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The BEST EVER Carrot Cake Recipe

Sharing the BEST EVER Carrot Cake Recipe

A couple of weeks back, I shared the menu for my dad’s 80th birthday celebration.  In the post, I referenced the Best Ever Carrot Cake and told you I’d be back with the carrot cake recipe.  

Even though I’m sharing it with you a week later than I had intended, I promise you, it’s definitely worth the wait. This Southern Living recipe has been in my recipe binder for many years. In fact, I know I made it as the birthday cake for my son’s 1st birthday, and he is now almost 16! (Gulp)  

It is one of a handful of recipes that I just don’t mess with it.  Some others include Cook’s Illustrated’s Pad Thai and Martha Stewart’s Classic Apple Pie.

It is, by far, the most requested dessert in my dessert repertoire.  My entire family, with the exception of my mom, usually requests this cake for their birthday, as well as other ‘cake-worthy’ occasions.  It’s a bit of a labor of love as the recipe instructs you to line the bottom and sides of your cake pans with greased and floured parchment paper, because of the moistness of the cake.  

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This past time, I used my brand new Williams-Sonoma Cleartouch cake pans, so risked not lining the sides, though I did line the bottom.  I did not have any problem, but I’m not sure I would risk not lining the bottom of the pan in the future.  

Full disclosure, other than the carrots, pineapple, and coconut, this is a truly decadent dessert.  The buttermilk glaze poured over the just-out-of-the-oven cake layers makes the cake impossibly moist.  I’ve toyed with the idea of skipping the glaze because the thought of pouring melted butter and corn syrup over cake makes my arteries a little jittery (and other parts a little jiggly); however,  I’m really afraid to mess with success.  Plus, we have this cake only 3-4 times a year, and you really should eat decadent desserts at least that often!  Right?

the Best Ever Carrot Cake Recipe

So, without further ado, here’s the recipe for The BEST EVER Carrot Cake

Best Carrot Cake

Southern Living Magazine, October, 1997
A decadently moist and flavorful carrot cake.
4.60 from 5 votes
Save Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings


For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 8- ounce can crushed pineapple drained
  • 1 3 1/2- ounce can flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Buttermilk Glaze

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine softened
  • 1 8- ounce package cream cheese softened
  • 1 3- ounce package cream cheese softened
  • 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • Line 3 (9-inch) round cakepans with wax paper; lightly grease and flour wax paper. Set pans aside.
  • Stir together first 4 ingredients.
  • Beat eggs and next 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Fold in carrot and next 3 ingredients. Pour batter into prepared cakepans.
  • Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Drizzle Buttermilk Glaze evenly over layers; cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.

Buttermilk Glaze

  • Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a heavy pot or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring often, 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.


My modifications:
I don't buy sweetened coconut. I just use Bob's Red Mill (unsweetened) Shredded Coconut since it really doesn't need to be sweeter.
I told you that I didn't line the sides of the pans, but I did use Bak-Kleene non-stick spray, from Williams-Sonoma
I find that one batch of the cream cheese frosting is not quite enough, so I make a recipe and a half by using 2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1 cup butter and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Well, what did you think?Please rate this recipe here! It helps other readers and also helps to support our site.

 Does your family have a go-to favorite Birthday/Celebration Cake?  What is it?  Always looking for good dessert recipes.

The Very Best Ever Carrot Cake Recipe from Southern Living Magazine. This is our family's go to dessert for those special occasions.

If you think this recipe looks good, you should also check out my coconut cake with mango filling recipe. I tried to replicate the coconut cake that our favorite local Thai restaurant serves!

You might also like this simple carrot bread recipe. Carrot bread is similar to carrot cake but a little healthier with less sugar. But you’ll never miss the sugar in this moist and flavorful quick bread.

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Until next time…

Thanks for making my day by SHARING!!

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    1. Erin, there are very few things that can beat cream cheese frosting! I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does. Looking forward to seeing you new website!


    1. Hmm….I’m scared to sub the oil…but I guess you have success so I might give it a try. Do you glaze yours as well? I’d imagine the applesauce does make it very moist. Have you shared your recipe on your website?

  1. I’ve made this carrot cake once before and it was delicious. I was wondering if it could be a sheet cake instead if the layers?

    1. Hi Wendy…I don’t see why not! I’d probably still really line the pan so it doesn’t stick. Please come back and tell me how it works!

      Have a great weekend.

      Hugs, Lynn

    1. Hi Shannon,

      I wouldn’t bother trying to replace them. This cake will be delicious either way! And since you don’t eat pineapple anyway, you won’t miss the taste of it in the cake.


    2. I’d try peach & ginger (sweet & tart) or maybe mango if you want to add something to replace pineapple.

    1. Hi Lucie,

      I’m with you, I don’t like using it either. Truly, this is probably the only recipe I use it in. That said, it is in the glaze and it is such a small amount, I wouldn’t hesitate to swap it out for honey. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that swap myself and will surely give it a try the next time I make the cake.

      Thanks for putting that thought out there.

      Enjoy the cake.


  2. 5 stars
    I just made this cake on the weekend for my husband’s 65th birthday.
    It was a little fussy with the extra glaze but it was totally worth it.
    It tasted like a cake from a high end restaurant.
    I didn’t buy enough cream cheese so just added a wee bit in
    between the cake layers and kept the rest of the icing for the sides and top
    and it was just right for us. Will make it this way in the future.
    Thanks Lynn. You are the only blog I subscribe to and I truly get a lot out of it
    every week!

    1. Hi Colleen,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Like you said, it is a bit fussy, but so very worth it and I find it better than most I order in restaurants.

      It is a special occasion cake, for sure!

      Hugs, Lynn

4.60 from 5 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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