Chocolate-Carrot Snacking Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

March 30, 2021
26 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Makes one 8x8-inch snacking cake
Author Notes

If you dig a moist, deeply chocolate-y chocolate cake, that just happens to be loaded with something really good for you, then this snacking cake is for you. Finely grated carrots make for a super tender crumb and a soft texture, without ever letting you on to their whereabouts. The tangy cream cheese frosting is the perfect accompaniment. And if all that doesn't convince you to take a stab at this sweet treat right now, who doesn't want to make a cake with the word "snacking" in the name? —Jessie Sheehan

What You'll Need
  • Snacking cake
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup neutral oil, preferably a mild olive oil, not extra-virgin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • rounded 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 1/2 cups finely grated carrots (about 3 1/2 regular-sized carrots), lightly packed
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted if lumpy
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8x2-inch square pan with cooking spray or softened butter. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the sugars, oil, and vanilla and whisk vigorously. Add the yolk and eggs, one at a time, gently whisking after each addition. Add the buttermilk and whisk again. Dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water, add this to the bowl, and whisk a final time.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients over the bowl and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry into the wet, until a few streaks of flour remain. Add the carrots and fold again, until the carrots are completely incorporated.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the pan after 15, and checking it with a cake tester/toothpick after 40. The cake is done when the tester comes out with a moist crumb or two.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. Alternatively, if you would like to remove the cake from the pan, let it cool for about 10 minutes, until you can comfortably handle the pan, run a paring knife around the edges and invert it right side up onto a serving plate. Let cool completely before frosting.
  6. To make the frosting, combine the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and on medium high speed, beat until smooth and uniform. Add the vanilla and salt and beat again.
  7. With the mixer on low speed, add about a cup of the sugar at a time to the mixer bowl, beating thoroughly after each addition until combined. Once all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed of the mixer to medium or medium high, and beat the mixture until smooth. Do not over mix or the frosting will lose structure.
  8. Generously frost the cooled cake with the frosting, using the back of a large spoon for optimum swirls.
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  • Marissa Seto
    Marissa Seto
  • Jessie Sheehan
    Jessie Sheehan
  • Suzanne Rosen
    Suzanne Rosen
Bio: Jessie Sheehan is the author of The Vintage Baker and Icebox Cakes. Her new easy-peasy baking book, Snackable Bakes, hits shelves in spring 2022. She contributes to the Washington Post, Bon Appétit, Food Network, and the Kitchn, among others.

89 Reviews

Sadie June 12, 2023
This is an excellent chocolate cake. Unlike traditional carrot cake, the crumb is light and tender. It's moist but not oily. I added a pinch of cinnamon and cardamom which didn't make an identifiable difference to the flavour, but added some interest. I made 8 mini bundt cakes and they were done in less than 40 minutes. Great make ahead cake. The mini's were better the next day and stayed moist for a few days.
Jessie S. June 12, 2023
yay!! love the idea of mini bundts.
Linda D. November 15, 2021
Thank you so very much for this absolutely fabulous cake, Jessie.
Jessie S. November 15, 2021
Yay!!! So glad you like. Xo
Helen February 8, 2021
During the pandemic, I made this cake in 2 smaller pans. I took one to my grandchilden and left on their porch. We then had a virutal birthday celebration with singing and blowing out the candles, The cake was delicious, so moist and flavourful. The children wanted second. I made the icing in the food processor and it came out creaming and smooth. A great cake for any occasion and easy to make.
Cgraeff February 8, 2021
Put a smile on my face. Thanks for sharing.
Jessie S. February 9, 2021
wonderful to hear all of this! thank you for sharing.
Jessie S. February 9, 2021
Kimott January 25, 2021
Delicious!! Every year my husband wants a carrot cake for his birthday, no one else in the family really likes carrot cake, so we tried this recipe this year. It was hands down the BEST carrot cake, no one believed there were even carrots in it!! We doubled the recipe, and baked in round pans, then cut the cakes so it made 4 layers. Definitely will be making it again.
Jessie S. January 26, 2021
Yahoo and happy bday to your husband. So glad u found your new fave carrot cake!
Kimott January 25, 2021
Delicious!! Every year my husband wants a carrot cake for his birthday, no one else in the family really likes carrot cake, so we tried this recipe this year. I was hands down the BEST carrot cake, no one believed there were even carrots in it!! Definitely will be making it again.
Jesse S. January 21, 2021
This cake was great! Nice chocolate flavor and SO moist. I made it into cupcakes and mini cupcakes for my daughter's birthday. I started out grating my carrots on a fine microplane and it was just too fine. Switched to the fine side on my box grater which worked much better, and the pieces were still small enough that they basically disappeared into the cake when cooked. I agree with other reviewers that weights would be a great addition to the recipe (Always! But especially for the carrots).
Jessie S. January 22, 2021
Good to know re: the grated carrots!! Thank you snd glad u liked the cake.
Katharine C. January 17, 2021
This was really good and I loved the idea that it was sorta (?) healthy with the carrots. I wish that I'd been able to get the cream cheese frosting right. It was lumpy and I assume I didn't let the butter and cream cheese warm up enough.

