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What Makes a Very Moist and Dense Carrot Cake?

I love a dense and moist carrot cake. What should I look for in a carrot cake recipe to be sure this is the way it will turn out?

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    1. re: monavano

      LOL monavano -- exactly my thought!

      1. re: monavano

        I was about to reply and say: Fat.

      2. some people add canned pineapple to keep it moist...though i'm personally not a fan so i use applesauce instead.

        brown sugar will give you a denser cake than one made with white sugar; grating the carrots very finely helps with density as well.

        4 Replies
        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          I find some carrot cake recipes to be too oily so I replace some of the oil with the juice drained from the crushed pineapple.

          1. re: greygarious

            Thank-you Greygarious....I am always looking for a more healthy recipe.

            1. re: Deborah

              This week I hybridized CI's oatmeal snack cake recipe with Martha Stewart's hummingbird cake recipe to make a batch of 12 cupcakes. Instead of soaking the quick oats (note: MUST be quick, not OF or instant) in water, I used the pineapple juice.
              I used whole wheat pastry flour for all the flour. Ate one still warm - meh. But after a night in the fridge, they were terrific. I made a note to myself to try making carrot cake cupcakes with this basic recipe. The oatmeal is not only healthy but I think would contribute to moisture and density.

          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

            goodhealthgourmet....exactly the advice I was looking for....thanks so much!

          3. The carrots themselves add moisture, so I'd look for a recipe with a high carrot: flour ratio.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Isolda

              Good advice....Isolda....thanks so much!

              1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                Along the same lines, Cook's Illustrated recommended including a jar of pureed carrot baby food.

                1. re: greygarious

                  whoopsie, you got there first, greygarious!

                  1. re: greygarious

                    Great idea, thanks for sharing. That would certainly cut down the prep time.

                    1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                      As I recall, the baby food is in addition to the grated carrot, in place of some of the oil, to bump up the carrot flavor.

                2. I used to have to make carrot cake for a living.

                  So through trial and much much error, here are my tips for making the carrot cake not only dense but mucho moist.

                  TYPICAL: Most recipes call for 2 teaspoons of baking soda.
                  MOIST/DENSE: 1 teaspoon of soda and 1 teaspoon of baking powder

                  TYPICAL: 2 cups of sugar
                  MOIST/DENSE: 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar

                  TYPICAL: 1 cup of oil
                  MOIST/DENSE: 1/2 cup of oil, 1/2 cup of butter

                  One last tip. Macerate your carrots. That is, let your shredded carrots and your two types of sugar sit in a bow for 15 minutes so juices start to form. This is critical IMO to a moist cake.

                  Hope that helps.

                  Good luck.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    ipsedixit....exactly what I'm looking for.....thanks so much! Carrot cake requested for my husband's birthday.

                    1. re: Deborah

                      Well, lets then hope that hubbie was good to you on v-day.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I am blessed....with hubby....been together 42 years....we are now down hill skiing for a 4 day holiday.....lovely inn....champagne etc.... making a carrot cake not a big deal!!

                      2. re: Deborah

                        To make it healthier, you could also replace half the flour w/ white whole wheat and that would add denseness, too. I don't use brown sugar but mix white w/ molasses (replace 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar w/ molasses) but go heavier w/ molasses to make it more dense. I find carrot cake very forgiving and usually err on the side of too much carrot for moistness.

                      3. re: ipsedixit

                        Any chance you would share your recipe?

                        1. re: Riatta

                          any chance she would share her vacation? ;)

                          1. re: Riatta

                            Any chance you would share your recipe?


                            Which one would you like?

                            This thread just reminded me that I also use daikon sometimes to make a "white carrot cake"

                        2. My secret is that to any decent-sounding recipe you find, add a large jar of baby food carrots.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: mamachef

                            The problem with adding pureed foods (i.e. apple sauce or crushed pineapples) is that it makes the cake less dense, but does increase the moistness factor.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              True that, ipse. One thing that I've found pretty helpful flies in the face of all baking advice, but for a sheet cake (which I realize is not generally how carrot cake's prepared, but it can be) I take the cake out of the oven about 3-4 minutes before it's done, and use a spatula to press the cake down evenly in the pan. This has worked incredibly well for fudge sheet cakes and lemon as well. Oh, another thing that will help is to replace the liquid called for in the recipe with carrot juice, or at least for part of the liquid.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                The problem with adding pureed foods (i.e. apple sauce or crushed pineapples) is that it makes the cake less dense
                                ah, but only if it's *in addition* to all the fat/oil...i use applesauce to *replace* some of it.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  And *that* (the decreased density using those substitutes) was what was sticking in my head today after I saw this thread. Can you provide a ratio for the fruit to oil? I'd like to know which I am better off erring on the side of.

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    ah, but only if it's *in addition* to all the fat/oil...i use applesauce to *replace* some of it.


                                    That would make it less dense, at least if by "dense" one means rich in texture.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      by dense, i mean heavy & compact...which you can still achieve by *replacing* some of the oil with pureed fruit, but not so much if you keep the oil content as-is and ADD pureed fruit as well. so let's say you're using a recipe that calls for 1 cup of oil - if you replace half the oil with applesauce you'll still get a dense (& moist!) cake. but if you keep one cup of oil and add applesauce to the cake as well, you end up with a looser/less dense cake. probably a bit soggy too ;)

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        Well, that's no doubt true, but it's not going to be more dense than a cake made without applesauce or pureed fruit as a substitue for the oil and butter.

