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The best Carrot Cake recipe is melt-in-your-mouth moist, light and fluffy, warmly spiced, and perfect topped with a cloud-like canopy of velvety cream cheese frosting. It might not look like anything special, but trust me on this one and make it; get ready to have your mind blown!

close up front view of carrot cake slice on plate

I think it’s time to let you know a dirty little secret. I used to hate carrot cake. There, I said it. 

Actually, it wasn’t the carrot cake I disliked as much as the cream cheese frosting. (Even worse, I know!) For some reason I just couldn’t get on board with cheese in a sweet context.

For as long as I can remember (easily dating back to my Easy Bake Oven days), I made (or helped my mom make) a carrot cake for her birthday.

My mom was never one of those people who liked to switch up her birthday cake. Her favorite cake is carrot and every March that’s what she gets.

My quest for the perfect carrot cake began when I was finally old enough to bake alone. Every year I would diligently make her one, usually with a different recipe I had found. I had hopes of one day seeing what everyone else saw in this renowned dessert! For about 22 years nothing worked.

carrot cake with pineapple

The Game Changer – J. Alexander’s Carrot Cake

I remember the day I was finally converted. I was in law school at the time, and I was eating lunch out with friends at J. Alexander’s in Tampa. One of my friends ordered carrot cake for dessert and asked me if I wanted to try it. 

I politely declined, giving some silly excuse like I was too full or something. (Like I would ever decline a dessert I liked because I was too full!) Anyway, she insisted, going on and on about how it was the best carrot cake of her life, it was so moist, she’s never had anything like it, etc. I finally obliged her and took a bite, more to get her to stop forcing her cake on me.

My fork sunk into that cake like a hot knife through butter. It was moist, yet fluffy and light at the same time. It had a little crunch from nuts, and a hint of warm cinnamon. And the frosting.  Oh my God. It took the cake.

Since that life-changing day I’ve experimented a lot to try to replicate J. Alexander’s cake. And then I found J. Alexander’s carrot cake recipe on Sun Sentinel! I made a few tweaks and the end result is nothing short of long-awaited carrot cake perfection. And it’s the only recipe I’ll make for mom from now on.

slice of carrot cake with bite on fork

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • The smell will hit you first. Warm spices, vanilla, and pure sweet bliss.
  • Then you’ll see the fluffy, cloud-like swirls of velvety cream cheese frosting. Ohhh boy.
  • Finally, you let your fork sink into a slice. If you’re looking for moist carrot cake, you found it. It’s fluffy too! And it’s packed with flavors that come together like a symphony with no one thing overpowering the others.
  • Last but not least, it will stay good in the fridge for up to 1 week! And yes, it’s even better the next day.
j alexander's carrot cake copycat

The Best Carrot Cake Recipe

Friends, for those of you who were looking for the one carrot cake that would make you stop looking for other recipes, you found it. Literally, the best ever carrot cake. Welcome to the best carrot cake recipe of your life.

This was inspired by J. Alexander’s carrot cake recipe, as seen on Sun Sentinel. Of course I put just a few of my own tweaks on it. Trust me and try it. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Ingredients

Cake Syrup:

cake syrup ingredients
  • Granulated sugar
  • Buttermilk
  • Unsalted butter
  • Vanilla extract

Carrot Cake:

carrot cake ingredients
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking soda
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Nutmeg
  • Granulated sugar
  • Eggs
  • Canola oil (or another neutral-flavored oil of your choice)
  • Buttermilk
  • Vanilla extract
  • Crushed pineapple
  • Shredded carrot
  • Shredded sweetened coconut
  • Pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting:

cream cheese frosting ingredients
  • Unsalted butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Salt

Step-by-Step Instructions

How to Make Cake Syrup:

how to make cake syrup
  1. Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Cook until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Let the syrup cool until it reaches room temperature or is just slightly warm.

How to Make Carrot Cake:

how to make carrot cake
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and crushed pineapple (with juices).
  3. Whisk in the shredded carrot.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just to combine, being careful not to over-mix.
  5. Stir in the coconut and pecans.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Spread the batter out evenly.
  8. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes.

