Incredibly moist mini carrot cake made with silky cream cheese frosting and crunchy caramelised walnuts. This recipe is ideal for small parties or gatherings and can be made ahead of time. Perfect for Easter and other celebrations!
It would be unfair to call this just carrot cake, because it’s so much more! This 6-inch mini cake is incredibly moist, fragrant and flavourful. Packed with lovely warm spices and sprinkled with caramelised walnuts, this mini carrot cake is next level.
There are few things in this world that go together as well as carrot cake and cream cheese frosting. And this cake has the best of both! Layered with silky smooth white chocolate cream cheese frosting, you will fall in love with this cake.
Did I also mention the adorable carrot curls for decorations? This recipe is bound to become a family favourite and a show stopper on your Easter table. The small size makes it ideal for smaller groups and parties, and also easier to transport.
Why this is the best carrot cake recipe
- Amazing flavour: Imagine the best carrot cake you’ve ever had, then triple it to get this recipe! This mini cake is made with warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, along with naturally sweet carrots and apples. Richness and tanginess is added by the white chocolate cream cheese frosting, and nuttiness from caramelised walnuts.
- Extra moist: Say goodbye to dry and crumbly cake, because this mini carrot cake is so moist that it can even be eaten without frosting! Using lots of carrots and grated apples helps keep this cake moist and soft.
- Well balanced sweetness: This tiny carrot cake recipe carefully balances the flavours and uses natural sweetness. The cake is not too sweet, as the sponge uses minimal sugar and relies mainly on the sweetness of carrots and apples. Paired with a tangy cream cheese frosting and caramelised walnuts sprinkled throughout, this cake is the perfect level of sweetness.
- Perfect for smaller groups: This small 6-inch cake is ideal for group of 4-8 people. So if you’re hosting a small party or Easter celebration, this mini cake is ideal!
- Ideal for Easter: Although carrot cakes are amazing throughout the year, they are particularly popular for Easter. Decorated with beautiful carrot curls and caramelised walnuts, this cake is perfect festive choice for your holiday table.
- Great for making ahead: The carrot sponge is perfect for making ahead if you’re tight on time. It can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days, and it can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Then it’s ready to frost and decorate when you need it!
- Complete showstopper: This mini carrot cake looks so beautiful on any table that it’s guaranteed to impress your guests. So whether you need it for Easter, birthday or special occasion, this small cake looks the part! Decorated with frosting, carrot curls and caramelised walnuts, your guests are bound to be super impressed by your cake!
What does it taste like?
This mini carrot cake recipe is unique because of its delicious flavours, as well as complementing textures. Made with a blend of warm spices, this cake may be small, but it packs a punch! Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom work together to create a comforting, spiced and authentic flavour.
Grated carrots and apples add natural sweetness and a fruity flavour, which works perfectly with the warm spices. Relying mostly on natural ingredients makes this carrot cake a healthier option too, as it contains minimal sugar compared to other recipes.
The amazing warm flavour is enhanced with roasted nuttiness by adding caramelised walnuts. They are added in between each layer and as decoration. Walnut add flavour, but they also add a wonderful crunchy texture.
This rich mini carrot cake is then finished off with layers of luscious white chocolate cream cheese frosting. This type of frosting is incredibly smooth, tangy and subtle. It’s the perfect addition that brings together all the elements of the cake.
So, if you’re looking for a carrot cake that’s comforting, perfectly spiced, tangy and not overly sweet – this amazing recipe is the one for you!
All ingredients used in this recipe are very easy to find in most grocery stores, or you may already have them in your pantry. Here’s what’s needed for this 6-inch small carrot cake recipe:
For the carrot cake
- Brown sugar – Used in minimal quantity in this recipe, brown sugar adds a caramelised sweetness. You can also replace it with plain sugar or coconut sugar.
- Eggs – The binding agent that brings the cake together like glue. Make sure eggs are at room temperature before using.
- Sour cream – Makes the cake ultra-soft and helps retain moisture. You can replace sour cream with heavy cream, Greek yogurt or buttercream in the same quantity.
- Vegetable oil – Like sour cream, vegetable oil keeps the carrot cake soft and moist. I recommend using a neutral oil, such as sunflower or canola oil.
- Orange zest – Adds a citrussy zing to the cake, which helps bring out the natural sweetness of carrots. You can also use lemon zest or citrus extract instead.
- Vanilla – Is used as a flavour enhancer. You can use vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste for a more natural flavour.
- Flour – All-purpose flour is needed for this recipe. You cannot replace it with self-rising flour.
- Baking powder & baking soda – The leavening agents in this recipe, they help the cake rise and become fluffy. I recommend using both for best results.
- Spices – I like using a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a pinch of cardamom. You can also use ground cloves, allspice or star anise for a stronger kick. Feel free to adjust spices to your personal preference.
- Milk – Added at the end, the milk makes the cake soft and moist by bringing the batter to the perfect consistency.
- Carrots – Grated carrots are the star ingredients for this recipe. I recommend using high quality carrots if possible.
- Apple – Adds natural sweetness to the cake and help keep the cake moist. I recommend using sweet apples like Pink Lady. You can also replace the apple with more grated carrots or add 2-3 tablespoons of applesauce instead.
