Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

in Cakes & Cupcakes

Carrot Ginger Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with Martha Stewart over the last 12 years. It only makes sense that a woman who churns out so many recipes would produce a few duds and an occasional doozie. For the moment, she’s in my good graces. Martha might have to come to my home and throw out my Thanksgiving turkey 10 minutes before dinner to undo all the good she has done with this carrot cake recipe.

Carrot cake isn’t really something that’s ever made me sit upright in the middle of the night. The cream cheese frosting that typically adorns such a cake, yes. The cake itself, not so much. Veggies for dessert – it’s an oxymoron. And blasphemy.

This cake is simply the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten. The cake is very moist. It isn’t overly-spiced – I think that the cinnamon and ginger is perfect enough. The cream cheese frosting? Well, that just goes without saying.

No photo essay of the four layer slice of heaven that graced the Mother’s Day dessert table – it didn’t last the afternoon.

Carrot Ginger Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Fresh orange juice and ginger make the very best carrot cake and cream cheese frosting.


  • Unsalted butter, for pans
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 cup (3 ounces) pecan halves
  • 1 lb large carrots, peeled
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • For the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 (8-oz each) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • Pinch of salt
  • Splash of orange juice


  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans. Dust pans with flour, and tap out any excess. Set pans aside. Spread pecans in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan, and toast in the oven until lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and let stand until completely cool. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees. Finely chop pecans, and set aside.
  2. Using the smallest holes (less than 1/4 inch in diameter) of a box grater, grate carrots, yielding 2 1/2 cups. Place carrots, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, sugar, vegetable oil, and ginger in a large bowl; whisk until well combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until combined. Fold in the toasted pecans.
  4. Divide batter between the two cake pans, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middles comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove pans from oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool, 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack; let stand until completely cool.
  5. Using a serrated knife, trim tops of the cakes so surfaces are level. Slice each layer in half horizontally. Place a layer on a cake stand or cardboard round, and spread 3/4 cup frosting over top. Place a second cake layer on top, and spread with another 3/4 cup frosting. Repeat with third layer and another 3/4 cup frosting. Place last cake layer on top, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and the sides of the assembled cake. Transfer to refrigerator, and chill 3 to 4 hours.
  6. To make the frosting, place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, and beat until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Add the remaining ingredients, and beat 5 minutes more. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days. Makes 5 cups.


Yields: 4-layer 8 or 9 inch cake

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Estimated time: 1 hour 30 minutes

16 comments… add one
  • I LOVE carrot cake. I’ll save this recipe for future use! Thanks.

  • See, for me, Carrot Cake is one of those “sit up in the middle of the night” dishes

  • I can perfectly understand your feelings for martha. to tell you the truth for me as a wedding planner martha is for sure a great source of news ideas and infos , but sometimes she really makes me fell..useless 😀 she is always so full of ideas .
    Oh saint Mrtha protect me 😀 but this cake is absoulotely fantastic!
    So chic!
    Have a great day

  • I have to confess that I am not a fan of carrot cake but YOURS looks beautiful.

    Thanks Sharona May

  • Amanda

    Carrot cake is a favorite of mine, and I heard good things about yours, so I’ll give this recipe a try. Thanks!

  • I think we all feel that way about Martha. She drives us crazy, but we STILL want her to be our friend! The cake is beautiful, and I’m sure everyone was impressed!

  • Lindsay

    The fact that you rave about a cake you normally don’t like makes me wonder if someone who loves carrot cake will like it just as much (meaning, me!). Also, I feel exactly the same about Martha.

  • I’ve always kind of thought that eating the carrot cake was the price one paid for getting at the cream cheese frosting….
    I may have to rethink that….

  • I haven’t come across any bad Martha Stewart recipes yet, thankfully. I’ve found a couple of really yummy carrot cake recipes but I’m always willing to try another! You’ve convinced me I should try this one.

  • Oh, fantastic! Man, now I just need someone to have a birthday or something so I don’t feel too indulgent. Thanks for sharing: I can tasted the spices, citrus, and cream cheese now!

  • I haven’t tried any of the recipes on your site yet, (strawberry from scratch cake will be happening tonight) so I therefore I’m not sure how different your palate is from mine. You stated that this cake is simply the best carrot cake you’ve ever eaten huh? Do you think a child (age 4-10) would agree or are the flavors a little too bold for the smaller set. I’ve noticed that with kids, they don’t like to taste their food….well, they don’t particularly like food if they can taste all of the individual ingredients, they just want a nice cohesive taste…do you know what I’m trying to say?

    • @Gwenevere, I totally know what you’re saying. My sister used to swirl her mashed potatoes, gravy, and ketchup together into a pink blob. She refused to eat them apart [Shudder] I personally didn’t come around to carrot cake until I was older than that. But the fresh ginger in the cake and the orange in the cream cheese really push it over the top. It has been a big hit with the adults everywhere I have taken it.

  • This cake was so good. SOOOOO GOOD. I modified the frosting so that it would stand up on cupcakes but, yes, I think this may possibly be the greatest carrot cake. I wish I knew how to measure ginger though. do you measure a nub and then grate it all up or do you measure the fluffy stuff before it swishes…very tricky. I just threw in whatever I felt like and it worked out. Yummmmm. Thank you

  • Alice

    I made this cake for a Mother’s Day dinner we prepared for my mother-in-law and it was a huge hit! The cake itself is so fresh and light with the addition of the ginger, but the frosting really sent it over the top. I’ve never even been a big fan of carrot cake, but I think I’m converted now 🙂

  • Cindy

    How did you create the 4 layers for the cake that disappeared in one afternoon? Did you double the recipe here or cut the 2 layers into 4? Thanks so much. I love the stories that go with your recipes!

    • Cindy

      Oka – so maybe I should read the whole recipe first 🙂 I cannot wait to try this recipe!

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