Spiced carrot cake layers infused with maple syrup and topped with maple caramel & cream cheese frosting.
We’re most of the way through August now, which means we’re that much closer to Fall (my fave season), and I really could not be happier.
We’re still in summer mode, so I’m not going to bust out the pumpkin recipes just yet. But I thought it would be a great time to do a seasonal transition cake of sorts, using those fresh carrots from your garden or local farmers market and pairing them with the comforting Fall flavors of maple to make this delicious Maple Caramel Carrot Cake.
I had so many challenges with this cake that at one point I considered the possibility that the universe didn’t want me to make this recipe.
There are too many carrot cake recipes out there already (it said), why does the world need another one?! Nevertheless, I’m glad I persevered, because this Maple Caramel Carrot Cake is truly like no other.
Don’t try to use rainbow carrots thinking you’ll have a pretty, colorful rainbow cake. You won’t.
How to Make this Maple Caramel Carrot Cake
Little known fact (at least to me): purple carrots turn dark green when baked in a cake. True story.
My original vision for this cake involved the pretty rainbow carrots that you can see all around farmers market stalls this time of year. I LOVE them. I thought they would be so pretty in a cake — the contrasts of the orange, yellow, and purple… SO pretty right? Right. Much to my dismay when the cake layers came out of the oven, I knew my perfect rainbow vision was not going to happen.
My research into why this happens led me a bit astray. Everything I found talked about regular orange carrots turning green, and the culprit was baking soda. The orange carrots in my cake were fine though — it was the purple ones that were the issue. I suspect it was probably still the acid in the baking soda, though.
At any rate, cake #1 was scrapped due to dark green worm-like specks through the layers (not pretty). It actually would have been scrapped anyway though, because the layers didn’t bake up as tall or pretty as I wanted, so I needed to tweak the recipe. Just as well, but I was sad to give up my dream of the rainbow carrots!
The next issue was with the maple caramel. I don’t know why, but I always have issues with caramel. It’s easy enough to make (or should be), but it always gives me problems.
Caramel and I are not BFF’s and likely never will be. It’s just one of those things. My first attempt seemed like it was going okay, but something was off and I ended up with a thick, crystallized mess. Attempt # 2 was much better.
How to Make Caramel
I now have a detailed tutorial on How to Make Caramel with all sorts of tips and troubleshooting.
Assembling the cake was no picnic either.
Somehow I was low on powdered sugar. How this could happen still boggles my mind. I am usually so diligent about noting ingredients I am running short on so that I’m never in this situation. I searched and searched for another bag of powdered sugar, but no luck.
So my frosting was 1/2 cup short on powdered sugar (recipe adjusted for correct amounts), which meant that the frosting was softer than I wanted it to be. Normally it wouldn’t be a huge problem, but assembling a cake with soft frosting and soft caramel in 30+°C (85+°F) temps with no A/C posed a bit of a challenge, to say the least.
In the end, it all worked out and OMG is this cake good. Maybe my favorite cake ever. EVER!
Carrot cake is delicious as it is, but something about the combination of the maple and the caramel with the cream cheese frosting is just pure heaven. It’s so good that Ryan won’t even let me give any slices away, so they’re squirreled away in our freezer.
If you’re looking for something a little different, a twist on something traditional, then this is the cake for you! The cake layers are incredibly moist and the maple caramel has a delicious and unique flavor. It really is my new favorite cake recipe. I hope you like it as much as I do. Oh and if you’re into all things maple, be sure to give my Maple Cake a try too!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I convert this recipe?
- The recipe as-is will also work in three 6″ pans. For three 8″ pans, 1.5x the recipe. Baking time may need to be adjusted.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so. The recipe will make 18-24 cupcakes depending on size.
- For other conversions go here.
Can I make it in advance?
- The cooled cake layers can be baked ahead of time, double wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
- The frosting can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for 1 week for frozen for 3 months. Bring to room temp and rewhip before using.
- The caramel can be made the day before and left at room temperature overnight or refrigerated for a couple weeks (or frozen for longer). You’ll need to bring it to room temperature again before use.
- The finished cake (whole or sliced, stored airtight) can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Can I get the measurements by weight/grams?
- There is a Metric option in the recipe card. If you click it it will convert everything to grams.
- This conversion is done automatically and I cannot guarantee the accuracy but many readers have had success using the metric option for this recipe.
Tips for this Maple Caramel Carrot Cake
- Apr 14, 2022 – Cream Cheese Frosting recipe revised to make a more stable frosting.
- You can use store-bought caramel if you’d like to simplify the recipe, but it won’t have a maple flavor.
- If you refrigerate your caramel, you will need to warm it up a bit before using on the cake. I microwave it in 5 second intervals, stirring in between, until it’s pourable (but not warm).