For the cream cheese frosting
- White chocolate – Adds sweetness and richness to the frosting. I recommend using high quality white chocolate if possible. You can also replace it with other types of chocolate, or 1 teaspoon of smooth peanut butter.
- Butter – Helps make the frosting thicker and smoother. I recommend using plain, unsalted butter. You can also use margarine if needed, but the frosting can come out a little softer than usual.
- Cream cheese - Is very important for a perfectly smooth and tangy frosting. Use good quality, full fat cream cheese like Philadelphia. You can also use lower fat cream cheese if desired, but since it contains more water it can make the frosting thinner.
- Optional: Vanilla – Recommended for a boost of flavour. I like using vanilla bean paste, but you can also use vanilla extract. Alternatively, use lemon or orange extra for a citrus flavour.
How to make carrot cake
1. In a large mixing bowl combine all the wet ingredients and sugar. Mix well to combine.
2. Separately in a large bowl, sift dry ingredients and combine. Add them into the wet ingredients. Mix in the flour mixture, then dilute the batter with milk
3. Using a spatula, fold in grated carrots and apple.
4. Divide batter into three 6-inch pans and bake. Let the cakes cool down in the pans for 5 minutes, then on a wire rack until fully cooled.
Making caramelised walnuts
1. In a medium saucepan, cook water and sugar until an amber-coloured caramel forms.
2. Add in walnuts and coat well in caramel. Working quickly, spread the caramelised walnuts onto a lined baking sheet and let cool. Chop into smaller pieces or use a food processor.
Making the frosting
You can find the complete recipe, including tips & tricks and FAQ’s on my post White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.
Here’s a brief summary on how to make it:
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave in short intervals, then let it cool down to room temperature.
- In a medium bowl, at medium speed beat the butter until pliable. Mix in the cream cheese and melted chocolate, then combine well.
- Add the vanilla extract and optionally 1 drop of purple food colouring to make the frosting whiter.
- Place in a piping bag and use.
Alternatively, if you have a serious sweet tooth, I recommend using classic cream cheese frosting.
Assembling & Decorating
Once all the elements are ready, assembling the mini carrot cake is... a piece of cake! Here’s how to put it all together:
1. Place the bottom cake layer onto a cake board. Top with cream cheese frosting, levelling it with a spatula.
2. Sprinkle chopped caramelised walnuts on top. Repeat the process for the second cake layer.
3. Place the third cake layer on top, then coat the cake in cream cheese frosting. Refrigerate to harden.
4. Add a final coat of frosting, then level everything with a cake spatula.
Now onto my favourite part – decorating! There are many different ways of decorating this mini carrot cake, and here are some ideas:
- Pipe cream cheese frosting on top using decorative piping nozzles
- Top with chopped caramelised walnuts or walnut halves
- Add homemade carrot curls for a colourful finish
- Colour some frosting with orange and green, then pipe cute carrots over the cake
- Add candied or dried orange slices on top
- Use fresh fruit for a colourful and flavourful finish
- Sprinkle colourful orange or Easter themed sprinkles on top
- Add some grated carrots on top
- Sprinkle with coconut flakes or almond flakes for a rustic look
- Keep it plain for a minimalistic look with pure white frosting
Although this mini carrot cake is already divine, you can adjust it to your personal preference by adding extra ingredients. Here are some ideas:
- Raisins – Add some raisins or other dried fruit to the cake batter for extra sweetness
- Pecans – Add chopped pecans into the cake batter for even more crunchiness
- Caramel sauce – Drizzle caramel sauce on top of the cake or in between the layer for a lovely sweet flavour
- Coconut – Add shredded coconut or coconut flakes in between the layers for a lovely tropical flavour.
- Pumpkin – Substitute some of the grated carrots or apple with pumpkin. Alternatively, add pumpkin spice into the batter for an autumnal flavour.
- Chocolate – Add some cocoa powder into the cake batter for a chocolatey flavour.
- Coffee – Add a shot of espresso into the cake batter for a subtle roasted kick.
Success Tips & Tricks
- Freshly grated carrots: I recommend using fresh carrots for a moist and tender cake. Pre-packaged shredded carrots are much drier and will affect the cake texture, making it crumbly.
- Oil instead of butter: Although most cakes use butter, this mini carrot cake requires oil. Vegetable oil keeps the cake tender and fresh for longer, so I strongly recommend using it.
- Don’t skip the walnuts: Caramelised walnuts add lovely crunch and a roasted nutty flavour. Make them ahead of time and use them when needed. You can also use toasted walnuts, without the caramel. Simply toast them in a pan until they smell nutty and roasted.
- Line cake pans: Always line the bottom of your cake pans with parchment paper, as this cake can be quite sticky. The sides can also be lined or at least greased with nonstick cooking spray. Alternatively, use a butter knife or spatula to unstick the sides after baking.
- Make the cake ahead: I recommend baking the cake at least a day before and storing it in the fridge. This helps mature the flavours and also makes the cake extra moist. It also makes it easier to cut if you need to level the top of the layers.
