A carrot cake with white frosting and one slice cut out.
Photography, Stacey Brandford; food styling, Dara Sutin; prop styling, Andrea McCrindle

World’s Best Carrot Cake Recipe

Brown butter adds depth to the cream cheese icing used in this ultimate recipe for carrot cake.

February 12, 2023 makes one year since we posted our first online recipe (Moroccan Mint Tea Chocolate Pots de Crème). To celebrate, we’ll be making one of our favourites: our World’s Best Carrot Cake with Brown-Butter Cream Cheese Icing, a recipe featured in our inaugural Fall/Winter issue. Below, editorial director Erin McLaughlin shares the story of how the World’s Best Carrot Cake came to be.

“There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like carrot cake, and those who don’t like carrot cake. And then there’s me. I don’t just like carrot cake – I LOVE IT. Years ago, I was in the Eastern Townships for a photo shoot and had stopped for lunch at a tiny cafe in Magog, Que. I remember looking at the chalkboard menu and seeing “The World’s Best Carrot Cake” listed with the desserts. I thought to myself, I should order a piece and see. Thus began my mission to find the World’s Best Carrot Cake (a.k.a. a thinly veiled justification for ordering dessert any time carrot cake was on the menu). Some cakes have come pretty darn close, but there’s always been that je ne sais quoi missing. It’s for this reason I asked ELLE Gourmet consulting food director Soo Kim, one of the best recipe developers (and bakers!) I’ve met, to develop her version of the recipe. After having my first bite of her Brown-Butter Cream Cheese Carrot Cake, it came as no surprise that my search for the World’s Best was finally over.” – Erin McLaughlin

multiple plates of carrot cake
Photography, Stacey Brandford; food styling, Dara Sutin; prop styling, Andrea McCrindle
A carrot cake with white frosting and one slice cut out.

Carrot Cake with Browned-Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

This classic Carrot Cake recipe is moist and has the perfect balance of spice vs. sweetness. The browned-butter adds another depth of flavour to the cream cheese frosting recipe.
Course Dessert
Servings 10



  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour spooned and levelled
  • 2 ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 ¼ cups canned crushed pineapple with juices
  • 1 cup toasted walnut halves or pecans finely chopped

Brown-Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter cubed
  • 3 cups icing sugar sifted
  • 2 tbsp whipping cream or whole milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 pkg 8 oz cream cheese, cubed and softened



  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 3, 8-inch round cake pans; knock excess flour then line the bottoms with parchment rounds.
  • In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cloves until thoroughly combined.
  • Using stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat sugar and oil on medium until mixture is combined, 1-2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition; add vanilla and beat for 1 minute. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low in 3 additions.
  • Fold in carrots, pineapple and walnuts until well combined. Divide evenly into prepared pans and tamp cake pans on counter to even tops. Bake until cake tester or toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Cool cake in pans for 10 minutes. Release edge with paring knife; invert onto cooling rack then cool completely.

Brown-Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Cook butter in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until light brown and nutty, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to bowl and let cool slightly. Refrigerate until solid, about 1 hr. Let stand at room temperature to slightly soften.
  • Using stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, add cold brown butter to bowl and beat on medium until light and smooth, scraping bottom of bowl, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup of icing sugar and beat until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping bottom of bowl. Beat in remaining 2 cups icing sugar, cream, vanilla and salt until very smooth. Gradually add cream cheese a few cubes at a time, beating on medium until smooth and light, 3 minutes. Icing makes about 4 ½ cups.
  • Place 1 cake layer on cake stand or plate. Spread about 1 cup over top, top with another cake layer and repeat, top with remaining cake layer, ¾ cup icing.
  • Using large offset palette knife, spread remaining icing all over cake and create loose swirly design.


  1. This cake tastes better the next day. Allow the spices to deepen and bloom and the pineapple and carrots to moisten the cake to become the most wonderfully tender spiced dessert. Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  2. Don’t have three round cake pans? Divide into two 9-inch high-sided round cake pans and bake until cake tester comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely and slice each cake in half horizontally to make 4 layers. If you don’t have any round cake pans, bake in a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet; mist with cooking spray. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes; invert onto cooling rack then cut into 4 equal rectangles.
Keyword brown butter icing, carrot cake, cream cheese frosting, cream cheese icing
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