Sweet, moist and flavourful, this is the best carrot tray bake cake! Packed full of fresh carrots, juicy sultanas and a touch of cinnamon, its a quick and easy single-layer bake. And topped with a no-fail cream cheese frosting, it’s a great dessert for picnic lunches or afternoon tea treats. You’ll be going back for seconds!
Lou’s recipe overview
TASTE: Sweet, cinnamon warmth and cream cheese tang
PROS: One bowl recipe – saves on the washing up
CONS: Nothing to see here
After the indulgence of Easter chocolate, something a little healthier was much needed. And as it was Easter, the first thing that came to mind was carrots. I mean you can’t really get more any further from chocolate than carrots.
That said, before we go any further I need to be honest with you…
Don’t be fooled by the carrots! This isn’t a “healthy” option dessert; there’s still plenty of loveliness in this tray bake cake to make your sweet tooth very happy indeed.
Now there are so many recipes for carrot cake out there, but this has to be my favourite. I’ve not changed the recipe since I started baking it back in the 1990s!
So if you’re looking for reassurance on how good this cake is, then you can’t go wrong with over *gulp* 25 years of baking this cake.
If you want to skip the essential recipe information and handy tips for making the best carrot tray bake cake, then head down to the printable recipe card.
Why you’re going to love this recipe
How many people do you know that give you ‘that’ look when you mention carrot cake? You know the one, the ‘why would I want to eat cake with veggies in it’ look.
Then after they’ve had a taste, how many of those do you see going back in for a second slice? For me, it’s everyone; and I love it seeing that look of surprise when they realise it’s so good.
And if you’re sat there also thinking I don’t like carrot cake, but damn Lou it looks a great bake, then you’ll also want to know that…
- Sweet and moist cake, that’s so light!
- Packed full of flavour with sweet sultanas and warm cinnamon spice
- Smothered in a classic cream cheese frosting, that never fails
- Just bake, cool and frost – so simple, no special skills required!
- Easy to adapt for any celebration or occasion, and perfect for a potluck dessert
What you’ll need to make this
View my Amazon shopping list with equipment and ingredients
Just with all my other traybake recipes, you might find that you have everything you need to make this carrot sheet cake in your pantry and fridge!
For the cake, you will need…
- Carrots – You’ll need about 3 medium sized carrots. There’s no need to peel them, just a scrub, take the top and bottom off and grate either using a box grater or food processor
- Vegetable oil – Alternatively you can use sunflower oil, but avoid olive or rape seed oil as the flavour will taint the cake
- Soft light brown sugar – I prefer to use brown sugar rather than white as it compliments the carrot and cinnamon with a touch of caramel flavour
- Plain or All-Purpose flour
- Baking Powder
- Sultanas – I’m using these as my add-in but check out my substitutions for alternatives such as walnuts
- Ground Cinnamon – You can also use a mixed spice or add nutmeg and ground nutmeg as well
For the frosting, check out my cream cheese frosting recipe with lots of hints and tips for the perfect topping!
The whole point about this recipe being super easy is that you don’t need any special equipment; in fact you can make this entirely by hand if you wanted to. You’ll need…
- Large mixing bowl and handheld mixer – Or you can user a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or a good sturdy balloon whisk
- Box grater – You want a medium sized grater hole for the carrot, or you can use a food processor with a grater blade
- 13 x 9-inch traybake pan – It needs to be about 1-inch deep, or you can bake in a glass baking dish or divide the mixture between two 8-inch cake tins
TOP TIP: For cakes that slide easily out of the pan with no effort, check out my simple homemade cake release. I love this stuff!
How to make the best carrot cake
Full measurements and instructions can be found on the printable recipe card
I know I’ve said it lots already, but this carrot tray bake cake really can’t get any simpler and you’re going to absolutely love it. So here’s how you make it…
Making the traybake cake
First things first, prep your carrots, and before you go grabbing the vegetable peeler hold up. Just give the carrots a wash and scrub, then just take off the top and bottom. Then grate them; they want to be a coarse grate rather than a fine grate as they will help hold the cake together when it bakes.
Next, grab a large mixing bowl or a stand mixer, if using, and add in the vegetable oil, eggs, sugar and drop of vanilla extract. Whisk everything together with a hand mixer until the mixture is fluffy and thickened up.