- Cool down the chocolate: It’s crucial to cool down the melted chocolate to room temperature before adding it into the cream cheese and butter mixture. If it’s too hot, it will turn the frosting runny and can make it split. Alternatively, make sure the chocolate is not lumpy or too thick, as it can make the frosting grainy and difficult to pipe.
- Pure white frosting colour: Since the cream cheese frosting contains butter, it can make it look a little yellow. Neutralise the yellow by adding a drop of purple food colouring and make the frosting appear whiter. A little food colouring goes a long way, so careful not to add too much!
Storing & Freezing
This mini carrot cake is ideal for making ahead, as there are multiple way for storing it. I strongly recommend making the carrot cake in advance. After baking the cake base, let it cool down, then cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2-3 days.
The plain cakes can also be frozen for up to 2-3 months. Simply cover them in plastic wrap and aluminium foil, then freeze. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
The fully assembled cake must be stored in the fridge. Store it in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days (less if the plain carrot cake layers were also stored for 2-3 days). The mini cake can also be frozen. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
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If you're looking to switch up the classic carrot cake, check out this delicious Carrot Cake Cheesecake!
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Mini Carrot Cake Recipe
- 3 6-inch cake pans
- ½ cup light brown sugar (120 grams)
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- ⅓ cup sour cream* (100 grams)
- ½ cup vegetable oil* (100 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or orange extract, optional
- 1 zest whole lemon or orange
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (240 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (7 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (5 grams)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
- ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder, optional
- ⅓ cup milk, lukewarm
- 2 cups grated carrots (200 grams or 7 ounces)
- 1 medium apple, grated
Caramelised walnuts, optional
- 1 ½ cups shelled walnut halves (150 grams)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- ¼ cup water (50 grams)
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup white chocolate chips* (150 grams)
- 5 ounces butter, cold (150 grams)
- 1 cup cream cheese, cold (225 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1-2 drops purple food colouring*
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F (170°C) with fan and line 3 x 6-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl add the light brown sugar, salt and eggs. Using a hand mixer combine the ingredients until fluffy.
- Pour in the vegetable oil, sour cream, vanilla and orange extracts and orange zest. Mix again until combined.
- Separately in a medium bowl sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and all the spices. Whisk everything well to combine, then add them into the wet mixture. Use a spatula to combine the batter.
- Wash, peel and grate the carrots and apple. Add them into the cake batter, then use a spatula to fold into the batter, without over-mixing.
- Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, then tap the pans on the work surface to even out the surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- After baking, let the cakes cool down in the pans for 5 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans, then place on a wire rack to cool down completely. Cover in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.
Caramelised walnuts, optional
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, add the sugar and water. Cook over medium-low heat without mixing until the mixture turns amber in colour. This is the caramel base.
- Remove caramel from the heat, then add in the walnut halves. Carefully mix with a spatula to coat the walnuts in caramel.
- Moving quickly, spread the walnuts on the lined baking paper. Try to get them in a thin layer, without any big clumps.
- Let them cool down completely, then break down into smaller pieces. Using a rolling pin or food processor, crush into smaller pieces. Save some larger pieces for decoration.
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- Melt the white chocolate in the microwave in short 20-30 seconds intervals. Mix chocolate in between each interval for 30-40 seconds to prevent burning. Repeat until the chocolate is fully melted, then let it cool down to room temperature before using it. It should still be runny, but not warm to the touch.
- In a separate mixing bowl, with an electric mixer beat the cold butter until softened and pliable.
- Add the cooled melted chocolate, cream cheese and vanilla extract into the butter. Mix until fully combined and fluffy. If needed, add 1 drop of purple food colouring to make it less yellow.
- Use immediately for the cake layers and coating. Save ½ cup of frosting for decoration and place ir in a piping bag fitted with decorative nozzle.
Assembling the Mini Carrot Cake
- If needed, level the top of each cake layer by cutting off any excess.
- Place the bottom layer on a cake board, using a small dollop of frosting to secure it to the board.
- Add cream cheese frosting, then level it with a spatula. Sprinkle some of the crushed caramelised walnuts on top.
- Sandwich with another layer of cake, then repeat the process with frosting and caramelised walnuts.
- Add the third cake layer on top, pressing down gently. Coat the top and sides in a thin layer of frosting, then use a cake spatula to even it out. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to harden the frosting.
- Coat with a thicker layer of white chocolate cream cheese frosting, then level it out with a cake spatula.
- Decorate as desired with frosting, carrot curls, sprinkles or caramelised walnuts.
- I recommend using a kitchen scale in grams for more accuracy. The cups used for the conversion are standard US customary cups (1 cup flour = 136g). There are many different types of cups across the globe, which is why I strongly recommend using grams instead.
- Nutritional information is indicative only and is calculated per slice (this mini cake yields 8 small slices).
- Sour cream can be replaced with buttermilk, Greek yogurt or heavy cream.
- Vegetable oil - use either sunflower or canola oil.
- White chocolate bars can also be used, just chop them finely to the same size of chocolate chips.
- Purple food colouring is added to neutralise the yellow colour of the butter, making the frosting appear whiter.