• Carrot cake with lemon cream-cheese frosting (Chris Middleton)Source: Chris Middleton

It’s hard to beat a great carrot cake with lemony cream cheese frosting. Decorate the cake with edible flowers from the garden, if you have them.






Skill level

Average: 3.1 (43 votes)

The ‘naked’ method (where you don’t add an outer layer of frosting) I’ve used here for icing the cake, is quick and easy, with spectacular results.


  • 350 g (12½ oz/2⅓ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour 
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 160 g (5½ oz/1 cup) dextrose
  • 310 ml (10½ fl oz/1¼ cups) macadamia or sunflower oil
  • 200 g (7 oz/⅔ cup) apple purée (see note)
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 carrots (about 350 g /12½ oz), finely grated
  • 150 g (5½ oz/1½ cups) walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped (optional)
  • edible flowers, to decorate (optional)


Lemon cream cheese frosting

  • 250 g (9 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 125 g (4½ oz) butter, chopped into cubes and softened
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 160 g (5½ oz/1 cup) dextrose

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Cooling time: 10 minutes

Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F (fan-forced). Grease three 4 cm (1½ in) deep, 20 cm (8 in) round cake tins and line the bases with non-stick baking paper. If you don’t have three tins, you can cook the cakes
in two batches. 

Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl and set aside.

Whisk the dextrose, oil, apple purée and eggs together in a large bowl until well combined. Stir in the carrot and nuts (if using), then fold in the sifted flour mixture. 

Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared tins (I like to weigh it – about 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) of batter for each tin). Smooth the surface with a spatula and bake for 18–20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and lemon zest with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the butter 4–5 cubes at a time and beat until light and fluffy. Add all of the lemon juice and the dextrose a few spoonfuls at a time, and beat until well combined.

Use straight away, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2–3 days. Before use, bring back to room temperature and re-beat until smooth and creamy.

If the cakes are slightly domed, trim the tops off to level them with a long sharp serrated knife. 

Put a little dollop of frosting in the centre of a serving plate and place four strips of baking paper around the edge. This will help to keep the plate clean of any icing. Place one layer of cake on the prepared plate. Spread about 160 g (5½ oz) of the frosting over the cake, taking it just over the edges. Repeat with the remaining two layers, placing the top layer of the cake bottom-side up (to achieve a sharp edge). Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of the cake. Smooth off any excess frosting to achieve a ‘naked’ effect, just exposing the side of the cake. Remove the protective strips of baking paper from under the edges of the cake. Decorate with edible flowers, if desired. 

This cake can be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator, covered loosely with plastic wrap. Decorate with flowers, just before serving.



• Apple purée helps to add bulk to recipes that have had the cane sugar removed, as well as providing natural sweetness and fibre. Peel, core and roughly chop 4 large apples (about 800 g/1 lb 12 oz). Put the apples and a splash of water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8–10 minutes or until tender. Stir and mash the apples, still over the heat, until broken down – they should be mushy and quite thick. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. It is fine to have a little bit of texture, but if you prefer a smooth sauce, whiz in a food processor or use a hand-held blender and purée until smooth. The purée will keep for 3–4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It also freezes well for a couple of months – portion the purée into small containers or spoon into ice-cube trays, freeze and seal in an airtight container. Makes 600 g (1 lb 5 oz/2 cups).


This recipe is from Incredible Bakes (Smith Street Books). Photography by Chris Middleton.