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Brown Sugar Carrot Cake

This carrot cake is bursting with brown sugar flavor in the batter and frosting, and is loaded with a blend of crushed pineapple, carrots, pecans, coconut, and spices.

Carrot Cake

Carrot cakes are rich and decadent because they contain other things besides cake flour. This recipe has the obligatory grated carrots plus pineapple, pecans, coconut, and applesauce. Its cream cheese frosting has an added brown sugar sauce, making it buttery and delicious!

Brown Sugar Carrot Cake

Spices in Carrot Cake

This cake has a long ingredient list. Fear not, because several are spices. It contains cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Is it necessary to add that many? Yes, to create the delicious flavor of this cake. If you don’t like one of the flavors other than cinnamon, leave it out. However, if you leave out the cardamom, make up for it by adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. This is a spice cake, after all!

Brown Sugar Carrot Cake

Preparing this Carrot Cake

This three-layer cake can be made in one day or stretched over two days. Prepare the ingredients before starting because the prep work is a large part of this recipe. Consider grating the carrots a day ahead and keeping them in the refrigerator. The nuts can also be toasted beforehand. Or, you can buy toasted chopped nuts at the grocery store, saving prep time.

Brown Sugar Carrot Cake

Preparing the Pans for the Carrot Cake

Use three 8 or 9-inch cake pans for this recipe. Grease the pans with shortening, butter, or cooking oil. Cut three parchment paper circles (a little smaller than the pans) and place them into the bottom of each pan. Grease the parchments and then dust all the pans with flour. Greasing the bottom of the pans before adding the paper causes them to lie flat and stick to the pans, making it easier to finish preparing the pans.

TIP: You can buy precut round parchment paper in 8 or 9-inch diameter (or other sizes), making it easy to prepare the layer cake pans.

Mixing the Batter

You will not need a mixer to make the batter for this carrot cake because it can all be whisked and stirred by hand. Follow these steps.

Preparing the Sauce for Cream Cheese Frosting

While the cake layers bake, make the frosting. It is a two-step process that involves making a brown sugar butter sauce, cooling it, and adding it to the whipped cream cheese frosting. The sauce is easy to make but must be cooled before adding it to the frosting, or it can melt the butter and cream cheese. Make the sauce by adding all the ingredients except the vanilla extract to a small or medium-sized saucepan. The sauce will foam from the added baking soda, so make sure the pan is large enough to contain the sauce as it foams and expands. Boil the sauce for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Brown Sugar Carrot Cake
Stir the sauce while it boils. It will darken in color as it cooks.

Making the Cream Cheese Frosting

Make the frosting with a mixer and whip it until fluffy following these steps:

  1. Whip the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla.
  3. Beat well until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Add the cooled butter sauce and beat. The sauce will give the frosting a delicious buttery, brown sugar taste. The sauce contains buttermilk; however, you can substitute cream for it. The buttermilk tang disappears after cooking the sauce, creating a smooth brown sugar butter taste.
Brown Sugar Carrot Cake

Removing the Cakes from the Pans

The cakes are done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean or with crumbs. Remove the pans from the oven and let them sit for 10 or 15 minutes. Then, run a knife around the inside of the pan between the cake and the pan. This will help loosen the cake from the pan sides. Repeat for each pan, and then turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack. These cakes are soft and crumbly, so be careful not to break them when you flip them onto a cooling rack.

Remove the parchment paper by peeling it back and pulling it off each cake. Cool the layers before frosting them.

Frosting the Carrot Cake

Place the first cake layer on a cake stand. Use any leftover butter sauce by spooning it on top of each layer. Then add frosting to the first layer and spread it to cover the top. Continue until all the cakes are stacked and frosted. Then, frost the sides. This is a soft frosting. If it is too soft to work with, place it in the refrigerator to chill for a few minutes, and it will stiffen.

Adding Nuts

After frosting, add pecans around the cake. Place them one-third up the cake from the bottom. You can substitute another nut, such as walnuts, for the pecans in this recipe. Or you can leave them out altogether. The nuts around the cake serve as decoration and also enhance the nutty taste of the cake.

Brown Sugar Carrot Cake

Add Decorations to Your Carrot Cake

Leave your cake plain or add decorations to it. You can buy icing decorations and place them on your cake or make your own with fondant, frosting, or chocolate. I made carrots with white chocolate and gel food coloring. It was easy to do. Heat the chocolate in the microwave and add gel coloring. Pipe the carrots with a round tip and piping bag. Start at the top of the carrot and zigzag the chocolate, getting smaller until you end at a point. Create 6 large carrots for the top of the cake and 8 small ones to decorate the sides. Refrigerate the carrots to harden the chocolate; then add a green carrot top by mixing white chocolate and green gel coloring.