How to Soak and Frost a Cake:

how to soak a cake
  1. While the cake is still hot, poke holes all over the top with a fork or wooden skewer.
  2. Pour the cooled cake syrup over the hot cake.
  3. Let the cake cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate to chill, about 2 hours.
  4. After a couple hours in the fridge, you can see that the cake has absorbed the syrup.
  5. When the cake is almost fully cooled, make the frosting. Add all ingredients to a large bowl.
  6. Use a handheld electric beater to mix until light and fluffy.
  7. Once the cake is cooled, spread the frosting on top.
  8. Before serving, refrigerate for 30 minutes so the frosting can set.
digging into the best carrot cake

How to Store Carrot Cake

You can store this covered with plastic wrap in the fridge for up to 1 week.

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Tips

  • Don’t skip the cake syrup. This is the ace-up-our-sleeves that ensures our cake is moist every time. And bonus, it helps the cake taste fresh for longer!
  • If you think you don’t like pineapple in carrot cake, try this recipe. You won’t be able to pull out the flavor of pineapple, but it adds a fruity sweetness with a touch of tang. And it also helps keep our cake moist and tender. It’s a secret ingredient for making the absolute best carrot cake.
  • I know you can buy pre-shredded carrot. But unfortunately, this cake isn’t the place to do it. Only freshly-grated carrot will melt beautifully into this cake the way we want it to.
  • You’ve made it this far! Yes, you really do need to butter and flour the cake pan.
best carrot cake recipe graphic

Carrot Cake FAQs

What is Cake Syrup?

You might have heard of simple syrup, which is a mixture of sugar and water (usually at a 1:1 ratio) that’s brought to a boil to dissolve the sugar.

You can use simple syrup to sweeten drinks or to soak cakes after they’re baked (like poke cake).

Similarly, cake syrup is a sweet syrup that we use to soak cake after it’s baked. It adds a sweet, rich flavor and is the secret trick that keeps our carrot cake moist for days!

If you’re a baker and you’re familiar with enriched dough, you can think of cake syrup, which contains butter and buttermilk, as “enriched” simple syrup.

Think of cake syrup as the ace up your sleeve that transforms this into the best moist carrot cake recipe of your life.

Does Carrot Cake Have Raisins?

The real question is – do you like raisins in your carrot cake? If so, you can add them to this carrot cake recipe! Add 1 cup of raisins along with the coconut and pecans.

Can I Omit the Pineapple in Carrot Cake?

The technical answer is yes, you can omit the pineapple. (If you do so, add the same amount of applesauce instead.)

But I’m telling you, adding pineapple to carrot cake will help yield what you’ll describe as the best carrot cake of your life. You won’t be able to taste the pineapple; it just adds a fruity tang and sweetness.

However, the real magic in adding pineapple to cake is that it’s a natural tenderizer. The pineapple helps make the cake tender and keeps it moist for longer.

the best carrot cake of your life

Can I Use This Recipe to Make Carrot Cake Cupcakes?

Absolutely! This homemade carrot cake recipe make a ton of cupcakes, so it’s perfect for a classroom party or other gathering.

If you make cupcakes, be sure to line the muffin tray with paper liners. Bake them at 325F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Start checking for doneness around 15 minutes.)

How Can I Make a Layer Cake with This Recipe?

You will need either 2 or 3 9-inch round cake pans instead of a 9 by 13-inch pan.

Butter and flour the inside of the cake pans. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper that’s been trimmed to fit.

Bake them at 325F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Start checking for doneness around 20 minutes.)

More Mind-Blowing Cakes to Make

piece of carrot cake on plate

Let’s Connect

an edible mosaic submark initials

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The Best Carrot Cake Recipe (J. Alexander’s Copycat)

5 from 7 votes
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Other Time2 hours 30 minutes
Yields: 15 servings
The best Carrot Cake recipe is melt-in-your-mouth moist, light and fluffy, warmly spiced, and perfect topped with a cloud-like canopy of velvety cream cheese frosting.

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Ingredients
 

Cake Syrup:

Carrot Cake:

Other:

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Instructions
 

For the Cake Syrup:

  • Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Let the syrup cool until it reaches room temperature or is just slightly warm.

