We all know I’m not about to make a 3-layer cake, but I can make these Mini Carrot Cakes that looks just as impressive and a whole lot cuter. They make an adorable Easter centerpiece or platter and can be easily customized.
Individual cakes stacked with rich cream cheese frosting are easy to make, can be made ahead of time and are also just so darn cute!
Mini Carrot Cake Recipe
Can you believe I didn’t like carrot cake for many years? I know, it’s crazy. I started to turn a corner when I discovered the deliciousness of cream cheese frosting.
From there I also decidedly like carrot cake… and anything else cream cheese frosting could be slathered with.
Giant cakes just aren’t my thing, so I originally made carrot cake cupcakes before seeing this idea- stacked naked cakes. Perfect- right up my “I need something easy” alley.
I’m breaking these up into the cake and frosting section. The cake is basically a doctored up cake mix with pudding which creates a silky and super moist spice cake base.
- Spice cake mix– We tested with Betty Crocker, however any 15.25 ounce box of dry cake mix should do the trick.
- Instant vanilla pudding– Make sure it is instant pudding, not traditional.
- Spices– Ground nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves amplify the spice blend present in the cake mix. The aroma while it bakes is intoxicating. In a pinch you can also use 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie or apple spice mix.
- Vegetable oil– Any neutral oil will work, but vegetable and canola oil are my go-tos.
- Water- If I need to tell you about water, we’ve got other problems…
- Eggs– Large eggs are the standard unless specified otherwise. Please do not use only egg whites, this isn’t supposed to be a low cal or low fat recipe and the egg yolks help to keep it moist.
- Carrots- It’s carrot cake, after all! Make sure the carrots are finely, finely shredded. I use the finest setting on a box grater or you can put them into a food processor and pulse. Do not use the shredded carrot from the store, they are too big and also dry. Moisture from the carrots will also help keep the cake moist.
For the cream cheese frosting:
While I love a good homemade frosting, there are also pretty stellar store bought frostings and sometimes even the bakery will sell you a tub of their homemade version. You do need a good amount, so if you buy tubs, you might need 2-3.
- Unsalted butter- I prefer unsalted so I can control the saltiness and add my own. If you use salted, omit additional salt.
- Cream Cheese- Full fat provides the richest flavor, but reduced fat can be swapped.
- Fine sea salt- Sea salt gives a clean salt aftertaste, opposed to iodized which can taste metallic, Salt is optional, but heightens the other natural flavors and balances the sugar.
- Vanilla extract- the standard, however almond can be used too, or a blend of the two which is mind-blowing!
- Powdered sugar– Sometimes called confectioners sugar, it is a super fine sugar blend perfect for frostings.
Start by preparing the cake.
- Preheat the oven and prepare an 11”x17” rimmed baking sheet (jelly roll pan) with cooking spray. If you use another other dimension, it could throw off the baking time. Something smaller will make less cakes.
- Sift together the cake mix, pudding mix, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves in a large mixing bowl. Sifting (I like the hand crank version) helps to equally incorporate all the flavors so you don’t end up with pockets. If you don’t have a sifter, whisk them together.
- Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients on low with a hand mixer for 2 minutes. Fold in the carrots by hand until just blended so you aren’t left with orange streaks.
- Pour the batter into prepared baking sheet. If you use a smaller pan (10×15), you’ll need to remove about 1/2 cup of batter and you’ll make 9 cakes.
- Bake until the cake is lightly browned, pulls away from the sides.
- Allow the cake to cool and then chill is ,uncovered for about an hour. Let is cool first or the condensation will build and the top will get gummy. It is actually better if it gets a wee bit dried out so it isn’t sticky while working.
- Spray a 2.5 inch round cookie cutter with cooking spray to prevent sticking, then cut out the circles. Cookie cutters work best (opposed to biscuit cutters) because the metal is thinner and sharper. Press straight down and then pull up (do not twist it). Be mindful to make your cuts close together so you have enough cake for 24 circles. Some might crack a little and that is fine- you’ll be smothering them with frosting anyhow.
- Carefully transfer them to a piece of parchment paper or work space. Parchment works well because they won’t stick.
For the frosting:
If you choose to make your own frosting, it is pretty straightforward.
- Cream together the butter, cream cheese and salt until light and fully blended and then add the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat until it’s light and fluffy, approximately 2 minutes.
Frosting the Cakes
- Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round or star tip attachment. You can also slather it on using an offset spatula.
- Pipe a large dollop onto 12 of the circles and then sandwich with another circle and top with more frosting.
- Decorate or top as desired.
Carrot Cake Toppings
Make them all the same or have fun and make several options. Here are our favorite carrot cake toppings.
- Chopped pecans
- Finely shredded carrots– make sure you top these right before serving or the carrots get dry.
- Candied walnuts
- Frosting carrots– Grab a tube of green and orange frosting at the store with screw on tips and then pipe out mini carrots.
- Bourbon caramel sauce– for those of us who like it boozy.
- Praline caramel sauce
- Caramel sauce with fleur de sel – I love the crunchy texture of flaky sea salt.
- Spice cake crumbs– See below with what to do with the leftover cake.
What to Do With the Leftover Cake
You will be left with shreds of leftover spice cake. Unless you are like me and munched on it while making these.
You can use these to make homemade cake pops, crumble it up and use it as a topping for the cakes (like red velvet cake) or cube it and layer it with whipped cream or pudding to make mini trifles. You’ll have enough for about two in rocks or wine glasses.
Mini carrot cakes can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When ready to serve, remove and allow to warm for 15 minutes before serving. The frosting will get a little crust on it, but I actually like that texture.
We do not recommend freezing these cakes. While you can technically freeze the circular cakes before frosting, they are very delicate and have the tendency to break and crack.
More Spring Recipes:
Mini Carrot Cakes
- Cooking spray
- 15.25 ounce spice cake mix
- 3.4 ounce box instant vanilla pudding
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup water
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups carrots , finely shredded, about 2-3 large carrots
For the frosting:
- ½ cup unsalted butter , softened to room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese , softened to room temperature
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 325℉ and coat a 11”x17” rimmed baking sheet with baking spray. Set aside.
- Sift together the cake mix, pudding mix, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves in a large mixing bowl.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, blend dry ingredients with the oil, water and eggs on low with a hand mixer for 2 minutes. By hand, fold in the carrots.
- Pour the batter into prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 25-28 minutes until the cake is lightly browned, pulls away from the sides and passes a toothpick test.
- Remove and allow the cake to cool fully, then place it into the refrigerator to cool for a minimum of one hour. Do not cover.
- Remove from the refrigerator. Spray a 2.5 inch round cookie cutter with cooking spray and then cut out the circles of cake. Make sure to cut closely together and right on the seams to ensure you have enough space for 24 circles. Carefully transfer them to a piece of parchment paper or work space. Set side.
For the frosting:
- In a medium mixing bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese and salt until light and fully blended.
- Add in the vanilla and powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and mix until light and fluffy.
- Spoon the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round or star tip attachment. Alternately, you can slather it on using an offset spatula.
- Pipe a large dollop onto 12 of the circles and then sandwich with another circle. Make another large (and potentially more decorative) dollop on the top of each.
- Leave plain or decorate with pecans, freshly shredded carrot, candied walnuts or even use green and orange frosting to pipe out small carrots.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.