- It’s best to create a bit of a lip with the frosting so that the caramel doesn’t pour out and over the sides.
- I like to prepare my cake pans using Homemade Cake Release then line with parchment.
- Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, see my Flat Top Cakes post.
Maple Caramel Carrot Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- pinch ground cloves
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 3 cups grated carrots lightly packed,approx. 4 large carrots
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar sifted
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup cream cheese full fat, chilled, cubed
- cornstarch or meringue powder optional
- 4 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup pecans chopped, toasted
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 8″ cake rounds, line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer combine vegetable oil and sugars. Beat until well combined (2 mins). Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Add flour mixture in 3 parts. Add in carrots.
- Spread batter evenly into prepared pans and bake for 55mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
- Place maple syrup in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Do not stir at any point.
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer until maple syrup starts to brown even more (the bubbles will be very dark brown) or the temperature reads 240F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream while whisking quickly. The mixture will bubble up a lot.
- Return to heat, add butter, and continue to cook for 2-3mins while whisking constantly.
- Cool completely then transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge.*
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer beat butter until pale and creamy. Reduce speed to low. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and mix on low until well blended. Increase speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes.
- Add vanilla and continue to beat on medium for 1 minute.
- Slowly add chilled cream cheese one cube at a time (about 1 tablespoon at a time). Beat well until blended and ensure no lumps of cream cheese remain.
- If needed, add cornstarch or meringue powder 1 tablespoon at a time to stiffen the frosting (I didn't but this is an option). Run mixer on low for a couple of minutes to remove any air bubbles.
- Trim cake layers if needed. Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup. Top with 1 cup of cream cheese frosting and half of the caramel.**
- Repeat with remaining layer and sprinkle chopped pecans on top if desired.
Hi….I like to know can i use butter instead of vegetable oil, if so how much should i need to use. will it be good on swiss meringue instead of cheese frosting?
Hi Arthu! You can use melted butter in the cake instead of oil but it will change the texture of the cake — it will be a bit more dense. You can use SMBC intread for sure!
I owe it to Olivia and Liv for Cake for the unbelievably amazing recipes she posts for amateurs like me to wow my dinner guests once again. This is the 2nd of her cakes I’ve made (the first was the mint chocolate cake, yum) and this is the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. And the maple caramel is amazing. You have to use some of your instincts when you make this because the caramel is tricky but the readers’ comments are helpful – it will be gooey and kind of ooze deliciously. All I can say is wow. I didn’t change a thing.
Hi Shochet! Thank you so much for the wonderful comment. You totally made my day! I’m so happy you and your guests loved this recipe 🙂
Would I be able to add the maple caramel to flavour buttercream?
Hi Christine! Yes, you can add a bit but the buttercream is already on the softer side so adding caramel will make it more so. Be sure to cool and thicken the caramel completely, at least overnight.
Hi! I’m looking to make this as a three layer cake, would I just 1.5x the recipe?
PS – thank you for your awesome recipes and tips! Our family loves making your cakes and they’re always a hit 🙂
Hi Kamala! Yes exactly, you can increase the Servings to 18 to get the amounts. And thank you! Please let me know how this one turns out 😀
I’ve made this cake countless times and it is always a huge hit! Truly my favourite carrot cake recipe ever. I make it with salted caramel and sometimes sweeten the cream cheese frosting with maple syrup or white chocolate rather than with powdered sugar.
Hi Amira! Thanks so much for the wonderful feedback. I’m so happy you love it!
It was a HUGE hit at Thanksgiving with my family. They all complimented me at how delicious the cake was and asked to take some home with them. I pretty much followed the recipe as is. I skipped was warming the caramel up to room temp. I had made it the night before, refrigerated it, then poured it on the cake the next day because it was too runny warm. Out of the fridge was a bit thicker and was delicious when served later that day. Thank you for the recipe! Will definitely make again….oh, I used toasted almonds instead of pecans due to allergies.
Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for the feedback, I’m so glad everyone loved it!
My maple caramel and I did not get along. My first batch was grainy and separated. My second batch smells like molasses. I’m now wondering if I burned it! I heated it to 240° just like the recipe says. This is supposed to be a birthday cake for my mother in law so I feel responsible for it being good. For future reference what does maple caramel smell like when it’s properly cooked?
Hi Brittany! Sorry to hear that the caramel is giving you problems, it can be tricky to make sometimes. I have a detailed tutorial on how to make caramel here: https://livforcake.com/caramel-sauce-recipe/ It’s slightly different because it starts with sugar and you go by color instead of temperature, but there are tips on how to prevent it from splitting etc. I hope that helps!