For the Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter and flour the inside of a 9 by 13-inch cake pan.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and crushed pineapple (with juices). Whisk in the shredded carrot. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just to combine, being careful not to over-mix. Stir in the coconut and pecans.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes.
  • While the cake is still hot, poke holes all over the top with a fork or wooden skewer. Pour the cooled cake syrup over the hot cake. Let the cake cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate to chill, about 2 hours.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • When the cake is almost fully cooled, make the frosting. Add all ingredients to a large bowl. Use a handheld electric beater to mix until light and fluffy.

To Frost the Cake:

  • Once the cake is cooled, spread the frosting on top.
  • Before serving, refrigerate for 30 minutes so the frosting can set.

Notes

  • Recipe Inspiration: This was inspired by J. Alexander’s carrot cake recipe, as seen on Sun Sentinel.
  • Recipe Yield and Serving Size: This recipe makes 1 (9 by 13-inch) cake. I usually cut it into 15 pieces (I make 2 cuts the long way and 4 cuts across, which yields 15 slices). It’s a very rich and decadent cake, so feel free to cut the slices smaller if you prefer.
  • Cake Syrup: Don’t skip the cake syrup. This is the ace-up-our-sleeves that ensures our carrot cake is moist every time. And bonus, it helps the cake taste fresh for longer!
  • Pineapple: If you think you don’t like pineapple in carrot cake, try this recipe. You won’t be able to pull out the flavor of pineapple, but it adds a fruity sweetness with a touch of tang. And it also helps keep our cake moist.
  • Shred Fresh Carrots: I know you can buy pre-shredded carrot. But unfortunately, this cake isn’t the place to do it. Only freshly-grated carrot will melt beautifully into this cake the way we want it to.
  • Preparing the Cake Pan: Yes, you really do need to butter and flour the cake pan.
  • Storage: You can store carrot cake covered with plastic wrap in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Nutrition

Calories: 757kcal | Carbohydrates: 85g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 415mg | Potassium: 223mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 69g | Vitamin A: 3715IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 71mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Best Carrot Cake, Best Carrot Cake Recipe, Carrot Cake, Carrot Cake Recipe, J Alexander’s Carrot Cake

Share it with me on Instagram and leave a comment to let me know your thoughts!

moist carrot cake pin

This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on March 28, 2010. I updated it with more information on April 4, 2022.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating




61 Comments

  1. It was the best carrot cake ever. Had it at J Alexander’s first and your recipe did not disappoint 💥. Thank you

  2. THE BEST CARROT CAKE EVER!!!!!!

  3. Patti Scimpf says:

    I WOULD LOVE LOVE LOVE to try this recipe –
    But I couldn’t find the quantity of each ingredient. All I saw was pictures and names if ingredients. ☹ Where do I find the quantities of each ingredient? PLEASE send me the recipe with the quantities— “PRETTY PLEASE with a cherry on top!!”

  4. Hello I made this cake it was amazing but I love to know if I can freeze it

    1. Weam, Thank you for your comment, I’m so happy you enjoyed the cake! It’s my absolute favorite carrot cake.

      If you want to freeze the cake, it’s best to do so before adding the cake syrup and frosting, otherwise you run the risk of the cake getting soggy (due to the syrup). I hope this helps!

      1. Thank you so much I will try that

  5. Marcy Dillingham says:

    outstanding it is a heavy calorie load but so worth it!

  6. I’ve made this before and it is fantastic! Boyfriend now requests for every birthday. Question, making it in two 9inch round pans this time, when should I take them out of the pan? Before or after completely cool in refrigerator?
    Thanks!

    1. Brooke, Thank you so much for your sweet comment, I love that your boyfriend requests this as his birthday cake! I would add the syrup to the hot cake, let the cake cool to room temperature, and then chill completely in the refrigerator before removing the cake rounds from the pans and assembling the cake (this is because if the cake is colder, it’s less likely to crumble). Also, to help make sure that the cakes come out of the pans neatly, you might want to line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper that’s been trimmed to fit (and still butter and flour the pans). I hope this helps! :)

  7. I love this recipe but I discovered that one of my coworkers is allergic to cinnamon and I wanted to make this cake for work. Would it be workable with no cinnamon and what would you do in place

    1. Olivia, Thanks so much for your kind words, I’m happy you’re enjoying this recipe! It will be fine without the cinnamon; you don’t have to make any other changes, but if you want to, you could increase the nutmeg to 3/4 teaspoon.

