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Carrot cake came out NOT sweet enough to eat!

Hi all,

I made a carrot cake using a recipe I found online. It turned out a bit bitter and not moist enough and not sweet enough. This is the original recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/carrot-c...

Based on the reviews I read, I made some adjustments so this is the recipe I followed which made the cake not sweet enough:

• 4 eggs
• 1 cup vegetable oil
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 3 cups grated carrots (4 carrots = 0.7 lb
)• 1 cup chopped pecans
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F for dark color pans.
2. Line a 9x13 inch pan (or two 9” round pans) with parchment paper.
3. With an electric mixer mix eggs, oil, white sugar, brown sugar
and 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl for about a minute.
4. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
5. With a spatula, stir in carrots, fold in pecans. Try not to over mix.
6. Pour into prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes
7. Put pan on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
8. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
9. I frosted it with store bought whipped cream cheese frosting.

Can someone please help me find my mistake(s) and bake a better cake next time? Basically it needs to be a lot sweeter and less bitter and more moist :)

Thanks in advance

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  1. I don't make carrot cake but it does seem that your carrots must have been bitter and perhaps dried up. I think cutting the oil was a mistake, as it came out dry.
    Also, what kind of oil did you use? Was it by chance rancid?

    It does seem like it should be plenty sweet, which also makes me wonder about the carrots.

    15 Replies
    1. re: magiesmom

      Thanks, I bought store bought shredded carrots. The oil was vegetable oil

      1. re: sparkling_girl

        I would definitely not use pre-shredded carrots. You're lacking moisture right there. Buy regular carrots, taste them and then shred them yourself if you like the taste.

        And yes to adding pineapple. I have a recipe given to me by a good friend of mine and it is the best carrot cake I've ever had. She adds pineapple to her recipe.

        1. re: Jeanne

          Thanks to all of you nice members for trying to help me out.

          If I use a 8 oz pureed crushed pineapple, will I still need to add the applesauce? Here's the recipe I put together which should have all of your advice applied to it, please let me know if I need to change anything:

          • 4 eggs
          • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
          • 1/2 cup applesauce
          • 2 cups white sugar (or 1 cup white and 1 cup packed brown)
          • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
          • 1 8 oz can drained crushed pineapple (small can)
          • 1/4 cup shredded coconuts
          • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
          • 2 teaspoons baking soda
          • 2 teaspoons baking powder
          • 1/2 teaspoon salt
          • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
          • 3 cups freshly grated carrots –
          taste each carrot before grating
          • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

          1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (for dark color pans) or 350 for light color pan.

          2. Spray and line two 9” round pans with cooking spray and parchment paper.

          3. Puree the drained crushed pineapple

          4. With a stand mixer or electric mixer mix eggs, oil, white sugar, brown sugar,
          crushed pineapples and 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl for about a minute.

          5. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and continue mixing.

          6. With a spatula, stir in carrots and pecans.

          7. Taste the batter to ensure it is sweet enough.

          8. Pour into prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes
          or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

          9. Put pan on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes then turn the cake out
          onto a wire rack and cool completely.

          1. re: sparkling_girl

            Baking is a science.

            It's SO much better to use a recipe that's tried and true (TNT) than fiddling with one like you have.

            I would strongly suggest choosing a different recipe rather that approaching the cake as you are.

            It's true that too many cooks can spoil the soup. Here, too many bakers can f-up a cake, as baking is a much more sensitive endeavor.

            1. re: C. Hamster

              Exactly. I wonder what the attraction is to a bad recipe that you'd want to change it and not find something better. It's like sticking around a bad relationship that just isn't working.

                1. re: chowser

                  The recipe is what nothingswrong posted here, so I made the one she recommended. Why everyone at that party LOVED hers and mine turned out so dense and heavy? I'm not trying to fix my original recipe, just trying what this forum recommended :-)

            2. re: Jeanne

              Thanks much. Could you please take a look at my revised recipe above and advise if everything looks correct? Can I use both applesauce and crushed pineapple or it's either or? Thanks

              3/4 cup vegetable oil
              1/2 cup applesauce OR 1 8 oz can drained crushed pineapple (small can)

              Or it goes like this:

              3/4 cup vegetable oil
              1/2 cup applesauce
              1 8 oz can drained crushed pineapple (small can)

              1. re: sparkling_girl

                Why not just find a recipe that has the elements that you are looking for already in it?

