Carrot Cake Sheet Cake with Buttercream Flowers that is perfectly moist, speckled with walnuts and fresh, grated carrots. This sheet cake is topped with brown butter cream cheese frosting for a decadent, delicious addition.
It’s Easter this Sunday. As a child, we were not Easter Basket people. We went to church for mass and that was it. We always had a nice meal but my mother didn’t believe in treating that day as a day for gifts and money. As a child, I didn’t even know what I was missing. I talk to my friends now and they all got money, candy, baskets, Easter eggs full of cool stuff. WTF, mom?!?!
I was not a deprived child so I can’t really complain at all. I really can’t. One thing that I always loved when spring time came around was carrot cake. I think my mom would buy it from this local Italian market and theirs was SO good and fluffy.
Inspiration for Carrot Cake
Years ago, when I first started baking, I made a recipe from Southern Living and it was incredible. Since then, I’ve made other versions and frankly, they just weren’t that good. So this recipe is basically theirs but with more spices, walnuts instead of pecans and more salt.
And the directions have been rewritten to be a bit more streamlined. But I can’t say a bad thing about the recipe. I didn’t know how to improve it—I tried. We made this thinking we would be like oh we definitely have to make it more moist, we definitely have to change this or that.
Ingredients That You’ll Need to Make this Carrot Sheet Cake
- All-purpose flour. We’re keeping it simple here with the all-purpose flour. I try not to use too many specialty flours because I know that can be a pain. Luckily with this cake, all-purpose flour is best.
- Baking soda. This is the leavening of choice. It activates really well with the acid in the buttermilk.
- Spices. I love my carrot cake to be balanced with spices. So we’re using cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
- Salt. Of course, we can never make anything sweet without salt. It gives such a nice balance.
- Butter. I love using both butter and oil in all my cakes. Butter gives cakes such a nice flavor.
- Granulated sugar. What a lot of people also don’t realize is that sugars provide moisture, too. For this recipe, we’re doing 1 part white sugar and 1 part brown sugar.
- Brown sugar. I love using brown sugar because of the molasses that’s in brown sugar. It provides a nice depth of flavor.
- Neutral oil. Using oil in cakes gives them such good moisture.
- Eggs. Of course, you can’t make any cake without eggs because it helps bind all of the ingredients together and also gives the cake lift.
- Buttermilk. I love using buttermilk in cakes like this because they give such a fluffy texture and subtle tang.
- Carrots. Yes! My favorite part. The shredded carrot gives this cake moisture, which I love. And it gives carrot cake in general great texture.
- Walnuts. I love walnuts. They’re one of my favorite nuts; their texture is so amazing and delicious. You could use pecans if you like!
How to Make this Carrot Sheet Cake with Buttercream Flowers
- Whisk together the dry ingredients.
- Mix together the butter with the sugars. I like to beat the butter with the granulated sugar and brown sugar until they’re light and fluffy.
- And then add more of the wet ingredients. Add the oil, eggs and buttermilk.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix them together until you no longer see any speckles of flour.
- Lastly, add in the grated carrot and walnuts. I like to fold these mix-ins in last.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan.
- Bake the cake!
The frosting is brown butter cream cheese frosting, inspired by this brown butter frosting but this time with cream cheese. It was glorious. The nutty brown butter with the tart cream cheese was a splendid win.
I hope this makes its way onto a table or two this Spring because it is goooood.
OK LET’S TALK ABOUT THESE BUTTERCREAM FLOWERS!
I made these buttercream flowers and yes, it took me like two years. More like an hour or two. And it was incredibly therapeutic and I loved every second of it.
I also posted a how-to on my Highlights in my profile on Instagram. You’ll need to open the app of Insta to see it.
Supplies for Buttercream Flowers:
- Wilton #104 Tip (this is for the buttercream flowers)
- Wilton #113 (for the leaves – these are so easy!)
- Piping Bags
- Americolor Food Coloring Gels
Carrot Cake Dry Mix:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, if using dried nutmeg, use 1/2 teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Carrot Cake Wet Mix:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup neutral oil , (such as avocado oil, grape seed oil or vegetable oil)
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup buttermilk, shaken
- 2 1/2 cups grated carrots
- 1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Buttercream for Flowers
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoons heavy cream
- Food gel coloring
To Make the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. I also like to line my baking pan with a parchment just to make sure nothing sticks.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and ginger. Set the dry mixture aside.
- In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, with the paddle attachment, add the butter, white sugar and brown sugar; beat until nice and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the oil and eggs. Beat until combined.
- Alternating between the buttermilk and the dry mix, add them to the butter mixture, until just combined. Lastly, add the carrots and walnuts and mix until thoroughly distributed throughout the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and transfer to the oven to bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool before adding the frosting.
To Make the Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Cube up 1/2 cup of the butter (1 stick). In a small saucepan, set over medium heat, add the cubed butter. Once it’s melted, it will begin to foam up and bubble a bit. Allow it to cook until you begin to see lightly browned specks beginning to form. Give it a stir and cook until it’s browned. You should also start to smell its nutty aroma. Pour it in a freezer-safe bowl and stir to cool it down.
- Transfer it to the freezer to chill, for about 5 minutes. We want it to be around room temperature butter. After it gets to that room temperature butter-firmness (it can be a bit softer—that’s ok), transfer it to the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or bowl using an electric mixer). Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth.
- Sift in the powdered sugar and add the vanilla extract, salt and heavy cream. Beat the frosting for about 3 minutes. The fluffiness from the heavy cream really lightens up this frosting so be sure to beat it for the full 3 minutes. If the frosting is too loose, feel free to transfer it to the fridge to chill for about 10 minutes. Then beat it one last time.
To Make the Buttercream for the Flowers:
To Assemble the Cake:
- Pour all of the frosting on the cooled sheet cake and spread it around, creating cute swoops as you go. Top it with whatever you like! I piped out buttercream roses, see below for notes! Cake will stay moist for about 3 days when wrapped properly.
Looking for more sheet cake recipes? Here are some of my favorites: