Ultra moist and flavorful Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing here just in time for fall and the holidays! Made with both pumpkin and carrots, lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, and generously topped with a rich, caramel-like brown sugar cream cheese icing, this is a recipe you’ll want to make for months and years to come!
CARROT CAKE FOR EVERY SEASON
Since I started my Parsley and Icing account on Instagram, I’ve noticed that carrot cake’s season in the food world is definitely spring. I get why people love it in the spring, but I love to eat it year round! Its fresh, sweet carrot taste makes it perfect for spring and summer and its warming cinnamon and spices make it special enough for fall and winter.
PUMPKIN CARROT CAKE: AN INSTANT FAVORITE
I first made this recipe a couple of weeks ago before heading to New York to visit my family. I was so excited about the pumpkin, apple, and brown sugar icing idea I had for this cake that I made sure to test it out before taking off. I left half the cake here in Ottawa and took the rest to New York with me.
My husband brought his half to a barbecue with friends and I shared mine with my family in New York. It was an instant INTERNATIONAL hit and got rave reviews and requests for the recipe from friends and family on both sides of the border! 🙂 No changes or retesting needed and I knew I had to get this recipe out to everyone ASAP!
ABOUT THIS PUMPKIN CARROT CAKE
This is an extra special carrot cake with a super simple batter. It starts with the usual shredded carrots, but departs from the norm with over a cup of pumpkin puree. To go along with the pumpkin and seasonal spices, a whole shredded apple takes the place of pineapple. Pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon warm up the cake and tie in all the fall flavor!
I asked my husband’s picky foodie cousin if he thought it needed a little more pumpkin pie spice but he and my husband’s friend told me (ordered me?) not to change a thing, so I didn’t! The result is a perfectly but not overly spiced pumpkin carrot cake. 🙂
Pumpkin is one of the most popular fall flavors. This carrot cake has over a cup of pure pumpkin puree which adds tons of moisture and a subtle pumpkin flavor. People might not pick up on the pumpkin flavor unless you point it out, but it definitely adds to the deliciousness. I can’t talk about pumpkin without mentioning these yummy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and this classic Pumpkin Bread with Maple Walnut Streusel.
Pineapples are more tropical to me, so instead of pineapple, I added an in- season grated apple. You can’t taste the apple, but it adds a ton of moisture. and I just love all the fall ingredients in this cake. For another super fall, apple sweet treat, you’ll love this Apple Cinnamon Bread!
HOW TO MAKE PUMPKIN CARROT CAKE
In addition to being special and delicious, this cake is an easy, no fuss recipe. The easier it is to make it, I figured, the more often we’ll make it! The batter comes together without a mixer, it’s baked in a simple 9 x 13 inch pan and frosted with a five minute icing. Super simple and low key!
STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS
- Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. Leave excess paper hanging from two sides of the pan. This will make it easier to remove the cake once baked. .
- Whisk to combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt). Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine the sugars and eggs. Stir in the vanilla and pumpkin puree followed by the oil. Add the buttermilk alternatively with the dry ingredients, mixing just til combined. Stir in the shredded carrots and apple.
- Pour the batter into the pan and spread it evenly in the pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool ten minutes in the pan then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Once the cake has cooled completely, frost it with the icing.
A FEW RECIPE NOTES
This recipe calls for 1/2 cup of buttermilk. The buttermilk adds flavor and moisture and helps make the cake super tender. I highly recommend using it. That said, if you don’t have any and don’t have any plans to use it after making this cake, you can get away with a buttermilk substitute.
WHERE ARE THE NUTS AND RAISINS?
I omitted them! That’s right. I conducted a super scientific poll in my Instagram stories and found that the majority of people preferred carrot cake without nuts and raisins. I always thought it was just me, but turns out many felt the same way. So that’s why this beauty is nut and raisin free!
BROWN SUGAR CREAM CHEESE ICING
Another thing that makes this cake special: brown sugar cream cheese icing! Why brown sugar? The molasses in the brown sugar gives it a slight caramel taste. It’s not an over the top caramel flavor but when combined with the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and a good amount of vanilla, it’s absolutely enough to make you want to lick your fork and plate clean.
HOW TO MAKE BROWN SUGAR CREAM CHEESE ICING
- USE ROOM TEMPERATURE INGREDIENTS: It’s essential to use room temperature cream cheese and butter. I recommend taking these ingredients out for at least an hour before making the icing.
- SIFT THE POWDERED SUGAR: Even though it’s going to go into a mixer, I highly recommend sifting it first. It only takes a minute and makes sure you don’t have any little bumps of powdered sugar in your icing.
- USE FRESH BROWN SUGAR: Brown sugar can get hard lumps if it’s not fresh which will make the sugar harder to dissolve into the icing.
- SCRAPE DOWN THE SIDES OF THE BOWL: I do this with any icing I make, but it’s especially helpful with this recipe to make sure the flavors are combined and that the brown sugar has dissolved.
- ALLOW THE CAKE TO COOL COMPLETELY BEFORE ICING IT: I know it’s tempting to want to dig in ASAP, but wait til your cake has cooled completely before icing it. The icing could melt a bit and become a little runny if the cake is still warm and we don’t want that.
This Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing is my dream carrot cake recipe. Made with pumpkin, spices, carrots, an apple, it’s full of warm fall flavor and topped with an extra special cream cheese icing. This tender, moist cake is the perfect treat.Print
Make this easy, from scratch Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing for a super fluffy, flavorful fall treat! Made with pumpkin puree, shredded carrots, a shredded apple and warm spices and generously topped with a delicious brown sugar cream cheese icing, this cake is a must bake treat perfect for the holidays!
FOR THE PUMPKIN CARROT CAKE
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup oil, vegetable or canola
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 1 red apple, peeled and grated
FOR THE BROWN SUGAR CREAM CHEESE ICING
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (leave it at room temperature for at least an hour before making)
- 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted, plus more if needed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
FOR THE PUMPKIN CARROT CAKE
- Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In large mixing bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine the sugars and eggs. Stir in the vanilla and pumpkin puree followed by the oil. Add the buttermilk alternatively with the dry ingredients, mixing just til combined. Stir in carrots and apple.
Pour the batter into the pan and spread it evenly in the pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool ten minutes in the pan then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Once the cake has cooled, frost it with the icing.
FOR THE BROWN SUGAR CREAM CHEESE ICING
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter on medium speed for one minute until creamed and combined. Add the brown sugar and mix on medium for another minute. Mix in the vanilla then turn the mixer on low and gradually mix in the powdered sugar.
Keywords: pumpkin, carrot cake, pumpkin carrot cake, apple, cream cheese, brown sugar cream cheese icing, icing, fall