  8. This is currently in the oven! Making for my son & DIL who just welcomed their 5th son!!!!! This is her favorite dessert & I couldn’t see paying over $60 for a cake at J’s. Hope it’s delicious

    1. Cathy, Huge congrats you all of you on the newest addition to your family!! I hope you all enjoy the cake! :)

  9. Hi! I came across your recipe while searching for Firebirds Grill carrot cake which I believe is the best carrot cake and I haven’t tried J.Alexander’s carrot cake because we don’t have the restaurant here so after reading everyone’s comments, it made me want to make it for a friend’s birthday party. I have a question about nutrition facts you shared and it is for the entire cake or by per serving? Thanks for your recipe!! Hope it becomes a hit!!

    1. Sherri, The nutrition information is for each serving (1/15 of the cake). It’s very rich, but if you want you can cut the slices smaller. I hope you enjoy it if you make it! :)

      1. 5 stars
        Your carrot cake was a huge hit and loved it including my husband which he proclaimed that your cake beats Firebirds Grill’s carrot cake 👍👍👍

        Thanks for your recipe and so glad I found your site!! 😊

  10. Nancy Abraham says:

    5 stars
    True, this is the BEST carrot I have ever made! Fantastic beyond belief, soooo moist and tasty. Thank you so much for sharing this exquisite cake. I make cupcakes and they turned out perfect. I will be making these forever. My search is over, this is the BEST!!!!

  11. Randy Kirby says:

    5 stars
    Fantastic recipe! I did have to make one very important change. The cream cheese icing is too sweet (IMO) with 3 cups of confectioners sugar. I discovered this after mixing, so I added another 8 oz of cream cheese and a little more vanilla. The result was an absolutely perfect icing. Everyone that has tried it has said it was the best they ever had.

  12. Im making the cake in a 11×15 pan. Should I increase the cake ingredients by 1/2? Also should the cake syrup be increased? Thanks!

    1. Gayle, Yes, I would increase the cake ingredients by 1/2. This amount of cake syrup should be fine for an 11X15 cake. Hope you enjoy it, this is my all-time favorite!

  13. Hi, I was wondering if I should make this cake in a metal pan or glass Pyrex? Thank you

    1. Stefanie, I developed and tested this recipe in a metal pan. You could also use glass, but it might change the cooking time a bit because metal heats up faster. I hope this helps!

  14. 5 stars
    This looks amazing, can’t wait to make it! Will it still be fresh if I make it 2 days before serving and just store it in the fridge? Or should I make it the same day I’ll be serving it?

    1. Naz, Thanks so much, I hope you enjoy it! :) This will be fine if you make it 2 days ahead and store it in the fridge.

  15. 5 stars
    Hands down the best carrot cake I’ve ever had !!

  16. June Bentley says:

    Can’t wait to try this for my husband’s birthday next week. He LOVES J Alexander’s carrot cake. We drove an hour and a half today to eat there so he could have some – and so I could have their grilled chicken salad with champagne dressing – you wouldn’t happen to have that recipe would you? Thanks so much for your efforts. I am sure it will be wonderful.

    1. June, I don’t have the salad recipe but it sounds wonderful! Hope you enjoy the cake, it really is fantastic…and I hope your hubby has a wonderful birthday! Faith

  17. I made this last night, and can’t wait to try it! (I’m really, really hoping it’s good, because I had to sub. gluten free flour for a friend, but it still looks light and soft). Anyway, I was at J.Alexander’s recently (thus the sudden urge to make my own carrot cake) and I could have sworn theirs had raisins in it. Don’t really care, but I wondered if raisins changed the cake, if it was a personal preference, or if I’m just misremembering.

    1. Hi Pamela, I’m so glad you made the cake! I’ve never tried it with gluten free flour — hope it turns out well! I’ve never found a raisin in carrot cake I got at J. Alexander’s, but you could definitely add some if you want.

  18. Zi Bailey says:

    5 stars
    This carrot cake recipe is awesome! Never again will I have to purchase a carrot cake from a restaurant in order to experience a well made cake. Many thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Zi, Thanks so much, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! :)

  19. It is way too late for me to be looking at this cake!! It is a very good thing it is not in this house right now ’cause I would be diving in!! You out did yourself here. Carrot cake is my favorite, glad to hear you have become a fan!