                                        More moist, yes. More dense? No.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          i never said it would be *more* dense...just that you can *still* get a dense cake that way.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            Ah, I see.

                                            I am too dense to pick up on your nuances.

                              2. My favorite carrot cake recipe has plenty of oil and a small can of crushed pineapple. It's also dense with carrots and nuts. It weighs a ton when finished.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: mcf

                                  mcf: do you have a recipe for your favourite carrot cake recipe? Sounds exactly what I'm looking for!

                                  1. re: Deborah

                                    Here it is:

                                    2 C sifted flour
                                    2 tsp baking powder
                                    1 1/2 tsp baking soda
                                    1 1/2 tsp salt
                                    2 tsp ground cinnamon
                                    2 C sugar
                                    1 1/2 C salad oil
                                    4 eggs
                                    2 C finely shredded carrots
                                    1 (used to be 8.5 oz) can drained crushed pineapple in juice
                                    3 1/2 oz unsweetened flaked coconut (or adjust sugar)
                                    1/2 C chopped walnuts

                                    sift together flour, salt, b. soda, b. powder and cinnamon

                                    beat at med. spd. 1 min. oil, eggs, sugar, then stir into flour mixture

                                    stir in carrots, coconut, nuts, pineapple


                                    1/2 C butter, soft
                                    8 oz cream cheese, softened
                                    1 tsp vanilla
                                    1 lb box 10x sugar

                                    Blend, chill before using.

                                    bake at 350 (my old, stained copy of this does not give baking time and I don't remember it, but use fairly wide cake pans if making layers, or it's very, very tall, this affects cooking time.
                                    I think it's about an hour, but don't quote me. I had to type this from a friend's steno pad recipe covered with grease spots and haven't made it in a few years.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      That packs a lot of oil for the cake! My favorite, thus far, has been Alton Brown's. The yogurt makes it nice, dense and moist, as long as it's full fat.


                                      1. re: chowser

                                        I think the oil is really a wonderful part of the cake, I would never use anything else, but I do substitute walnut oil for salad oil, which usually has stuff in it I don't use/eat. I can see how half oil/half butter might be as good or better, but honestly, if you're going for broke, this cake cannot be beat, have never tasted as good or better from any venue.
                                        I think it's a well known cook's recipe that I got from a friend, but I can't recall where I saw it, years after I began making it; I'd like to give credit where it's due, aside from my old friend Lynne.

                                  2. re: mcf

                                    Is it low(er) carb? If so, I'd love the recipe, too, to make for my father.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      No, it isn't, but I've made it reduced carb in the past. I used carbalose flour (adjust liquid, it needs more typically, batter should pour, not be thick/dense/slow. I also subbed a combination of erythritol, xylitol and liquid sucralose for sweetener in the cake. Once, I processed xylitol into confectioner's sugar for frosting, but that led to unfortunate gastric effects, so don't recommend it. Better to cut the frosting by half (the recipe makes a LOT), using maybe sugar, processed xylitol and liquid sucralose combined. Best you can hope for is reduced carb, not low which is why our family favorite is no longer in rotation unless specifically requested.

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        Wow, thanks--I don't have those ingredients so probably wouldn't do it. I thought it might be just using Splenda or something simpler. I'll stick w/ cheesecake or custard.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          I get an icky mouth feel and aftertaste from Splenda, but cutting it by half with other sweeteners knocks that out. I also use liquid sucralose to avoid all the carbs in granular Splenda, which are quite high when measuring by cups full, from maltodextrin.
                                          All the sweeteners I use are available in local stores, so easy to come by.

                                          In addition to cheesecakes and custards, you can make pretty low carb rhubarb crumbles in season, using nut topping with seeds and with some CarbQuik if you like. And don't forget Robert's brownies from the recipe on the Scharffenberger bittersweet wrapper and my favorite chocolate decadence, Boule de Neige. Insanely good and very low carb with adjustments.

                                  3. I also love adding some wheatgerm!

                                    1. Crushed pineapple is part of my carrot cake ingredient list...

                                      1. I grind my carrots in the food processor, not to mush as they are ground raw, but much finer than you would get with a grater. It makes for a great cake texture, especially for those who say they don't like carrot cake.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: sarahjay

                                          In my experience, using the hand grater for the carrots makes a much tastier cake. When using the food processor to grate, something gets lost and the cake is not as tasty.

                                        2. I agree with the crushed pineapple rec.

                                          1. In my experience, replacing eggs with yogurt makes cakes moister and denser.

                                            1. The best carrot cake recipe is from Epicurious.com..look for triple layer cake cakes...
                                              It's the BEST...even my pastry chef sister loves the recipe. It's perfectly moist.. it's perfectly dense yet fluffy at the same time..perfect balance!

                                              6 Replies
                                                1. re: toveggiegirl

                                                  Very similar to mine, except for nutmeg, raisins and pecans. Would definitely be a moist, dense cake.

                                                    1. re: Monica

                                                      Question please....

                                                      I would like to make this carrot cake but rather than 2 layers I want to bake it in a bundt pan. Would this be okay?

                                                      1. re: millygirl

                                                        yes, it will work but will take at least half again as long.

                                                        1. re: millygirl

                                                          Yes, as magiesmom mentioned, it will just take longer...you will have to watch the cake...you can even lower the temp to 325 if it bakes too fast outside.