If you love carrot cake, but just want a simple single layer carrot cake that serves a few people, you’ll love this Small Carrot Cake Recipe! It’s moist and tender with walnuts and a homemade cream cheese frosting!
Single layer cakes are definitely my go-to dessert! A simple 8 or 9-inch cake (like this orange spice cake) is usually the perfect amount for a small gathering and it’s so much easier to assemble and store.
Since I have a serious love for carrot cake, but don’t always need a full size cake like this coconut carrot bundt cake, I decided to make a single layer 9-inch square carrot cake for Easter this year.
It still has everything you love in a carrot cake. It’s moist and tender with plenty of spices and grated carrots, crunchy walnuts and a rich cream cheese frosting.
But, instead of a multi-layer cake or bundt cake, it’s just a small batch, one layer carrot cake perfect for serving 4-6 people (assuming a few of them have seconds)!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Simple single layer cake. You don’t need to fuss with assembling and frosting multiple layers. Just frost the top and you’re good to go.
- Make ahead recipe. This cake tastes even better the next day so feel free to make it a day or two in advance.
- Easy to store. I find single layer cakes are so much easier to store than double layer cakes or bundt cakes, especially when fridge space is limited.
- Perfectly spiced. As carrot cakes are essentially spice cakes, this one has all the warm and cozy spices including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
- Snack cake or fancy dessert. This cake is simple enough to enjoy as a snack cake and impressive enough to serve at your next spring or Easter gathering.
Small carrot cake ingredients
*Below is an overview of some of the ingredients for this cake. See the recipe card below for the full list of ingredients and quantities used.
Carrots – Carrots are obviously an essential ingredient for this cake. They add a little sweetness but also create that classic moist and tender carrot cake texture. You’ll want to freshly grate your carrots by using the smaller holes on a box grater.
Sugar – The recipe calls for a mix of coconut sugar and cane sugar. They not only add sweetness, but moisture too.
Spices – I used ground cinnamon and a small amount of ginger, nutmeg and cloves to create the spice cake flavor. You can change up the ratio of spices, if you prefer.
Oil – Oil is typically used in carrot cakes instead of butter to keep them ultra moist. This also helps carrot cakes taste freshly baked for days. I used extra virgin olive oil in this recipe, but you can also use vegetable or canola oil.
Walnuts – You’ll want to use chopped walnuts for this cake. If you can’t find chopped walnuts, you can use pieces or halves and just pulse them in your food processor or crush them with a rolling pin.
How to make a single layer carrot cake
Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly spray a 9-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray and line the bottom and sides with slightly overhanging parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the almond milk and lemon juice. Let sit for 5 minutes until the milk curdles.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, curdled milk, oil, egg and vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth (but don’t over mix).
Fold in the grated carrots and chopped walnuts.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in the pan.
How to make cream cheese frosting
Soften the cream cheese and butter at room temperature.
Add both to a deep mixing bowl and beat on high until creamed together.
Add the vanilla and gradually beat in the powdered sugar until smooth and the frosting reaches your desired thickness and sweetness.
- While the recipe calls for unsweetened almond milk, you can also use cashew milk or dairy milk.
- If you don’t have cane sugar, granulated sugar can be used as a substitute.
- While I haven’t tested this recipe with brown sugar, I usually have success substituting it for coconut sugar.
- Leave out the walnuts or swap in some chopped pecans.
Make ahead instructions
I think this carrot cake is best made in advance. It’s such a moist cake that you can make it 1-2 days in advance and it’s still soft and tender. Even frosting the cake a day in advance gives the cream cheese frosting time to set up.
If you want to make it a few months in advance, you can store the unfrosted carrot cake in the freezer for up to 3 months. Just let it cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container or large resealable freezer bag before freezing it. Let it thaw at room temperature before frosting.
The frosted carrot cake should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge, where it will last for 4-5 days.
Leftover pieces of the frosted cake also freeze well. Just place the pieces in a single layer in an airtight container and freeze for 1-2 months. Defrost in the fridge before enjoying.