                1. re: sandylc

                  Ina garten's is very good, and includes pineapple. Be sure to make your own cream cheese frosting, the canned stuff is usually horrible.

                2. re: sparkling_girl


                  this recipe seems to be more of what you are looking for and uses equal parts applesauce and oil. be very careful after you mix the wet stuff and are adding in the dry. you may have better results folding them in by hand.

                  i also really prefer the flavor of some brown sugar vs. using all white.

              2. re: sparkling_girl

                I agree that pre shredded carrots are a big culprit. They have no moisture and can be made out of old crappy carrots. If you are bothering to make a cake, use great ingredients.
                The carrots should provide a good bit of sweetness but did not, probably. Use a whole small can of pineapplewhich will increase both sweetness and moisture as will good fresh carrots.
                Also use non aluminum baking powder.
                And the original amount of flour.

                1. re: magiesmom

                  Your part about 'old crappy carrots' made a lightbulb go off in my mind. I bet packaged shredded carrots are from the regular carrots that are trimmed to make 'baby' carrots. Oh and I would think 2 cups of sugar should make the cake sweet enough.

                  1. re: janmcbaker

                    Carrots are one vegetable that tastes noticeably better organic.

                2. re: sparkling_girl

                  It was your carrots, along with your adjustments to the flour and oil. Shredded carrots are not the same as grated carrots. Shredded are longer, thicker pieces, while grated are short, flat pieces. Fresh carrots have much more moisture than preshredded carrots too - you needed that natural moisture.

              3. I also wonder about the carrots. Were they fresh or older, and did you taste them? They could possibly have contributed bitterness, depending on their age/quality

                You both reduced the oil by 1/4 cup and increased the flour by 1/2 cup, compared to the original recipe, which certainly could have caused the dryness. Why did you up the flour? Beyond simply adding sugar, one common way to add moisture, some sweetness, and complementary flavor to carrot cakes is to include drained canned crushed pineapple. .

                8 Replies
                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  Thanks, some people who had reviewed the recipe had recommended those modifications...how much crushed pineapple do you recommend I use? One whole can?
                  1- If I substitute some of the oil for applesauce would it turn sweeter?
                  2- If I added two cups of white sugar instead of brown and white, would it turn out sweeter?


                  1. re: sparkling_girl

                    Don't mess with the recipe.
                    Make the original, with carrots you shred yourself. Don't alter the flour/sugar/etc.
                    if after you make the version as written you want more sweetness then a powdered sugar cream cheese frosting will certainly make it sweet

                    1. re: sparkling_girl

                      I believe I use that same recipe (mine looks similar, and was adapted from allrecipes), but with modifications. It was for a friend's 55th birthday. He considers himself a carrot cake connoisseur and called me later that night to say it was possibly the best carrot cake he'd ever had. I made a double recipe: made a 3-layer cake (to serve a crowd) and kept the last layer for myself. I also made a cream cheese frosting. The entire cake disappeared, and plates all around were licked clean. I actually considered it to be one of my most successful baking ventures, given the rave reviews from everyone in the room.

                      Definitely add half applesauce for the oil. It does not have any negative effect on taste and adds incredible moistness to the dough.

                      I had never made a carrot cake prior to this, but after tasting it, I was blown away. It was super moist, flavorful, fluffy, light, delicious. Just all-around well-balanced and perfectly sweet. Please do not use pre-shredded carrots in the future! Agree about freshly shredded carrots adding moisture. You might also want to try grating them extra-small so that they melt a bit into the dough.

                      Here's the recipe with modifications:

                      CARROT CAKE (adapted from allrecipes):

                      -4 eggs
                      -3/4 cup vegetable oil
                      -1/2 cup applesauce
                      -1 cup sugar
                      -1 cup brown sugar, packed
                      -1 tablespoon vanilla
                      -2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
                      -2 teaspoons baking soda
                      -2 teaspoons baking powder
                      -1/2 teaspoon salt
                      -2 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
                      -1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
                      -3 cups freshly grated carrots
                      -1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (spread on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 5-10 mins).