Use a leaf tip and pipe two leaves on the top of each carrot. Refer to the photos for inspiration. Then, refrigerate the carrots again to harden the green chocolate.

Decorate Using a Clock Template

Place the 6 large finished carrots in a circle on the top of the cake. Add the small carrot to the sides. Think of the top of the cake like a clock face. This will help you place the carrots evenly apart. Start at 12 o’clock and position a carrot. Add one at the 6 o’clock position. Then, add carrots at 2, 4, 8, and 10 o’clock positions.

Brown Sugar Carrot Cake

Decorate the sides of the cake in a similar fashion using a real or imagined clock template as a guide. You will press small carrots onto the sides at noon, 3, 6, and 9. Evenly space the other carrots halfway between noon and 3, 3 and 6, 6 and 9, and 9 and 12. When you think about spacing decorations on a round surface, an imagined clock face can help you space. things evenly.


Store this cake under a dome or wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator, and it will last several days. I do not recommend storing it on the countertop because of the cream cheese.

Brown Sugar Carrot Cake

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Brown Sugar Carrot Cake

Brown Sugar Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake made with brown sugar in the cake and the cream cheese frosting
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Cooling Time 16 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24
Calories 565 kcal


  • (3) 9-inch cake pans
  • parchment paper
  • 1 no. 10 round piping tip
  • 1 no. 66 leaf piping tip
  • 2 piping bags
  • mixer
  • Baking Sheet


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • teaspoon ground ginger
  • teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • (1) 8-ounce can crushed pineapple in juice, drained
  • 2 cups peeled and grated carrots
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (may use sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup buttermilk, shaken
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup toasted chopped pecans
Carrot Decorations (optional)
  • ¾ cup white chocolate wafers (divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup)
  • orange gel food coloring
  • green gel food coloring


  • Grease the cake pans. Cut out and add a parchment round in the bottom of each. Grease the parchments and then dust all the pans with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg in a mixing bowl and set aside.
  • Whisk the eggs, sugars, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla until well mixed in a large bowl.
  • Stir in the flour mixture until almost mixed. Then, stir in the applesauce, pineapple, carrots, coconut, and pecans. Be careful not to overmix.
  • Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean or with crumbs. Let the cake cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then, insert a knife between the pan and the cake, running it around to loosen it from the sides. Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack. Peel the parchment paper from the bottom. Repeat for each cake layer.
  • Place the butter, brown sugar, buttermilk, baking soda, and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool completely.
  • Add the cream cheese and butter to a mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until mixed well. Stop the mixer and add the powdered sugar. Place a towel over the mixer and mixing bowl to catch the sugar dust. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Add 3 tablespoons of the cooled butter sauce and beat.
  • Place the first cake layer on a cake plate. If there is butter mixture left over, spoon it on top of each layer. Add frosting to the top of the cake layer. Spread to cover the top. Add another layer and repeat until all the layers are stacked and have frosting on top of them. Then, coat the sides.
  • Use your palm to add chopped pecans to the bottom of the cake all the way around.
Carrot Decorations
  • Melt 1/2 cup of chocolate wafers in a microwaveable measuring cup or bowl with a handle. Heat on high for 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval. Stir until melted. Add drops of orange gel and stir. Place in a piping bag with a round tip.
  • Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Pipe (8) 1 1/2-inch carrots and (6) 2-inch ones onto the parchment paper by piping in a back-and-forth motion, wider at the top, and end in a point. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to harden the chocolate.
  • Add the rest of the chocolate wafers to a clean microwave-safe cup with a handle. Heat on high for 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval. Add green gel coloring until you reach the desired color. Add the leaf tip and chocolate to a piping bag. Pipe two leaves on top of each carrot. Return the chocolate carrots to the refrigerator to harden.
  • Place 6 large carrots on the top of the cake in a round pattern. Add the small carrots to the sides of the cake.
  • Cover and store the cake in the refrigerator.


Calories: 565kcalCarbohydrates: 69gProtein: 5gFat: 32gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 281mgPotassium: 180mgFiber: 2gSugar: 58gVitamin A: 2325IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 77mgIron: 1mg
Keyword brown sugar carrot cake, carrot cake
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