Carrot cake is known for its delicious flavor and moist texture. The classic recipe of the cake is made from grated carrots along with a mix of spices and nuts.
However, one of the aspects that give carrot cakes their unique flavor is the frosting. Besides being soft and sweet, it gives the cake a rich, creamy finish that perfectly complements its sweetness.
In today’s guide, I’ll show you what kind of frosting to use for carrot cakes as well as delicious alternatives to consider. So without further ado, let’s dive right in!
The classic recipe for carrot cake also comes with traditional frosting, which is cream cheese frosting.
As the name suggests, this one is made mainly from cream cheese, but it has a generally softer texture that makes it easy to spread while retaining its shape.
Cream cheese frosting is considered a variety of buttercream and has similar ingredients, which are butter, sugar, and cream cheese.
You can also boost the flavor of the frosting by adding extra flavoring agents, such as orange zest or caramel.
Now that you know more about carrot cake’s classic frosting, here’s a brief guide that shows you how to make it the right way.
First, you’ll need to prepare the necessary ingredients for the recipe, and luckily, they’re easy to find in markets.
The following recipe is ideal to ice a medium-large carrot cake with slight excess, but you can adjust it according to the batch size.
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened to around room temperature (make sure it’s the solid brick style, not the spreadable one)
- 1 stick (around 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, also softened to room temperature. You can also substitute this one with margarine.
- Around 2 cups of sugar, preferably sifted to ensure uniform granular size. You can go up to 4 cups if you like the frosting a bit sweeter.
- 1 tablespoon of liquid vanilla extract
- A dash of fine sea salt (around 1/4 teaspoon)
With all the ingredients ready, here’s how to turn them into cream cheese frosting:
- Prepare a stand or handheld mixer with a large clean bowl and a paddle attachment
- Add the cream cheese and beat it for a few seconds until it’s smooth, then add the butter and beat the mix for 30 to 60 seconds until they’re fully combined with no lumps.
- Once the combination is smooth, add the vanilla and salt, then allow them to combine for a few more seconds
- Turn down the mixer’s speed, then gradually add the granulated sugar to the mix until the whole batch is added and combined.
Now that the frosting is ready, you can use it directly on the cake’s top or load it into a piping tool for a decorative finish.
Cream cheese frosting can last for up to 3 days in the fridge, so you can prepare it before the cake and take it out once you’re ready for frosting.
However, you should allow the frosting to cool down for 10 to 15 minutes before frosting the cake so that it’s easy to spread.
While storing cream cheese frosting in the fridge, make sure that you keep it in an airtight container so that it doesn’t dry out.
Keep in mind that you can keep cream cheese frosting at room temperature for a whole day, so you don’t need to refrigerate cream cheese frosting if you’re making the cake on the same day.
Now that you know how to prepare the original recipe for cream cheese frosting, you can actually adjust the recipe to mix things up and creatively give your frosting and cake a unique flavor that compliments carrot cake. Here are some excellent variations to consider:
The tangy flavor of orange and lemon zest perfectly complements carrots and gives a unique sweet and sour flavor.
To add this flavor, add 1/2 tablespoon of zest along with the vanilla and salt addition step, and continue stirring.
This one gives warm, rich undertones to your cream cheese frosting. To prepare it, you’ll need to soften caramel candies with some water or add salted caramel sauce to the frosting while adding the vanilla.
You can also give the cake a unique and rich flavor by adding some maple syrup to the mix while beating butter and cream cheese together.
If you want to give your frost a bit more texture and crunch, you can add some chopped nuts while combining the ingredients.
This marks the end of today’s guide that walks you through carrot cake frosting and how to prepare it.
As you can see, preparing cream cheese frosting is fairly easy, and you can add a variety of flavoring agents to the mix to enjoy a more complex and delicious taste!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.