                      Beat eggs, oil, applesauce, sugars, and vanilla until incorporated.

                      Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pie spice, then add to wet. Do not overmix.

                      Stir in grated carrots and cooled toasted pecans.

                      Pour batter into 2 greased 8" or 9" pans.

                      Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

                      CREAM CHEESE FROSTING (don't know where this recipe is from):
                      -1/2 cup butter, softened
                      -8 oz. cream cheese
                      -3 1/2 to 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
                      -1 teaspoon vanilla (or 1 vanilla bean, scraped)

                      Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy.

                      Begin adding sugar and the vanilla and beat until frosting consistency, adding more sugar as necessary (you may not use all).

                      You can also thin with milk if needed, but I never need to.

                      Frost cake and chill.

                      Garnish with more toasted pecans.

                      1. re: nothingswrong

                        Hi nothingswrong,
                        I made the cake using your recipe but it came out too dense and heavy. Did I do something wrong? I put the batter into two 9" pans. The texture was too packed and not airy or moist :-( Please advise


                        1. re: sparkling_girl

                          Okay, I'm going to go make this right now and report back this afternoon. It's been a while since I last did, but I do remember it being extremely light for a carrot cake. I've been craving it ever since this thread started.

                          1. re: nothingswrong

                            Okay, I re-made the cake, following the recipe I posted here (almost identical to OP's recipe).

                            The only difference I made was to use cake flour. I mixed everything by hand (my preference for cakes). I beat the oil, applesauce, sugars, vanilla, and eggs. Then added the cake flour, salt, spices, and leaveners and gently folded them in. Then stirred in the freshly grated carrots.

                            I baked one pan of mini cupcakes (to test for an upcoming cupcake party I have to bake for), several regular sized cupcakes, and just for the sake of this thread, the remaining batter went into a cake pan.

                            I accidentally over-filled the mini cupcakes (forgot just how little those babies hold) so they looked a little misshapen.


                            The flavor of this cake is definitely not what I remember. I'm hoping it improves with them sitting for a bit. I will report back later tonight; they are currently frosted and in the fridge. Most cakes with spices in them IMO don't taste right until the flavors have melded for at least half a day. I may replace the oil with butter next time and re-try this recipe, creaming the butter with sugars, then proceeding. I would still probably keep some applesauce in the batter.

                            However, THE TEXTURE IS FANTASTIC. They are light, springy, and very very moist.

                            I tried to take pics of the cut-in-half cupcakes to show how fluffy they are, but not sure if it will translate well.

                            My only guess on the dense and heavy texture of others' cakes is overmixing ?? I did use the cake flour this time, but last time used all-purpose and don't remember the cake being heavy or dense like other carrot cakes I've had in restaurants.

                            For cakes like this, I'm extra careful in measuring and adding dry ingredients, and then mixing only until the flour is hydrated, with small bits of flour still left visible.

                            1. re: nothingswrong

                              Hi! Thanks so much for taking the rime to bake this cake, it looks very yummy. It sure looks fluffier than mine but mine (after sitting in the fridge for two days) tastes much better. But the texture is as you said springy which I don't really like. It's almost elasticy if that makes sense.
                              Does the toothpick have to come out completely clean? Maybe next time I take the cake out while still a little wet so it would be more moist...

                              What happens if I add one small can of drained crushed pineapple to the same recipe.


                              1. re: sparkling_girl

                                Yes, I understand about the springiness. I don't recall the cake being like that last time I made it.

                                I think it's from the oil in the recipe, which is why I'm thinking of doing it with butter next time.

                                It could also be from overmixing. Quick breads will get kind of gummy if they are overmixed, and this recipe is essentially like a quick bread.

                                I have no idea about adding a can of pineapple; I personally don't like it in carrot cake, so I've never tried doing it.

                                I also have a feeling like everyone else is saying that maybe it's just time to try a new recipe! Perhaps one calling for butter and milk for moisture, as opposed to oil and applesauce.

