Best Sourdough Carrot Cake From Scratch

My sourdough carrot cake is a moist, fluffy, spiced cake full of finely shredded carrots topped with a light cream cheese frosting. My husband, who doesn’t like carrot cake, said it was not only the best carrot cake he’s had but the best cake in general he’s eaten. Wow, what a statement! I know you’ll love it just as much as we do! 

slice of cake on a plate in front of the full cake with little carrot decorations on top
Source: Plum Branch Home

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Sourdough Carrot Cake Recipe Inspiration

Spring has officially arrived here in middle Tennessee, which means Easter is just around the corner. The days are warmer, the sun is shining more, the birds are chirping, and the tree frogs are singing.

So of course, with the new season here to stay, I’ve been inspired to develop a few springtime goodies. After a long thinking session on a walk last week, I decided the blog needed a carrot cake made with sourdough. I think you’ll love it just as much as we do! 

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Simple and easy to follow
  • Only uses wholesome ingredients
  • No seed oils are used: canola or vegetable
  • Super soft and moist cake crumb
  • The flavor is full of spices
frosted cake sitting on a pie platter with carrots pipped on top
Source: Plum Branch Home

How My Recipe Is Different Than Others

I developed this recipe to use wholesome ingredients and simplified steps. Unlike many cake recipes, mine uses butter instead of seed oils for a healthier cake. I also use sour cream to help keep the cake crumb moist and fluffy. Lastly, this recipe is simple; there are no nuts or raisins, just finely shredded carrots. 

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 2/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Sourdough starter (fed or discard)
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup Pure Cane Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Butter (melted)
  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Carrots (finely grated with a box grater)
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 2 Eggs (room temp: sit out for 20-30 minutes before using)
  • 1/4 cup Sour Cream
  • 1/4 cup Milk (dairy or dairy free)

For the Frosting

  • 8 oz Cream Cheese (softened)
  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/3 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Milk (dairy or dairy-free)

Optional Decoration

  • green and orange food coloring without artificial dye (or red and yellow to make orange)

Kitchen Tools You’ll Need

My Tips for the Best Sourdough Carrot Cake

  • Let your eggs sit at room temperature for 20–30 minutes before using them in this recipe. They’ll combine more easily with the batter and help the cake rise while baking.
  • Don’t overmix the batter to prevent a dense cake.
  • Don’t rush the creaming of the melted butter and sugar.
  • Always use sour cream for a light, fluffy, and moist carrot cake.
  • Use the fine-grate side of a box grater to get the perfect-sized shredded carrots.
  • I let my sourdough starter sit on the counter with the eggs for 20–30 minutes to bring it to room temperature before using it in this recipe. 
  • Don’t open the oven door while the cake is baking.

How to Make Sourdough Carrot Cake

With an electric mixer on low speed, cream the sugar and melted butter for 1 minute.

creamed sugar and butter with an egg being mixed in a bowl
Source: Plum Branch Home

Add eggs one at a time, mixing on low speed until combined.

ingredients being mixed with an electric mixer
Source: Plum Branch Home

Add in salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, sourdough starter, sour cream, milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Mix with the electric mixer on low just until combined.

flour added into the batter with an electric mixer
Source: Plum Branch Home

Add in the flour, mixing on medium speed just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure an even mixture.

carrots being stirred into a batter
Source: Plum Branch Home

Stir in shredded carrots with a spoon or spatula just until evenly combined. Set the cake batter aside.

flour dusted cake pan
Source: Plum Branch Home

Lightly grease or prepare a round 9-inch (or 9 1/2-inch) cake pan with a light coating of butter, then dust with flour and turn upside down to get rid of the excess.

pouring batter into a cake pan
Source: Plum Branch Home

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and tap the pan carefully on the counter twice to remove air pockets in the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35–40 minutes (don’t open the oven door while baking).

testing a cake to see if it's fully baked
Source: Plum Branch Home

Use a toothpick to check if the center is fully baked (it’ll come out clean if done) and remove it from the oven. Let it cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack.

How to Make the Cream Cheese Frosting

While the cake is cooling, add cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla to a mixing bowl.

whipping together frosting ingredients
Source: Plum Branch Home

On medium speed, with the hand mixer, cream frosting until evenly combined without lumps, about 1-2 minutes. Set frosting aside.

Carefully remove the cake from the pan after cooling and place it on a plate or serving platter. Let it sit and completely cool before frosting.

frosted cake on a plate
Source: Plum Branch Home

Once cooled, top with cream cheese frosting and serve!

Optional Decorating

If you would like to decorate the cake with mini-frosted carrots, take two large spoonfuls of frosting and place them in a separate bowl.

Add green food coloring to one bowl and stir to combine.

Add orange or yellow + red food coloring to the other and stir to combine.

carrots pipped on with frosting as decoration
Source: Plum Branch Home

Place each colored frosting into their own piping bags or plastic sandwich baggies with a corner trimmed, and pipe the carrots onto your cake.

Long Ferment Option (make ahead)

If you’d like to make this recipe ahead of time or long-ferment the batter, leave it in the fridge for 12–24 hours before baking it. This will allow the sourdough starter cultures to ferment the other ingredients in the batter. 

Storing Carrot Cake

If your carrot cake is unfrosted, you can store it for up to 3 days at room temperature. If it’s frozen, you need to store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It’ll last 5-7 days in there. 

How to Freeze Carrot Cake

Wrap the slices of carrot cake individually with plastic wrap or parchment paper, then place them in an airtight freezer-safe bag or container. They’ll last 2–3 months, frosted or unfrosted. 