Sieve the plain flour, baking powder and ground cinnamon into the egg mixture, then add the grated carrot and fold everything together until well combined. Finally add the sultanas and give it a final mix.
Decorating the traybake cake
This is the really easy bit!
Once the cake has baked, make sure you allow it to fully cool before frosting otherwise you’ll end up with a soupy mess on the top.
You can either lift the cake out of the pan or leave it in, if you’re taking to a party or potluck. Just dollop the frosting on top and using either the back of a spoon or palette knife smooth it all over.
I prefer to leave mine as it is, but you can add whatever you want on top; sprinkles or orange zest works really well.
This carrot tray bake is so easy and versatile. Here are a few ways you can customise it…
- Add-Ins: Switch out the sultanas for other dried fruit, such as juciy raisins or pineapple. Or if you prefer a little bit of crunch add in chopped walnuts or pecans instead.
- Add a zing: Swap the vanilla extract for a tablespoon of orange juice and orange zest for an extra citrus note that goes so well with the sweetness of the carrot.
- Frosting: Step up your cream cheese frosting game by including mascarpone cheese as well as regular cream cheese. This will give an extra richness and creaminess. Or if you’re not a fan of cream cheese frosting, swap for a vanilla buttercream instead.
- Toppings: I love keeping it simple with just the frosting, but you can add sprinkles, more chopped nuts or grate over some orange zest. Lime zest also works well.
Step by step live video
Frequently asked questions
The recipe will fit a 13 x 9-inch traybake pan, about 1-inch deep. If you want a deeper cake then use a slighter smaller but deeper pan. You can also make this in a glass baking dish or two 8-inch cake tins for a layer cake.
A 13×9 traybake pan will serve about 24 slices.
Once decorated, the cake should be kept in an air-tight container, at room temperature. You can either cut the cake into slices and keep in a sealed container, or if serving shortly after decorating cover with kitchen foil.
As its an oil-based cake, it means it will stay moist for longer than a butter-based cake. If stored as recommended, the cake will keep up to to 3-5 days or up to 1 week in the fridge.
Yes, you can – either frosting or unfrosted. Remember to wrap it well in clingfilm/ plastic wrap and you can store it for up to 2 months. Defrost thoroughly before decorating or eating.
Recipe hints and tips
Now this is the most simplest carrot cake you’ll ever make and it is so good, but here are a few extra hints and tips for getting it perfect every time.
- Always weigh your ingredients – It’s so tempting to eyeball the ingredients or use measuring cups, but for the best results all the time I highly recommend investing in a set of kitchen scales. Did you know that 1 cup of flour could give you 150% of the flour needed which would make you cake crumbly. I have two sets of these digital scales and absolutely love them.
- Use room temperature eggs – Unless the recipe calls for your ingredients to be cold, then always make sure they are at room temperature, especially eggs. It makes them easier to whisk and gives them volume, helping keep your cake light and fluffy.
- Use vegetable oil – If you can’t get hold of vegetable oil, you can switch for sunflower or coconut oil. Avoid using rapeseed or olive oil as these both have distinct flavours that will overpower the cake flavour.
- Let the cake fully cool before frosting – I know its tempting to get the frosting on as quickly as possible and tuck into a slice but you must let it fully cool first. Either remove it from the pan after 10 minutes to fully cool on a wire-rack or if serving from the pan, let the cake and pan completely cool. No one wants melted frosting!
Carrot Tray Bake Cake
For the Sheet Cake
For the Frosting
- ½ batch Cream Cheese Frosting
- To make the sheet cake: Preheat oven to 180C/350F and line a 13×9 inch sheet pan with baking paper and coat with cake release.
- Using a box grater or a food processor with grater attachment, coarsely grate the carrots.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract and whisk until thick and fluffy with an electric handheld mixer. Alternatively, you can use a stand mixer with the balloon whisk attachment, or a balloon whisk.
- Sieve together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and ground cinnamon. Add into the egg mixture.
- Add the grated carrots into the mixture, and fold everything together with a rubber spatula, making sure that all the ingredients are well-combined.
- Pour the cake batter into the lined sheet pan, and level with a palette knife or a spoon, if required.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until springy to touch and skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- To assemble the cake: If transporting the cake you can frost in the pan. Spoon the frosting over the top of the cake.
- Using a palette knife, spread the cream cheese frosting evenly across the cake, and add swirls for texture if you prefer. Decorate with your chosen topping.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.