                                The cake tastes and looks lovely today after sitting overnight in the fridge, but it's not as good as I remember it being. I'm a bit disappointed! Good luck finding a better recipe.

                  2. It looks like the cake should have been sweet enough with two cups of sugar...the spices and vanilla should have enhanced the sweetness, as well as the carrots.

                    Everyone interprets sweetness in a different way; what might be sweet to one person, may not be sweet to someone else. A very common mistake people make is not tasting their food prior to the finished product. If you had done this, you could have added extra sugar in the batter and this would not have been an issue. I make an ice cream recipe for my fiancé's family that calls for a "regular" amount of sugar. I know his family likes their sweets sweeter than most so I always up the sugar in the ice cream. They think it's perfect; I don't usually eat it because it's too sweet.

                    It seems an awful lot of leavening for the amount of flour you used which could have attributed to the bitterness you described.

                    When you add flour to a cake recipe, you need to up your moisture content to ensure it's not dry. You should have compensated with applesauce, pineapple puree, yogurt, sour cream or some other liquid to equal the oil you removed. That is why your cake is lacking moistness.

                    I'm curious as to why you increased your flour?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Cherylptw

                      Thanks so much for your reply, some reviewers had recommended the change in flour and oil. I had never made this cake so I'll take everyone's advice and hopefully do better next time.

                      I regarding sweetness I like the grocery bought carrot cakes (Giant, Shoppers) :)

                      1. re: sparkling_girl

                        I'm sure, with some adjustments, your cake will come out better the next time. It matters not if you use white or brown sugar; just add 1/2 cup to one cup more in your next cake. Also, I don't think the carrots had anything to do with the recipe not being moist enough; I think it was the lack of oil and the addition of the extra flour. Unless you puree or juice a carrot, they are not exactly a moisture laden vegetable. Can I just say, please don't add a whole can of pineapple to your batter unless you adjust the dry (flour) ingredients to compensate.

                        If you add 1/4 cup pineapple for the lack of oil and another 3/4 cup to one cup for the added moisture for the extra flour you used for a total of 1 to 1 1/4 cups should work. An 8 oz. can with it's juices may be enough and anything more may throw the entire recipe off. You will probably have to bake the cake a little longer as well. Good luck

                    2. I use Alton Brown's Carrot Cake recipe which you can find on the Food Network website. It's a bit bland so I double the spices. Actually - I think I tripled the cinnamon.

                      1. Did you taste the carrots before you used them? That's plenty of sugar to make a very sweet carrot cake. The carrots themselves are by nature incredibly sweet on their own.

                        The mistakes I see in your recipe were reducing the oil while increasing the flour. That would ensure that the cake is dry. Not a good quality in a cake, imho.

                        Next time if you want to cut the amount of fat, replace it with an equal amount of crushed pineapple (no juice) or applesauce. But please go back to the original amount of flour.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Some carrots are sweet, some are bitter. Taste each carrot before grating. If it's bitter, slice into quarters lengthwise and cut off the core, then taste again. Avoid using carrots with cracks (older, woody core). Always pack the brown sugar unless the recipe says otherwise.

                          Try a carrot cake recipe that uses pineapple, raisins, and coconut. They add flavor, sweetness, moisture.

                        2. The bitterness might be coming from so much baking soda and baking powder. The carrots could make a big difference and they remain on the shelves long after they're not longer sweet and moist. I don't know if you're committed to this recipe but I really like Alton Brown's carrot cake:


                          8 Replies
                          1. re: chowser

                            There's a recipe on chowhound with 2 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder and otherwise is fairly similar to the one posted
                            and quite a few people said they made it and it tasted fine.

                            I think, barring some other contaminant (or if the baking soda had lumps in it), the carrots sound like the prime suspect.

                            1. re: willownt

                              Some people are more sensitive to the taste of baking soda than others.

                              1. re: chowser

                                True. And then there's the metallic flavor of aluminium-based baking powder.

                                1. re: sandylc

                                  I find anything it is in distasteful.

                                  1. re: magiesmom

                                    Me, too - like chewing on aluminum foil!