  20. Yummy!! Perfect cake!! Looks soft and so tasty!

  21. theUngourmet says:

    My husband and I really love carrot cake. He doesn’t like chocolate at all so I make him carrot cake for his birthday sometimes. This looks like a wonderful recipe!

  22. Oh I loved my Easy Bake Oven! This looks like a gorgeous cake and Ali loves carrot cake. Maybe one of these days I will make it for him…if I happen to feel generous! :)

  23. That cake looks amazing!I have to make carrot cake at home!

  24. This is my mom’s FAVORITE cake! But she doesn’t like the icing, so I always bake for her without. Just like you, she doesn’t like cheese in the sweet context.

  25. Catherine says:

    This cake looks so beautiful! I love carrot cake and I love the frosting…oh so yummy!
    Happy Monday!

  26. Carrot cake is the first cake I learned to bake. I like it, but it’s not my fav. Still, my husband adores it :D

  27. BLASPHEMY. Carrot cake is by far my favorite cake. I even requested it on my birthday last year. And cream cheese frosting? Don’t even get me started. That is my trademark.

    I still haven’t been able to attain the carrot cake of my dreams yet. I’m going to have to give this one a shot. Because it looks like some kind of fabulous.

  28. figtreeapps says:

    This takes carrot cake to a whole new level..YUM

  29. Mmmm, I am not always the biggest carrot cake fan but this looks really good! I just want to snag a fingerful of that icing!

  30. Dawn (HealthySDLiving) says:

    My mouth is watering…I love carrot cake! Omg this looks delicious! :)

  31. Your carrot cake looks so good! That is a speciality I’ve always loved…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  32. Andrea @ CanYouStayForDinner.com says:

    Faith I’m so glad you came to your senses and realized carrot cake is the best thing on Earth! Yours looks unbelievably decadent and mouth watering! I am so in love with the inside of that double decker I can hardly take it! Excellent creation, as always, my friend!

  33. Perfect, healthy dessert…always my favourite.

  34. Your carrot cake looks amazing!

    I think I started to love carrot cake when I started to make my own. I know I ate carrot muffins or cake when I was a kid, but I don’t remember if I loved it or not.

  35. Oooh this sounds like a definitely must do! I love stories like this where people love a particular dessert or dish adn they spend ages trying to replicate the recipe and then share it with us so generously! :D

  36. Mmmmm cake looks delicious faith! Love the cream cheese on top, mouth watering!

  37. Really? Really?! You didn’t love carrot cake for all those years!? It is hands down my favorite cake (one smart mommy you got!), and I will have to make this sometime soon…for a group! Or else…dangerrrrrrrous!

  38. That’s so funny that you say you didn’t used to like carrot cake because I just did a post about liking foods that I used to not like (well, then end of the post anyway :) ). I’m glad you like carrot cake now. Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts now, but when I was growing up, vegetables and desserts definitely did not mix! I’m bookmarking this recipe because it just looks so insanely good :)

  39. Faith

    This is a great carrot cake and if you place a slice in front of me I would devour it in 2 minutes flat!

  40. I’m glad you’ve seen the light. Your Cake looks delicious.
    Mimi

  41. It looks divine, Faith. I’m so glad you persevered!! You have a super recipe that perhaps all non-carrot cake lovers should try.
    I’ve never made one, but I sure have eaten some good ones. I wish my mother was still here…I’d make her your cake for Mother’s Day!

  42. Faith, that cake look positively lush…..

  43. Heavenly Housewife says:

    Ha, glad you came over to the dark side, where carrot cake is king daaaaaahling :D
    *kisses* HH

  44. sugar plum says:

    Oh i sure do love ur orange cake…way way too muc….coz of the stori that gave birth to this one…maybe if ur in Florida again u could tell ’em ur story and they’ll love it so muc that they’ll part with their secret recipe:-)))
    But maybe theres really no need too coz u have a super version here:-))))

  45. Yummy. Carrot cake. I love when you can see the orange specks from the carrot peeking through. This is one good looking cake. Sure it tastes even better than it looks….

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