I wish that the listing of the baking powder and baking soda in the ingredient list had been switched. Since there is much less baking soda it isn't a disaster if you are reading down the list and accidentally grab the baking powder and put in 1/4 teaspoon then realize you grabbed the wrong ingredient, as I did, and you can just add the extra baking powder. Obviously if I had measured things out before hand that might have helped too!
Jessie S. January 17, 2021
Thanks for the feedback! I’ll change the order of the leavening and yes - if the cream cheese is not warm enough it clumps. So sorry about that but so glad u liked the cake!
Jessie S. January 17, 2021
Sorry, was going to reorder the soda and powder, but when recipe writing one always puts the ingredients with larger amounts before those with smaller, so the powder has to come first since there is more of it than the soda. Sorry!
Katharine C. January 17, 2021
Oooh thanks for the inside scoop on recipe writing :). To be fair I was a bit distracted when baking. Will definitely pay more attention next time.
Jessie S. January 18, 2021
🙂🙂🙂 also, one more scoop: most important when recipe writing is that the ingredients are listed in the order that you use them, and then, for items like the dry ingredients where one could probably add them to the bow in any old order since they all get whisked together, they are listed in descending order of amounts.
SusanInLondon January 12, 2021
Made this cake today and am SO happy with it. I didn’t do the frosting - but used whipped cream and cherries in kirsch for a Black Forest Gateau vibe. Fabulous! I absolutely adore the moist, fudgey, but light, chocolate cake. No way you can tell I put five carrots in it. I’m sending the link to everyone I know who bakes cakes. Thank you.
Jessie S. January 17, 2021
Thought I responded to this but don’t see my reply! Yay!! So glad u liked and that u are sharing. XO
judy January 12, 2021
Good reviews, but I won't be trying this cake. Almost 2 cups of sugar in the cake and about 3 cups of sugar in the frosting for an 8x8' cake!! Only 1 cup of flour. There are wonderful chocolate carrot cakes out there with a fraction of the sugar. My teeth hurt just reading this recipe.
Jessie S. January 12, 2021
Thanks for sharing!
CDP January 8, 2021
I’m eager to try this and it looks delicious.

Just some friendly feedback, and no-hating here. I promise! One drawback, there are no ingredient weights listed. I’ll reread thru this, and if it still looks good, I’ll convert it to grams, but why can’t there be a standard, particularly with baking, to have the ingredients weighed? This is becoming a no-go issue for me. There are just too many good recipes out there with weights to bother with the extra work involved.
Good luck and thank you for sharing your recipes.
Jessie S. January 8, 2021
thank you for the thoughtful feed back (and no hate taken!). food52 does not presently require recipes on the site to have weight, as well as volume, measurements - but I feel you! and will try to make an effort to include them going forward.
Suzanne R. February 10, 2021
I agree, once I started baking with my food scale, no going back, soooo much easier.
Jessie S. February 10, 2021
kocst January 6, 2021
I made this today and it was a big hit with my family! It was simple to make and the frosting was delicious! Thank you for a great recipe.
Jessie S. January 6, 2021
Yay! So happy to hear and you’re so welcome. Please consider voting for it! As there’s a snacking cake contest happening!
kocst January 6, 2021
Just voted! I found you by listening to the AllRecipes podcast and knew I would love your recipes because, I too, love the vintage mini cookbooks from the early 1900's! I found a few at flea markets for $1 each and they are so fun to read. Best of luck on the contest!
Jessie S. January 6, 2021
Thank u! And love that U found me through Allrecipes and those booklets are the best. XO
Millie J. October 24, 2020
I've now made this cake 3 times and am about to do it again. So good!

By this time I've made some changes as the original was too sweet and too oily for me. I converted the quantities to metric weights and am using about 75% of the original sugars -- 130g of Erythritol in place of the granulated sugar, and 110g of (dark) brown sugar. I use 2/3 cup oil instead of 3/4 cup, and a 1:1 gluten-free flour mix. I bake it as a 9x5 loaf, not an 8x8 cake. And I skip the frosting.

I'd love to know how much the carrots weigh. Carrots vary a lot in size and in how much they settle when "lightly packed," and every time I've made this cake I've needed a different weight of carrots to make up 2 cups, and that really changes the final texture.

Even with all these changes, this cake is delicious and stays good for days. Thanks, Jessie!
Jessie S. October 25, 2020
so happy to hear all this and LOVE all your changes - next time i make it i promise to weigh the carrots and add the weight to the recipe - i always use a microplane, so my carrots are super fine and then i drop them into the measuring cup and do not press down . . . hope that helps.
Millie J. October 25, 2020
Having the carrots' weight will be so helpful - I look forward to that for my next bake!

