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Maida’s Carrot Cake

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Layers of moist carrot cake loaded with goodies and a surprise for a nice deep flavor coated in cream cheese frosting is a cake lover’s dream come true! This recipe is straight from the queen of cakes herself, Maida Heatter.

three layer carrot cake with raisins and cream cheese frosting on cake plate with slice on plate next to cup of coffee.

I figured I might as well start this post with a review from my grandma.  She said this cake was the best carrot cake she’s had and it almost made her purr.  

Now that’s saying something!  Enough maybe even. Post finished.

Ha!  Of course I couldn’t let it just go at that.   This month’s bake kind of started with a bit of panic.  

I thought I had the cake baked back in early July.  Something made me look again before I wrote the post and the cake I had baked was nowhere to be seen!  PANIC!

I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find the list I had picked from.  What the heck happened?  

It turns out Facebook on my computer is only showing me one event per group at a time. Who knows why?  

When I looked on my phone I could see the list for SEPTEMBER and there was my cake. I guess I don’t know what month we’re in any more.  

Ahem… I mean I am just really super duper prepared and ahead of the game!

Round layered carrot cake covered in cream cheese frosting with graham cracker crumb garnish, with 1/4 of cake missing showing layers.

There were some really great sounding cakes in the round up for this month’s Cake Slice choices.  One was really tempting, but had similar flavors to the cake I already baked for next month’s choice.  

I wouldn’t want to wear you out with too many similar delicious cakes.  So I had to give this one a go. It was interesting anyway, there is a tablespoon of cocoa powder in it.  

Yep, in a carrot cake.  It really isn’t enough to taste as chocolate, but I am sure it helps give that dark color and probably adds to the depth of flavor as well.  No matter what it’s purpose, this cake is delicious.

I honestly wasn’t 100% sure how this was going to go.  Maida’s ingredient list asked for 1 lb of carrots or 4 packed cups.

I was using bits and pieces of bags of carrots, so I opted to measure rather than weigh.  Probably a mistake.  It took a lot more carrots than it should have to make the 4 cups.

I would guess I used closer to a pound and a half.  It made for a more dense cake than it probably would have been otherwise.  But they baked well, turned out cleanly and ate like a dream.  

I am sure I would have got more rise with fewer carrots, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t do it the same way next time.  I hope somebody else baked this cake so I can see how theirs turned out.

Slice of layered carrot cake with raisins on plate, ready to eat.

Maida offered instructions on making marzipan carrots from scratch.  It would have been really fun to try, but I didn’t have the time to go for it.  

Nuts are always a pretty garnish, but then half of my guests wouldn’t have even given it a try.  The problem is the cake needed something!  

So, I ground up a few graham cracker and sprinkled them on.  Next time I’d probably make a little more frosting and pipe it on instead, but as always I had a group coming over and more food to make so I went for quick and easy this time!

Slice of layered carrot cake with raisins on plate, ready to eat.

Maida’s Carrot Cake

Layers of moist carrot cake loaded with goodies and a surprise for a nice deep flavor coated in cream cheese frosting is a cake lover's dream come true! This recipe is straight from the queen of cakes herself, Maida Heatter.
4.67 from 6 ratings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 Servings
Calories 452 kcal


Carrot Cake

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 pound carrots shredded
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar packed
  • cup vegetable oil
  • cups walnut pieces

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 oz cream cheese softened
  • ½ cup butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
Makes: 9inch round



  • First, steam the raisins.  Place them in a steamer basket or small strainer in a pot with a bit of water in the bottom.  (The water shouldn’t touch the raisins.) Boil over high heat for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.
    1 cup raisins
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare three 9-inch cake pans.  Either butter and flour the pans or use the baking spray with the flour in it and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa.  Set aside.
    2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs just to mix.
    4 eggs
  •  Add the sugars, vanilla and oil.  Beat until fully incorporated.
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1¼ cup vegetable oil
  • Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined.
  • Stir in the carrots, raisins, and walnuts if using.
    1 pound carrots, 1½ cups walnut pieces
  • Divide batter between the 3 prepared pans and spread to even it out.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes.  The edges should be just pulling away from the pan and the top should spring back when lightly pressed.
  • Cool for 2-3 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.  Cool completely and then freeze right on the wire racks.  They are too moist to handle at this point otherwise.  Freeze for at least an hour before assembling the cake. However, once frozen, you can wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.


  • Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy.
    16 oz cream cheese, ½ cup butter
  • Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix in on low until incorporated.  Then turn the mixer to high and beat for until smooth.
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 cups powdered sugar


  • Place a frozen cake layer on your cake plate.  Spread about ⅔ cup of frosting over the cake.
  • Repeat with the next layer, more frosting and the final cake layer.
  • Spread remaining frosting over the sides and top of cake.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve and serve cold.


Serving: 1ServingCalories: 452kcalCarbohydrates: 50gProtein: 5gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 367mgFiber: 2gSugar: 36g
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Recipe Rating


Sunday 24th of March 2024

I somehow lost the big Maida cookbook with this recipe. I've made it literally 100s over the past 30 years. I was so happy to find it,but I know the original recipe had walnuts in it.


Sunday 24th of March 2024

You are correct. Her recipe calls for 5.5 ounces or 1 1/2 cups of walnut pieces. We prefer it without, but I will make sure to add them back to the recipe card. If there are any other favorite recipes you need, let me know!

Frugal Hausfrau

Thursday 1st of September 2016

Trials and tribulations! I always thought it was a sign of a great cook when you can forge ahead and turn out something wonderful despite the issues!! This looks fantastic~and it looks like it frosted like a dream, too - some carrot cakes are so delicate they're all but falling apart when that frosting gets piled on.



Friday 2nd of September 2016

It really worked out well. Plus I figure the extra carrots pushed it from the kind of healthy to the straight up health food category. So it was really a win all the way around! Thanks, Mollie!


Sunday 28th of August 2016

Carrot cake is one of my favorites. Absolute favorite. It is so moist and flavorful, dense and delicious! I've never made it from scratch though, this recipe looks really good and I'd love to see what the cocoa powder would do to the flavor. I've tried it in chili and it gives an earthy, deep taste, so I'm sure I would love it in carrot cake. The cream cheese icing is one of my favorites too. Delish. Pinning, Stumbling, Yumming so I can easily find this again!


Sunday 28th of August 2016

It is fun to make from scratch, Nikki! I could see how a little chili would work in there. I may have to give that a try one of these days. Cream cheese frosting is one of my downfalls too. I think you and I could do some damage on a frosting buffet! Do you think they have such a thing? Maybe we need to create one! A bunch of frostings and a few dippers (or just a bunch of spoons!)


Sunday 28th of August 2016

My Mom used to make a yummy carrot cake. One of us really needs to learn to make her recipe. My hubby loved it.Yours is so pretty! Now I want some too! What could be better than a cake party! Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us at Merry Monday. I’m all excited about fall and can’t wait to see all the fall food and projects at the new party starting tonight!


Sunday 28th of August 2016

Hmmm, a fall party? I'll have to check that out! I love fall recipes! I am getting excited planning what to share this year and have quite a few fun things on the docket already. I hope you have your mom's recipe! I love trying new things, but there is nothing quite like the version you grew up on!


Saturday 27th of August 2016

That bit of cocoa powder was fun, and since I had only used one cup of soft brown sugar instead of 1 cup each of brown and white... my carrot cake was a bit dark as a result. Still good though. Love love your triple layers!


Saturday 27th of August 2016

I thought the cocoa was fun too, I always enjoy trying new things! Your cake looks lovely!