Carrot Cake | American Society of Baking
Recipes and Formulation:

Carrot Cake

What is carrot cake?

Carrot cake is a sweet American cake which is made with carrots, spices and walnut pieces.  It’s commonly topped with cream cheese frosting and marzipan carrots.1

Popularized during the health craze of the late 20th century, carrot cake is regarded as a healthier alternative due to the use of vegetable oil instead of shortening and the addition of a recognized vegetable like carrots.1


Carrot cake is thought to have originated in England where housewives used sweet products (e.g carrots) to naturally sweeten their confections during World War II. In 1943, the Ministry of Food published a short recipe for carrot cake.1

Carrot cake’s popularity increased in the 1980s due to consumer’s perceived benefits of consuming vegetables with their highly caloric baked goods. Today, carrot cake is one of the most popular American desserts.

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Commonly used ingredients for the production of carrot cake:2

Ingredient Type Usage level (Baker’s percentage)3 Function
Sugar Granulated sugar 105 %
  • Provides sweetness.
  • Tenderizes by interfering with gluten network formation.
  • Absorbs moisture.
  • Improves shelf life.
  • Participates in Maillard browning reaction.
Flour Low protein flour (all- purpose flour or cake flour) 100 %
  • Provides structure.
  • Absorbs liquids.
  • Aids in ingredients binding.
Fat Vegetable oil 75 %
  • Imparts tenderness.
  • Dough lubricant.
  • Tenderizes by interfering with gluten network formation.
Eggs Whole Egg 55 %
  • Provide structure and flavor.
  • Moisturizer
Carrot Shredded Carrots 40 %
  • Provides flavor.
  • Adds an interesting texture to the batter and final product.
Walnuts Chopped Walnuts 35 %
  • Provide flavor and interesting texture profile to the product.
Baking soda 2 %
  • Aids in leavening
Cinnamon Ground Cinnamon 2 %
  • Provides Flavor
Vanilla Extract 1.5 %
  • Provides a characteristic sweet flavor.
Salt Granulated 0.90 %
  • Flavor and taste enhancer.


A commercial carrot cake has the following nutritional value per 100 g:4

Component Grams
Carbohydrate 45.7
Fat 26.7
Moisture 22.4
Protein 4.07
Ash 1.13

A traditional carrot cake provides around 450 kcal per 100 g portion.4

Commercial production

Carrot cakes can be produced through the following process:3

  1. Scaling: all ingredients should be weighed and scaled before mixing.
  2. Pre-heating oven: to 180 oC (350 oF) before preparing batter.
  3. Greasing:  a 13 x 9 inch pan is greased with shortening or butter and light flour sprinkle.
  4. Mixing: in a large mixing bowl mix oil, sugar and eggs at low speed.
  5. 2nd stage mixing: add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, vanilla and salt to the previous mixture and mix at low speed.
  6. Stirring: add shredded carrots and walnuts.
  7. Baking: baked at 180 oC (350 oF) for 40 – 45 minutes.
  8. Cooling

Production considerations

When making carrot cake some important considerations to take into account:5

  • Softening the carrots for smoother mouthfeel by increasing the baking soda content. The alkaline character of baking soda will soften carrots cell walls.
  • Toasted walnuts provide a characteristic and interesting flavor note to the cake.
  • For a thick and tangy cream cheese frosting, add buttermilk powder.


Carrot cake doesn’t have a specific regulation, but all of its main ingredients are considered GRAS by the FDA when following good manufacturing practices.

In the EU, carrot cake is not as popular as in the US and thus doesn’t have any specific regulation. However, all of its core ingredients are considered safe by the EU regulating agencies.


  1. Parks, S. BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. WW Norton & Company, 2017.
  2. Figoni, P. How Baking Works: Exploring The Fundamentals Of Baking Science. 2nd ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008.
  3. “Carrot Cake.” Bettycrocker.Com, 2021, .
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 30 October  2020.  . Accessed 21 November 2021.
  5. Zrymiak, D. “Cook’s Illustrated: The Science of Good Cooking.” The Quality Management Journal 22.3 (2015): 47.