too sweet. I loved the pecans. Every bite was a "mmmmm..."
Francesca A. April 6, 2020
Leigh March 26, 2018
Can coconut oil be substituted for Crisco in this recipe?
Janie February 22, 2018
When I see Crisco I think of vegetable shortening - is that what is called for or do you just recommend Crisco brand vegetable OIL? Thanks!
Mary C. February 22, 2018
Yep, Crisco brand vegetable oil.
MarieNoel September 21, 2017
Another amazing recipe ! I made this in the spring a few times and was amazing! It's completely different from other carrot cakes I've had, which I love. It's tender and moist. Carrot cake is my mom's favorite type of cake and she absolutely loves this one! My mother also enjoyed your story behind this great recipe. Said it reminds her of her grandmother. Thank you for the recipe and sharing your story! :)
Mary C. February 22, 2018
I'm so happy to hear your mother loved the carrot cake and was reminded of her grandmother (all good memories, I hope!). What a blessing it is to share food with those we love!
Olga1 September 3, 2017
Planning for dinner party tomorrow night. Best to make day of or can I make it today just a well?
Mary C. February 22, 2018
Your dinner party is long over, but yes, this can be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge. I'd suggest taking it out a few hours before company arrives so the icing can soften. It also freezes really well for dinner parties several months down the road. Sorry for the delayed response!
Sheila H. July 6, 2017
I added a cup of both chopped walnuts and raisins to the cake batter, and now after 1/2 hour in the oven, the pans have overflowed. I'm sure they need at least another 10-15 minutes to bake. The pans looked a little too full when I put them in. Don't make my mistake. Either use 9 inch pans or don't add extra goodies- you'll be sorry. I'll be scraping the bottom of my stove. I'm making this for a birthday, so I'm hoping I didn't wreck them...
Mary C. July 8, 2017
Oh no--I hope it turned out okay, Sheila! Thanks for the tip about additions.
rlsalvati May 14, 2017
Made this for the first time yesterday, it was delicious.
Kristina March 23, 2017
This looks delicious!!! Could this be made with gluten free flour? I would love to make this this weekend but a family member visiting must eat gluten free. Thanks!!
Stephanie P. March 14, 2017
I grew up in eastern NC also (Rocky Mount) and this is almost exactly like my mother's carrot cake!
Mary C. March 15, 2017
Hello, neighbor. I grew up in Wilson! :-) I hope you get a chance to enjoy her cake every now and then.
Stephanie P. March 15, 2017
Small world! Yes! She passed away 11 years ago but I make one on her birthday which was Saturday! ❤
Judy February 12, 2017
Thank you for your story. My mom endured a similar fate. She was a great cook and my sister and I have her recipes, except a few she must have tucked away... Following a handwritten card or notes from a chef she interrogated always brings a ray of sunshine!
DeirdreMS February 12, 2017
Hi. Looks great. Notes on using AP flour (how much baking soda and salt to add) instead of self-rising would be helpful, if possible. Thank you.
Mary C. February 12, 2017
Thanks, Deirdre--I added the info to the headnote. I hope that helps!