Deliciously rich chocolate cake paired with a creamy chocolate cream cheese frosting is a match made in heaven. Sneaking in some added nutrition with grated carrots - this is the best moist chocolate carrot cake!
I saw the cutest looking bunch of carrots at the store the other day that were just screaming to be made into carrot cake! And you may already know that I'm obsessed with chocolate (but I feel like I'm in the majority on that!) Soooo this obviously had to be a chocolate carrot cake.
I've also always wanted to make a little garden cake, so I'm also going over how to make edible "dirt" to add some earthiness on top! It looks so realistic, it honestly felt so wrong to be sprinkling it on top of a cake. I gave my brother a slice and he had to double check if I actually put soil on top.
This cake is enough to make any carrot haters eat their words... and their cake.
You honestly would never be able to tell there are carrots in this cake in terms of flavor or texture - but they make this cake SO UNBELIEVEABLY SOFT and moist and all around perfect. Plus it makes it even the slightest bit healthier, which is enough convincing for me to have a giant heaping slice.
tell me about this cake
The base batter for the carrot cake layers is inspired by my favorite carrot muffins recipe. I made a few tweaks to account for the added dryness from the cocoa powder and to give it a more cakey bake with a very light dome on top.
The cream cheese frosting is made with slightly less cream cheese than usual so that it's more stable and easier to stack. Because of that, the cream cheese flavor is much more subtle, but I think it pairs much more nicely with this cake and lets the chocolate really shine.
You may or may not end up needing a bit of added liquid in the form of milk or heavy cream in the frosting to get it to the right consistency. Not all powdered sugar brands absorb moisture the same way, so that can impact the amount of liquid you need to add (if any).
how to make moist chocolate carrot cake
Make the chocolate carrot cake layers:
1. Whisk together dry ingredients.
2. Whisk together wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
3. Combine wet & dry ingredients and bake! Cool the layers COMPLETELY before frosting and decorating!
Make the chocolate cream cheese frosting:
1. Beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth.
2. Mix in powdered sugar until dissolved, followed by cocoa, salt and vanilla.
3. Whip for 3 to 5 minutes, or until fluffy. If needed, add milk to thin out to a spreadable consistency.
how to make an edible garden on top
Now this is totally optional - but so cute if you ask me!
To make the garden decoration on top, you'll need Oreo crumbs and 2 digestive cookies. Toss together crushed Oreos with a few larger crumbs of digestive cookies to make the "soil".
What I love about using digestive biscuits with the Oreos is that it makes the "dirt" look super similar to actual soil (the Oreos obviously look like dirt and the digestive biscuit speckles look like perlite - the white spots you find in soil!)
Layer the cake with your frosting and frost the outside, then sprinkle the cookie crumbs on top of the cake and press in some washed and dried carrot tops. I wouldn't recommend adding the carrot tops until you're ready to serve because they can start to tip over and fall as they sit.
And voila! Tell me that garden doesn't look deliciously gross!
prepping the carrot tops / food safety
If you decide to decorate your cake like mine (with the carrot tops wedged into the cake) it's important to make sure they're super clean.
My favorite way to wash fruits and vegetables is by soaking them for 10 minutes in some water mixed with vinegar and salt to make sure it's thorough. It's also helpful if you give the carrots a gentle scrub while they're in the water solution to get rid of any dirt stuck between the dips, grooves, and leaves.
It's a super fun way to discover cuts you never knew you had as well...
If you're not in the mood to give the carrots a scrub, you could just peel them instead. But do watch out for any hidden pockets of dirt in the top leaves.
I also sprinkled a little bit of black cocoa powder into the dry carrots to make them look like they just came out of the ground - but that's just me being extra lol. Go big or go home, right?
Check out these other recipes!
Chocolate Carrot Cake Recipe
for the chocolate carrot cake:
- 1 & ¾ cups (210g) all-purpose flour, spoon and leveled
- ½ cup (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (100g) packed brown sugar, light or dark
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup (240mL) vegetable oil
- ½ cup (120g) Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 & ½ cups (150g) finely grated carrots about 2 medium carrots, peeled *see notes
for the chocolate cream cheese frosting:
- 8 ounces (225g) block cream cheese, room temperature **see notes
- 1 cup (2 sticks / 225g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 5 & ½ cups (715g) powdered sugar, sifted
- ¾ cup (60g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream, as needed
for the garden decorations (optional):
- ½ cup (60g) crushed Oreo cookies
- 2 digestive biscuits
- carrot tops, washed thoroughly and dried
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease 2 (8 inch) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Lightly dust the sides with flour and tap out any excess. Set aside.
- Make the chocolate carrot cake: In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Set aside.1 & ¾ cups (210g) all-purpose flour,, ½ cup (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together the sugars, eggs, oil, yogurt, vanilla, and carrots to combine.½ cup (100g) granulated sugar, ½ cup (100g) packed brown sugar,, 2 large eggs, 1 cup (240mL) vegetable oil, ½ cup (120g) Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1 & ½ cups (150g) finely grated carrots
- Mix together the wet and dry ingredients until just combined. Take care not to overmix!
- Pour the cake batter into your prepared cake pans and spread into an even layer. Bake in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool the cakes for 5 to 10 minutes in the pans, then invert onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment paper and set aside to cool completely to room temperature before frosting. It also helps to freeze the layers for 20 minutes before assembly to firm the cakes up and make them easier to work with!
- Make the chocolate cream cheese frosting: In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle attachment, cream together until well combined and smooth (about 2 minutes on medium speed.8 ounces (225g) block cream cheese,, 1 cup (2 sticks / 225g) unsalted butter,
- Add powdered sugar, and mix on low speed until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add the cocoa, salt, and vanilla and mix again on low speed to combine.5 & ½ cups (715g) powdered sugar,, ¾ cup (60g) unsweetened cocoa powder,, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Once the cocoa is dissolved, increase the mixer speed to medium high and whip until light and fluffy (about 3 to 4 minutes). If the frosting is too thick, mix in milk or heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it reaches a spreadable consistency. If the frosting is too thin, you can either mix in more powdered sugar or place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up slightly.1 to 2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream,
- (optional) prep the garden topping decorations: Mix together finely crushed Oreo cookies and a few larger crushed pieces of digestive biscuits to make the edible soil.½ cup (60g) crushed Oreo cookies, 2 digestive biscuits
- Wash the carrot tops thoroughly to get rid of any dirt, and dry well before using. *See above post for more information on prepping the carrot topscarrot tops,
- Decorate! Place one of your cooled cake layers on your cake stand or server. Spread about ¾ of a cup of frosting on top and lay the second cake layer on top. Frost the outside of the cake. Sprinkle some of your cookie "dirt" on top and wedge some carrot tops into the cake before serving!