This caramel carrot cake is an easy fuss-free dessert that is a real crowd pleaser! Simple to make and deliciously moist, it’s topped with silky caramel cream cheese frosting.
Carrot Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
I love to make carrot cake for family and friends when I host dinner. It’s so easy to make and is always a hit! It makes a wonderful Easter dessert and I look forward to serving it every year. This salted caramel carrot cake takes it to a whole new level!
The key to a great carrot cake is moisture! This caramel carrot cake achieves its moist crumb from a few ingredients. First, we use oil which works so well to add moisture to the batter. We also use crushed pineapple which adds more moisture and a sweet tang. Finally, the freshly grated carrots help to keep it perfectly moist for days.
The caramel cream cheese frosting uses dulce de leche with a little bit of salt for a salted caramel flavor. It’s a great take on traditional cream cheese frosting and goes well with so many different baked desserts. I also love to use it on my carrot cake cupcakes.
What is Dulce de Leche?
Keeping with the theme of an easy dessert, this recipe calls for using prepared dulce de leche. It usually comes in either jars or cans and you can check for it in your local grocery store or you can also find it online.
It’s a delicious spread that has a great caramel flavor and is usually made with milk or condensed milk and sugar. It has a creamier texture than regular caramel which is made with water and sugar but you can also use homemade caramel sauce in this frosting, if preferred.
You can use dulce de leche to decorate cakes as I’m doing here and it’s also great in brownies, on ice cream, and sandwiched between cookies!
How to Make Caramel Carrot Cake
The great thing about this cake is that it only takes a few minutes of preparation before you bake it in the oven.
- Prepare your pan. Heat the oven and line an 8×8 inch baking pan or cake pan with parchment paper. I like to spray the inside of the pan lightly with cooking spray to make sure the cake releases easily once it’s baked.
- Whisk dry ingredients. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt to a medium mixing bowl and whisk everything together to combine.
- Mix wet ingredients. Add the oil and sugars together in a large mixing bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in the eggs, carrots, pineapple, and vanilla and combine.
- Add dry ingredients. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir everything with a wooden spoon until you no longer see any trace of white flour. Be careful not to overmix at this stage or your cake may end up tough.
- Bake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden brown.
Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
When making this frosting, make sure you let your ingredients come to room temperature. Everything will blend smoothly, and you won’t be stuck with lumpy frosting!
Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, dulce de leche, and salt. Keep mixing just until everything is smooth. If you mix it too long, your frosting may end up runny. If you do need to thicken it, add more powdered sugar.
Let the cake cool completely before you frost it. I like to spread the caramel frosting all over the top and then drop tiny spoonful’s of dulce de leche on top of the frosting. Finally, I make a swirl pattern by taking a knife and dragging it gently through to create a pretty pattern.
Tips for Recipe Success
Here are some tips that will help ensure your caramel carrot cake turns out perfectly every time!
- Full-fat block-style cream cheese works the best in this frosting recipe. It really creates a rich flavor and texture. If you use lower-fat varieties, your frosting will be thinner.
- Use room temperature ingredients for both the cake and frosting. Everything will be much easier to mix. Check out these posts for quick tips on how to soften cream cheese and how to soften butter.
- Be careful not to overmix the cake batter as it can cause the cake to become tough. Just combine everything until you no longer see any traces of flour.
- Doubling this recipe is easy! If you’re serving a bigger crowd, you can check out the recipe card for the amounts of the ingredients you’ll need to bake a 9×13” cake or a 2 layer 9” round cake.
This cake is amazing as is, but if you’d like to jazz it up a bit, here are some options for additional add-ins:
- Nuts – Walnuts or pecans work well here. You can even toast them before adding them to the batter for added flavor and crunch.
- Raisins – They add sweetness and moisture to the cake.
- Maple syrup – If you’d like to add a maple flavor, stir a spoonful of maple syrup into your frosting along with the dulce de leche for enhanced flavor.
- Nutmeg – Adding a bit of nutmeg along with the cinnamon really warms up the spices. This is especially delicious during the fall.
Your caramel carrot cake can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the fridge for up to 1 week. I like to remove the cake from the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.
More Caramel Desserts
- Chocolate Fudge Caramel Brownies – Loaded with layers of gooey caramel.
- Ooey Gooey Carmelitas – A chewy oatmeal cookie crust with chocolate and caramel.
- Homemade Caramel Corn – Made in just 15 minutes!
- Coconut Caramel Cookies – Pure caramel, coconut and chocolate heaven!
- Homemade Twix Bars – These taste better than the store-bought candy!
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Caramel Carrot Cake
- ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar , packed
- 2 large eggs , beaten
- 1 cup packed freshly grated carrots , about 2 large carrots
- ½ cup crushed pineapple , drained
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
- 3 ounces cream cheese , softened
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup dulce de leche , plus more for swirling
- Pinch salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray with cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
- In a large bowl, stir the oil, sugar, and brown sugar together with a wooden spoon until mixed. Stir in the eggs, carrots, pineapple, and vanilla until well combined. Add the flour mixture, and stir until no specks of white flour remain.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely.
Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
- In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, dulce de leche, and salt until smooth. Add more powdered sugar, if needed, until you reach desired thickness and sweetness.
- To frost the cake, spread the frosting in an even layer over the top of the cooled cake. Make a swirl by evenly dropping 9 dots of dulce de leche in the frosting. Using a knife, swirl the dulce de leche with the frosting in a pretty pattern.
- Cover until ready to serve. Cut into squares and enjoy.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!
This was amazing! I had no idea that caramel would be such an amazing pairing with carrot cake, but it certainly was. We were totally blown away!
I’m so happy to hear you loved it :)
Everyone loved the added salted caramel on this carrot cake. Going to make again for Easter!