                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        I suspect a preshredded carrot in a cake would be a bit like chewing on plastic wrap, so I think choosing fresher carrots would be an important first step towards a yummy carrot cake. I have a hard time imagining why a cake with 2 c of sugar AND cream cheese frosting would be bitter just because of 2 tsp of baking soda, unless the OP got tsp and Tsp confused and used 2 tablespoons of baking soda. She also complained it was dry, which, unlike freshly grated ones, preshredded carrots are virtually guaranteed to be.

                                        1. re: willownt

                                          I find organic carrots with the green tops still attached have much more flavor than other carrots, like the ones at Costco. Of course, I, too, think it's better to shred them myself. I don't like to fool around doing them in food processor, I just use a box shredder.

                              1. re: walker

                                Thanks but I'd like to stick to the same recipe I posted above (revised version), just wondering if I could get some answers regarding the about the question please :-)

                                1. re: sparkling_girl

                                  I think your cake will be too wet and heavy with the applesauce on top of the pineapple. Not enough coconut - a cup would be better. And you need sultanas. Chuck the original recipe and find one that has what you want.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Thanks much all,

                                    I made the cake again, this time I used 3/4 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce, no pineapple and used two cups of white sugar and 2 cups of flour.

                                    The cake was much better than the first time, but as you said. it came out dense and heavy. How can I fix that problem? You know what I'm trying to say, it wasn't airy or light, it came out dense and heavy.
                                    Just a note that I put the batter into two 9" round pans and baked it for 35-37 min, the edges were done at about 30 minutes but the middle was not set.

                                    Any help would be much appreciated :-)

                                      1. re: sparkling_girl

                                        Sounds like you were - again - diverging from a printed recipe. Lower temp, longer baking needed, but you cannot expect a carrot cake to be light or airy.

                                        1. re: sparkling_girl

                                          Use cake flour.

                                          Carrot cake CAN be dense and heavy, but I've had (and made) carrot cakes that are less so than others.

                                          Sift together all your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder/soda, and spices) with the cake flour. If you want to get all crazy, sift them together multiple times.

                                          In a white cake, I would also whip my eggs or egg whites before folding them in. But with this cake, maybe just beat your sugar(s) with the oil, applesauce, and eggs, then fold in your dry ingredients with a spatula very gently. A good rule of thumb would be to just mix until most of your dry ingredients are dispersed but there still may be streaks of flour visible.

                                          Stir in carrots very gently, and nuts if using.

                                          Cake flour--when sifted multiple times and handled gently--makes for extremely fluffy baked goods.

                                          1. re: sparkling_girl

                                            To make a fluffier cake, you need butter to cream w/ the sugar. An oil based cake will be denser and heavier. You could go w/ more applesauce, less oil.

                                            1. re: sparkling_girl

                                              Cooks illustrated did a 'Best' carrot cake that was a lighter fluffier version. If you don't want dense, heavy cake, definitely do not add pineapple and applesauce. Especially after sitting, batters with fruit purée will get moister. If you want something light and fluffy I think you are working from the wrong recipe and making the wrong adaptations. Sorry.

                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                I'm inclined to agree after re-making this yesterday.

                                                Also, just to get back to the OP's question about the cake being sweet enough--the 2 cups of sugar called for were DEFINITELY sweet enough for my tastes. Especially with the cream cheese frosting I added, I can't imagine this not being sweet enough for anyone's tastes.

                                          2. re: sparkling_girl

                                            You've been elusive when people ask why you're tinkering with the original recipe. As it is I'm left wondering why you're bothering to sub 1 cup of oil with 3/4 cup oil + 1/2 cup applesauce. What's the point? What's your objective?

                                            Are you looking to make a "healthier" cake, or trying to reduce/eliminate one or two of the ingredients for intolerance reasons, or aiming to astonish the baking world by making a tall, fluffy layer cake with carrot flavoring?

                                            For us to give you the best possible advice it would help us a lot more if you could tell us what exactly you're looking for out of a carrot cake and why. Much of the advice given so far are like stabs in the dark because we're still relatively clueless as to what your ultimate objectives are for the carrot cake.