Frequently asked questions
Cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg are the typical spices in a carrot cake. Some versions, including this one, also contain cloves and some others may include allspice. The version I’m sharing is heavy on the cinnamon and doesn’t include as much ginger as other recipes. Feel free to adjust the ratio of spices to suit your taste.
Since this cake only bakes for 25 minutes, you’ll want your carrots grated as small as possible so they cook quickly. I use the small holes on my box grater to do this. I don’t recommend using pre-packaged shredded carrots as they’re usually too large and dry. Freshly grated carrots add the moisture that’s essential for a classic carrot cake.
This cake was made in a 9×2 inch square pan. If you don’t have a pan this size, I suggest using a 10×2-inch round pan as they’re comparable in surface area and volume. I haven’t tested this cake in an 8-inch square pan. Sometimes baking a cake in a smaller pan can cause the cake to sink in the middle as there’s too much batter for the size of the pan. If you do try it in an 8-inch square pan, I suggest adding another 5 minutes to the baking time. Always check for doneness by using the toothpick test.
This cake only takes 25 minutes to bake at 350F.
I’ve only tested this carrot cake recipe with whole wheat flour. It’s more absorbent than all-purpose white flour, so to make the substitution you will need to adjust the ratio of wet and dry ingredients.
Key recipe tips
- Measuring flour. Spoon and level the flour to ensure you use the correct quantity for this recipe.
- Grated carrots. Use freshly grated carrots and avoid large shreds or prepackaged shredded carrots.
- Parchment paper. Line the pan with slightly overhanging parchment paper. This ensures the cake doesn’t stick and makes it easy to lift the cake out of the pan. (Spray the pan with oil first so the parchment paper sticks and doesn’t move around while you spread out the batter).
- Room temperature butter and cream cheese. Make sure your butter and cream cheese are softened at room temperature so they cream together easily and create a smooth texture for the frosting.
- Sweeter frosting. I like my cream cheese frosting less sweet with a more pronounced cream cheese flavor so I normally just use 2 – 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar. For a sweeter and thicker froster, just add more powdered sugar.
- Let the cake cool before frosting. If the cake is not fully cooled, the cream cheese frosting will start to melt as you spread it on.
More carrot cake recipes
More single layer cake recipes
If you make this small carrot cake recipe, please leave a comment and rating below to let me know how it turned out!Print
This Small Carrot Cake Recipe is a moist and tender single layer carrot cake with walnuts, warm spices and a homemade cream cheese frosting!
- 1 cup whole wheat flour, spooned and leveled
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrot (see note)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Cream cheese frosting:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, full fat brick (room temperature)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 2–3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Additional chopped walnuts to sprinkle on top (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F and lightly spray a 9-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray and line the bottom and sides with slightly overhanging parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the almond milk and lemon juice. Let sit for 5 minutes until the milk curdles.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, curdled milk, oil, egg and vanilla.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth (but don’t over mix).
- Fold in the carrots and walnuts.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool completely in the pan.
- Add the cream cheese and butter to a deep mixing bowl and beat on high until creamed together.
- Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. (Use more powdered sugar for a thicker and sweeter frosting).
- Spread the frosting onto the cooled cake and top with chopped walnuts (optional).
- Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before slicing and serving.
- Freshly grate your carrots by using the small holes on a box grater. Avoid larger shreds or prepackaged shredded carrots which can be dry.
- Walnuts are optional. Leave them out or use pecans instead.
- Make sure your butter and cream cheese are softened at room temperature so they cream together easily and create a smooth texture for the frosting.
- I like my cream cheese frosting less sweet with a more pronounced cream cheese flavor so I use about 2 – 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar. For a sweeter and thicker froster, just add more powdered sugar.
- Let the cake cool completely before frosting. If the cake is still warm, the cream cheese frosting will start to melt as you spread it on.
- Be sure to check out the other sections above the recipe card for more detailed advice and suggestions for making this recipe.
Keywords: small batch, one layer, single layer, small carrot cake