J. Lewis says
Could I use a carrot cake mix and do the rest as described?
Hi J.Lewis! I would make this recipe using the cake mix: https://livforcake.com/almost-scratch-cake/
My husband got tired of me making your cakes and not being able to eat them because he has gluten and dairy intolerances. So I tried to make this one both gluten and dairy free, and it was amazing! I am sure the original was 10x better (I am having a hard time making the switch to no gluten or dairy, haha), because this cake was the bomb even with all my substitutions!
Hi Kelsey! So happy you loved it, even with the alterations. I hope he did too! 🙂
Kelsey, Can you share how you adjusted for dairy-free? thanks!
I am making this cake for a Thanksgiving dinner and decided to make the maple caramel ahead of time. After heating it to 240° and storing in the fridge overnight, it is still quite molten, like sundae sauce. Is that the right consistency or should I try to make again?
I make your cakes all the time and love their flavour combinations just like all those who eat them!
Hi Sheri! That sounds about right. Mine wasn’t super thick as you can see by the pics. It definitely oozed everywhere once I cut the cake but that made it even more delicious in my opinion! I hope you love this one as much as I do 🙂
Zoe Hastings says
Wow, just wow! This cake is soooo delicious we had to make it twice! I am normally not a caramel person, but my husband picked this cake out for his birthday and we bake for all birthdays in our house because my son has severe nut and seed allergies. My almost five year old pronounced this “the best cake I have ever eaten” and we all loved it.
I did substitute some pumpkin for the vegetable oil the second time and it was still delicious. I also added a small pinch of salt to the caramel. Thank you for another amazing recipe!
Hi Zoe! Thanks so much for the wonderful feedback. I’m so happy you all loved it! Thanks for your tips 🙂
I have been making cakes from your site for almost two years and you are my go-to. I’m excited to try this, but I already know it will be good. I’ve made probably a dozen of your recipes and they have always turned out well! It would be awesome if you made a cookbook!
Hi Marci! Thank you so much, I’m so happy you like my recipes! I hope you love this one, it truly is one of the best 🙂
Hi Liv, this cake looks amazing… just in the middle of making it. I think the bake time is off though… for 2 8” pans mine were done in 30 mins. I thought that 55 mins seemed off so set the timer for less. Can’t wait to try the finished product!
Hi Lucia! I hope you love it 🙂 I’ll double check my baking time but cakes often take longer in my oven and I use baking strips too which extends the time. Every oven bakes differently so it’s good you checked them early! Let me know how you like it 🙂
I’m probably going to make this for my birthday and just neglect to tell my husband it has carrots in it (he claims to dislike carrots). Either this one or your maple pumpkin cake!
Make this one!! You won’t regret it 🙂 And my husband didn’t think he’d like carrot cake either… he does 😉
Made this cake over the weekend and my only complaint is I should’ve made MORE of the maple caramel just to eat out of the bowl. This stuff is insanely good!!! The cake baked beautifully and the cream cheese frosting was nice and tangy. I had a little difficulty with assembly but I’m chalking that up to user error because while I cooled my cakes well, I tried to assemble on a hot evening without the A/C on and the top tier was sliding all over. Live and learn, though, and next time I make this cake (because there will be many next times, LOL) I’ll know to keep everything nice and chilled.
Hi Cortney! I am so happy you loved it. Thanks so much for the amazing feedback!
This was a lovely recipe. I poked some holes in mine to get some of that caramel goodness in there. I loved the dark colour of you cake. Mine was lighter crumb even though I used dark brown sugar. Will make again!
Hi Fran! Thanks for the feedback and tips. I’m so glad you liked it 🙂
Hello, I only have 9″ cake pans, will this work or do I need to adjust it somehow?
Hi Sarah! I would increase the recipe so the layers aren’t too thin. Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here are some sites I use as a guideline:
Based on that if you want two 9″ pans I would 1.25x the recipe or change the Servings to 15. That gives some odd numbers, but mostly with the spices so you can round those up or down. For baking soda, just add a bit more than 1/4 tsp (make it slightly heaping). I hope that helps! Let me know how it turns out 🙂
Kenna Burch says
I was wondering if I could frost the outside of this cake? Is the frosting thick enough for that? Should I double the frosting recipe?
I’m planning on making it for thanksgiving 🙂
Hi Kenna! Cream cheese frosting is softer than a normal buttercream but you can totally use it to frost the outside of the cake. I would double the recipe if you want to do that.
This looks amazing and the cake layers look so nice !!! Here are you using Fat Daddio’s 8×3 inch pans or 8×2 inch?
Hi Zoe! Mine are 2″ tall but in most cases, the cakes bake right to the top so 3″ tall ones will work fine too.