I'm not able to hand-grate carrots. Instead I've used either the shredding disk of my food processor or my little Ninja chopper, and the results are very different in terms of volume. But I expect that if I can get an accurate weight for the carrots, the difference in volume will not be important.
Jessie S. October 26, 2020
Yes to all.
heathdur September 25, 2020
I really loved this cake and wondered if I can use the same recipe minus the cacao powder and expresso for normal carrot cake. Has anyone tried? How much more flour would need to be added?
Jessie S. September 25, 2020
Here is my recipe for straight up carrot cake - very similar!
heathdur September 25, 2020
Excellent! I'm currently in the Turkish country side with no shredded coconut. Can I forgo that ingredient or substitute with something like yogurt, which we have an abundance of? 😄
Jessie S. September 25, 2020
you would not want to substitute anything like yogurt for the coconut as the coconut is shredded - it is not a liquid. u can leave it out, and add a different add-in if you'd like, like walnuts. he texture will be different but still good
Sinamen78 July 11, 2020
Made this for a casual dinner party tonite. Cake is really good and very moist. Everyone loved it. Waaay too much frosting tho. You could halve the frosting recipe and be fine. Will definitely make again. Next time will top with chocolate or peanut butter frosting , drizzle with chocolate ganache and a sprinkle of Maldon Flaky sea salt. Will be outta this world ! Ala mode allowed. (Cake could even be eaten unfrosted) It’s a keeper.
Jessie S. July 12, 2020
Yay! And I hear u about the frosting - I’m just a huge fan.
Rebecca O. May 23, 2020
Delicious flavor and very moist. For the frosting I only put in 1 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar. We as a family are not fans of overly sweet bites.
My friend loved it so much, she demanded I share the recipe with her.
Jessie S. May 23, 2020
Yay!! Makes me so happy to hear this. and thanks for sharing the recipe!!
willsmom May 6, 2020
This is delicious! Query - how do I tell whether to add 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar to the icing?
Jessie S. May 6, 2020
Great question. The amount of frosting you use depends on how sweet u like your frosting and how stiff u like it. The larger amount will obviously be sweeter but it will also make a more stiff frosting, that keeps its shape really well. You should try with less frosting first and see what you think and then u can add a little at a time until you get the consistency and flavor that u like.
willsmom May 6, 2020
I love the taste of the frosting - but it is glaze-like and not fluffy, as in the picture. I used a different kind of cream cheese (an artisanal kind, not the block usually found). Might that have made it more liquid?
Jessie S. May 6, 2020
yes. hate to. say it, but the one to use is good ole' Philadelphia as it has additives that keep it firm and perfect for combining with sugar and butter and turning into a stiff frosting . . .
robin L. April 28, 2020
Can I sub kefir for the buttermilk? And I don't have espresso; would dark french roast beans work (ground well)?
Jessie S. April 28, 2020
I have never baked with kefir before but if it behaves like liquid dairy does in baking recipes, then i think you are good to go. You can try the ground french roast if you want, but honestly i wouldn't sweat it.
robin L. April 28, 2020
...or would plain whole milk yogurt be a better sub (than kefir) for the buttermilk?
robin L. April 28, 2020
...or would plain whole milk yogurt be a better sub (than kefir) for the buttermilk?
Jessie S. April 28, 2020
not sure if you saw my below response, which is that I've never baked with kefir before but if you have and u know it's a good liquid dairy substitute, go for it. but yogurt is def a good bet. someone mentioned that they'd done (see below) and it turned out great.
Cgraeff April 30, 2020
I substitute Kefir for buttermilk all the time in my baking and I have always had success. Same volume.
I don’t know about the French roast ground coffee beans. I interpreted the ingredients to be instant espresso powder. Do you have instant coffee? I think that would be better.
Jessie S. April 30, 2020
Thanks for weighing in!
heathdur September 25, 2020
Yes. I live in Turkey and do not have access to buttermilk. I use kefir instead all the time.
Jessie S. September 25, 2020
Thanks for weighing in!
Marissa S. April 20, 2020
Made the recipe as is (except buttermilk for greek yogurt because #covid) and it turned out perfectly. Loved it! Thank you so much for the recipe -- can't wait to make it again!
Jessie S. April 20, 2020
Yay! So glad you enjoyed and that you’d make it again! Be well.
kristiek April 11, 2020
I only have unsweetened cocoa powder - what would the measurements for baking soda and baking powder be in this case?
Jessie S. April 11, 2020
I wouldn't worry about changing the leavening, even though you are subbing natural cocoa powder for the dutch process - I think it will still turn out just fine.
leliss April 10, 2020
Made this yesterday and it turned out great! Couldn't taste or see the carrots at all! Loved the video with Jessie on Instagram showing the recipe. Constructive criticism for next time: I would have like to see the texture of the carrots she used there, but that was not shown in the video.

I used plain greek yogurt instead of the extra yolk and instead of the buttermilk. I also only made a 1/2 batch of the frosting and it was more than adequate for the whole cake because of its small size. Great recipe, thanks again!
Jessie S. April 10, 2020
Thanks for the great feedback! And yes: I should have showed the carrots up close. I grated them with a micro plane, as I mentioned so they were super finely ground, just so u know, in case u make it again (which I hope u do!).