This Carrot Coffee Cake is sooooo good. It’s super moist, with a subtle crunch from a pecan streusel topping. I’ve included a cream cheese glaze as well because I like the classic pairing of cream cheese frosting and carrot cake, but you can skip it if you want – this carrot coffee cake is perfectly sweet and moist on its own. 

If you’re looking for a more traditional cake or something fancier, my layered Carrot Cake with Pineapple and Pecans is a symphony of flavors – it’s big, but it’s the best carrot cake. If you’d like more coffee cake recipes, check out my Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake or Banana Coffee Cake.

A square of Carrot Coffee Cake topped with a pecan streusel and cream cheese glaze/frosting on a white plate.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Best carrot cake recipe. This simple carrot cake recipe with butter, warm spices, and all the good stuff comes together quickly and tastes divine. No need to buy carrot cake when you can make something this fabulous at home!
  • Pecan crumble topping. Need I say more? The pecan crumble takes this tasty carrot cake to the next level. Toasting the pecans for the pecan topping adds a delightful texture to every carrot cake slice. 
  • Small carrot cake recipe. You know I love a big cake, but sometimes you don’t need a three-layer cake. This spiced carrot cake is an easy recipe that features everything we love about classic carrot cake in a smaller, more manageable package, perfect for Easter brunch or a weeknight treat.

Ingredient Notes

  • Carrots: Obviously we can’t have carrot cake without carrots! You’ll need 1½ cups of grated, lightly packed carrots – you can use a box grater or a food processor to grate carrots.
  • Spices: This spiced carrot cake with cinnamon and nutmeg also features a pinch of ginger and cloves.
  • Unsalted butter and oil: This simple carrot cake recipe with butter also features vegetable oil to help it be a delectably moist carrot cake. 
  • Sugar: Brown sugar adds wonderful caramel notes to this cake that perfectly complement the spices, while white sugar locks in moisture and inhibits gluten development to help this cake stay super soft.
  • Pecans: Pecans are my favorite nut to bake with. They’re just so yummy, and they pair perfectly with a variety of sweets. Here, they’re part of a pecan streusel that goes on top of the carrot coffee cake. (P.S. – If you’re wondering if streusel and crumble toppings are different – the terms are used interchangeably, so you’ll see me use both terms to describe the pecan topping in this recipe.)
  • Cream cheese: cream cheese frosting is a traditional carrot cake topping. I’ve included a recipe for a cream cheese glaze here – but honestly, this cake is great without the cream cheese drizzle. If you don’t like cream cheese frosting but would still like some sort of frosting, my Whipped Cream Frosting or Brown Butter Buttercream would be scrumptious!

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Make the pecan crumble. I recommend toasting your pecans before adding them to the streusel. Check out recipe tips for instructions on how to toast your pecans. Once pecans are toasted, set them aside to cool. In a small bowl, melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Mix the melted butter with ½ a cup of all-purpose flour, ½ a cup of brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Then, chop your toasted pecans and add ½ a cup of toasted pecans to the streusel. Set the pecan crumble topping aside or in the fridge so the butter will set.
  2. Prep your pan and oven. Preheat your oven to 350℉. Line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper, grease the parchment paper, and set aside. 
  3. Mix the wet ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix 1½ cups grated carrots, ½ a cup of granulated sugar, ⅓ a cup of light brown sugar, ⅓ a cup of vegetable oil, 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, 1 large egg, and 1 large egg yolk. Mix until combined. You can also mix the ingredients by hand in a large bowl with a whisk.
  4. Add the dry ingredients. Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon salt, and a pinch each of ground ginger and cloves directly to the bowl with the rest of the batter. Mix until just combined – don’t overmix! Rubber spatulas are great for scraping the bottom of your bowl to make sure everything is combined without overmixing.
Four images showing the process of making an orange Carrot Coffee Cake batter in a glass bowl on a white background.
  1. Pour batter into prepared pan. Gently pour your batter into your lined and greased 8×8 baking pan
  2. Cover with streusel. Take your cooled-down pecan streusel topping and crumble it over the top of the carrot cake batter. A few large clumps are okay.
  3. Bake. Bake the carrot coffee cake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool 10-15 minutes. You can let it cool completely, but I love slightly warm coffee cake!
  4. Make the (optional) cream cheese glaze. If desired, make the cream cheese glaze. Beat 4 oz softened cream cheese with 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter in a medium bowl until smooth. Add 1 cup powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, then beat until smooth. If it’s too thick, add more milk, if it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar.
Four images showing unbaked carrot coffee cake in a square pan, then topped with streusel, then baked, and a glass bowl with cream cheese glaze.
  1. Glaze and enjoy. If you make the cream cheese glaze, once it’s at the right consistency, use a spoon to drizzle the cream cheese mixture over the top of the cake. Cut yourself a slice and dig in!
Carrot coffee cake topped with cream cheese frosting in a square pan.