How to Thaw Carrot Cake

Thaw slices of carrot cake overnight in the fridge when you’re ready to enjoy them.

cake with a slice out of it and a server on the plater
Source: Plum Branch Home

Sourdough Carrot Cake FAQ

Does carrot cake with cream cheese frosting need to be refrigerated?

Yes, any baked goods or items with cream cheese frosting must be refrigerated.

Can you make sourdough carrot cake in advance?

Yes, you can! Carrot cake is, honestly, even better the next day. Follow the instructions above, earlier in this post, to learn how to do it. 

Do I use fed starter or discard?

You can use either fed starter or discard for this recipe.

Can I use sourdough discard straight from the fridge?

Yes, as long as there’s no hooch (a layer of liquid on top), you can use your starter straight from the fridge, unfed. 

Why is my carrot cake so dense and heavy?

This can happen for several reasons. You could have mixed the batter too long, or your starter could have been less hydrated (mine is 50% hydrated from a 2:1 feeding ratio). Most likely, you just mixed the batter a bit longer than needed. 

Why does carrot cake taste so good and different from other cakes?

Carrot cake uses spices like nutmeg and cinnamon to create a delicious spiced flavor that other cakes don’t have.

Do I have to use the sour cream?

I highly recommend using the sour cream in this cake recipe. It adds moisture and creaminess, giving the cake a perfect, fluffy texture. You won’t taste the sour cream at all. 

Can I use vegetable or canola oil instead of butter?

For this recipe, I don’t recommend using either vegetable or canola oil. I developed it specifically to use butter instead of oil.

Should I use salted or unsalted butter?

You can use either: I use salted, grass-fed butter. 

What does sourdough do for cakes?

Sourdough makes cake tender rather than chewy by stopping the formation of gluten in the batter.

Can I add in nuts like walnuts or pecan and raisins?

Yes, you can add any nuts or dried fruit of your choice. I haven’t done this with this recipe; I just know it may affect the texture. But it shouldn’t do too much. 

Try These Sourdough Dessert Recipes

I love hearing how much you love my recipes, be sure to leave a review below! 😊

slice of cake on a plate in front of the full cake with little carrot decorations on top

Best Sourdough Carrot Cake From Scratch

Molly LaFontaine of Plum Branch Home
My sourdough carrot cake is a moist, fluffy, spiced cake full of finely shredded carrots topped with a light cream cheese frosting. My husband, who doesn't like carrot cake, said it was not only the best carrot cake he's had but the best cake in general he's eaten. Wow, what a statement! I know you'll love it just as much as we do! 
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Sourdough
Servings 1 cake

Ingredients
  

For the Cake

  • 2/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Sourdough starter (fed or discard)
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup Pure Cane Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Butter (melted)
  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Carrots (finely grated with a box grater)
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 2 Eggs (room temp: sit out for 20-30 minutes before using)
  • 1/4 cup Sour Cream
  • 1/4 cup Milk (dairy or dairy free)

For the Frosting

  • 8 oz Cream Cheese (softened)
  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/3 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Milk (dairy or dairy-free)

For the Decoration (optional)

  • green and orange food coloring without artificial dye (or red + yellow to make orange)

Instructions
 

  • With an electric mixer on low speed, cream the sugar and melted butter for 1 minute.
  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing on low speed until combined.
  • Add in salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, sourdough starter, sour cream, milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Mix with the electric mixer on low just until combined.
  • Add in the flour, mixing on medium speed just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure an even mixture.
  • Stir in shredded carrots with a spoon or spatula just until evenly combined. Set the cake batter aside.
  • Lightly grease or prepare a round 9-inch (or 9 1/2-inch) cake pan with a light coating of butter, then dust with flour and turn upside down to get rid of the excess.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and tap the pan carefully on the counter twice to remove air pockets in the batter.
  • Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35–40 minutes (don’t open the oven door while baking).
  • Use a toothpick to check if the center is fully baked (it’ll come out clean if done) and remove it from the oven. Let it cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack.

How to Make the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • While the cake is cooling, add cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla to a mixing bowl.
  • On medium speed, with the hand mixer, cream frosting until evenly combined without lumps, about 1-2 minutes. Set frosting aside.
  • Carefully remove the cake from the pan after cooling and place it on a plate or serving platter. Let it sit and completely cool before frosting.
  • Once cooled, top with cream cheese frosting and serve!

Optional Decorating

  • If you would like to decorate the cake with mini-frosted carrots, take two large spoonfuls of frosting and place them in a separate bowl.
  • Add green food coloring to one bowl and stir to combine.
  • Add orange or yellow + red food coloring to the other and stir to combine.
  • Place each colored frosting into their own piping bags or plastic sandwich baggies with a corner trimmed, and pipe the carrots onto your cake.

Notes

Storing Carrot Cake

If your carrot cake is unfrosted, you can store it for up to 3 days at room temperature. If it’s frozen, you need to store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It’ll last 5-7 days in there. 

How to Freeze Carrot Cake

Wrap the slices of carrot cake individually with plastic wrap or parchment paper, then place them in an airtight freezer-safe bag or container. They’ll last 2–3 months, frosted or unfrosted. 

How to Thaw Carrot Cake

Thaw slices of carrot cake overnight in the fridge when you’re ready to enjoy them.
Keyword plum branch home sourdough carrot cake, sourdough carrot cake, sourdough carrot cake recipes

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Recipe Rating




2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This cake is so moist, full of flavor and delicious!! Plus it was easy to make.
    I used a homemade cashew cream cheese for the frosting (non dairy plus I was out of cream cheese). It was delicious

    1. So glad you enjoyed this cake recipe! The homemade cashew cream cheese sounds like a delicious substitute for regular cream cheese!