Recipe Tips

How to toast pecans: You can toast pecans in the oven or on your stovetop. To toast pecans in the oven, preheat the oven to 350℉. Spread your pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until they start to smell amazing, 7-10 minutes. Stir the pecans halfway through. For the stovetop, place pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat and stir frequently until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Try not to overcrowd your skillet. Once toasted, remove the nuts to a cutting board or plate to cool completely.  

*For a small amount of pecans, like what we need for this small carrot cake recipe, the stovetop works great. If you want to toast a large batch of pecans, use the oven. 

If you make a large batch of toasted pecans, you can add ½-¾ cup of toasted chopped pecans to the batter for extra texture and flavor.

If you don’t like pecans, walnuts would make a great substitute. You can also leave the pecans out of the crumble topping and just have a delicious brown sugar crumble on top.

Cream cheese frosting or glaze is a fairly traditional carrot cake topping, but you can leave it off if you prefer – this cake is delicious with or without it!

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

Make Ahead: Make this carrot cake in the morning or the evening before you plan on serving it without the glaze. Glaze it right before serving. 

Storing: Without the glaze, this cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. If you add the glaze, leftovers will need to be stored in the fridge so the cream cheese glaze doesn’t spoil. It can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container.

Freezing: Can you freeze carrot cake? Absolutely! You can freeze this cake unglazed or glazed. Simply cut it into squares and freeze the individual squares, unwrapped and uncovered, for a few hours or until solid. Then, you can wrap the individual squares in plastic wrap, and store in an airtight container or ziptop bag for up to two months

For more information on storing and freezing cakes, including how to freeze cake layers, buttercream and decorated cakes, check out my How to Store and Freeze Cakes guide!

The best Carrot Coffee Cake cut into squares with a metal spatula scooping up one of the slices.

Recipe FAQs

Is carrot cake healthy?

People often wonder if carrot cake is considered healthy because carrots are a vegetable. Carrot cake is still cake! While a carrot cake slice may not be a great way to add more vegetables to your diet, this tasty carrot cake is great way to add joy to your life.

Can carrot cake be frozen?

Absolutely! You can freeze this carrot coffee cake with or without the cream cheese glaze. Check out my How to Store and Freeze Cakes guide for helpful tips!

Does carrot cake need to be refrigerated?

Without the cream cheese glaze, this carrot coffee cake can sit out at room temperature for 1-2 days. With the cream cheese glaze, it is recommended that you store it in the fridge, as the dairy in the glaze can spoil.

What’s the origin of carrot cake?

I love a little food history! Carrot cake origins date back to medieval times, when palace cooks made a boiled or steamed carrot “pudding,” cooked low and slow to enhance carrots’ natural sweetness and enriched with spices, and held together with flour and eggs. Centuries later, George Washington supposedly served carrot cake at parties. Carrot cake grew in popularity during World War II, when England rationed sweeteners. Cream cheese icing became a popular carrot cake topping in the 1960s.

A fork cutting into a slice of moist carrot cake coffee cake on a brown plate.

More Coffee Cake Recipes

More Pecan Recipes

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a star rating and review or scroll below the recipe card and do so there. 

Stay up-to-date by following us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest.

A square of Carrot Coffee Cake topped with pecan streusel and cream cheese glaze against a dark brown background.
Print Save Review
No ratings yet

Carrot Coffee Cake

This moist carrot coffee cake is super easy to make and its topped with a toasted pecan streusel and cream cheese glaze.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 9 servings

Ingredients
 

  • 1 1/2 cups carrots - grated, and lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar - packed
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter - melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch ginger
  • pinch ground cloves

Pecan Streusel Topping

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter - melted
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans - chopped

Cream Cheese Glaze (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Make the streusel. In a medium bowl add the melted butter, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Use a fork and mix to combine. Stir in the pecans. Set aside or place in the fridge so that the butter will set. 
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper. Spray and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or using a large bowl and a whisk, mix the grated carrots, granulated sugar, brown sugar, melted butter, vegetable oil, egg and egg yolk. Once combined add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon nutmeg, salt, ginger, and cloves. 
  • Mix until combined. If not using a stand mixer, use a rubber spatula to mix to combine, don’t overmix. 
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Take the streusel and break it apart and scatter it along the top of the batter. 
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs on it. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. (You can let it cool to room temperature if you want but I love eating a slightly warm coffee cake!!) While the cake is cooling make the cream cheese glaze.

Cream Cheese Glaze

  • In a medium sized bowl beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla and mix until smooth. If it’s too thick add a tablespoon more of milk. If it’s too thin add a bit more powdered sugar. Using a spoon, drizzle the cream cheese glaze overtop of the baked carrot coffee cake. 
  • Slice and enjoy! 

Nutrition

Calories: 542kcal (27%)Carbohydrates: 65g (22%)Protein: 5g (10%)Fat: 31g (48%)Saturated Fat: 13g (65%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 88mg (29%)Sodium: 358mg (15%)Potassium: 184mg (5%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 46g (51%)Vitamin A: 4194IU (84%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 66mg (7%)Iron: 2mg (11%)
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Did you make this recipe?Leave a star rating and review on the blog post letting me know how you liked this recipe! Take a picture and tag @saltandbaker on Instagram and Facebook so I can see what you’re making!