Moist, easy to stir together, and loaded with the classic flavors you expect from carrot cake, these Carrot Cake Bars are a perfect treat to share.
Carrot Cake Bars
I always think of carrot cake in the spring and I love to play with carrots this time of the year to serve them in all sorts of ways to my family. And these bars? Absolutely delicious. The cake is moist and tender, and filled with flavors including cinnamon and vanilla. And the frosting is a simple Cream Cheese Frosting that offers a perfect texture combination with the cake. Together, they’re a festive dessert, snack, or even breakfast to share.
The key to making moist carrot cake is usually oil, but in this recipe, I use both oil and applesauce to add natural sweetness and flavor, too. The full cup of fresh carrots also ensures that the batter stays moist.
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Ingredients You Need
To make this recipe you’ll need to have the following ingredients on hand to start baking the recipe.
- Grated carrots: I prefer the finer texture you get when you grate a whole carrot on a box or handheld grater.
- Butter or neutral oil: You can use melted unsalted butter here or an oil such as coconut, canola or avocado.
- Applesauce: I use unsweetened smooth applesauce here and you can use homemade applesauce or store bought.
- Eggs: Eggs help the batter hold together and bake up with a tender crumb.
- All-purpose flour: This type of flour helps to keep the final bars light and moist. You can substitute a gluten-free cup for cup flour blend as needed.
- Brown sugar: I add a little brown sugar to this recipe for sweetness. I like the way it bakes up in combination with the rest of the ingredients but know you can use honey or maple syrup of you prefer.
- Cinnamon: A hefty sprinkle of cinnamon ensures that classic carrot cake flavor we expect.
- Baking powder and baking soda: These help to ensure that the cake rises and bakes through.
- Golden raisins: I love to add raisins for additional sweetness—and because the Carrot Cake I remember eating as a kid always had raisins!—but if you don’t want to add them you don’t have to. Any type of raisins will work here, we just prefer golden.
In fact, you could sub chopped walnuts or even chocolate chips (if you’re feeling like breaking all traditions!) and get great results.
Here’s a look at the process involved in making this recipe. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the full information.
- Preheat the oven and grease your pan well. Grate the carrot if not using store bought grated carrots. Stir together the wet ingredients.
- Fold in the dry, being gentle to avoid overworking the flour.
- Spread batter into an 8×8-inch metal pan lined with parchment paper or coated with nonstick spray.
- Bake! Cool fully on a wire rack.
TIP: Try not to over-bake. The center of the pan will take the longest to set, so keep an eye on that as well as the timing.
Carrot Cake Frosting
The Cream Cheese Frosting for these Carrot Cake Bars is a simple mix of cream cheese, vanilla extract, and honey. Once the cream cheese is softened, all you need to do is beat the ingredients together with an electric mixer for about 30 seconds or until fluffy.
How to Store
You can make it up to 24 hours ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or tightly covered in plastic wrap and frost before serving. Or, make the whole thing and refrigerate for up to 4 hours before serving—it’s actually really great served cold.
Best Tips for Success
- Grease your pan very well to eliminate the likelihood of the cake sticking. Or line with parchment paper.
- Gently fold the ingredients together to avoid overworking the batter.
- Use store bought grated carrots or grate them on a grater at home.
- Make sure that the cream cheese isn’t super cold, and is instead softened at room temperature for at least an hour, so it mixes up smooth. It will otherwise be lumpy.
- Taste the frosting and add more honey if desired for sweetness.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe if you try it, so please comment below to share!
Favorite Carrot Cake Bars
- 1 cup grated carrots
- 1 cup applesauce
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (melted and slightly cooled or neutral oil)
- 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup golden raisins
- 1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat an 8×8-inch baking pan (metal is best) with nonstick spray. (I also line with parchment paper so it's easy to lift out and slice without scratching the pan. That is optional.)
- In a large bowl, stir together the carrots, applesauce, eggs, butter, and vanilla.
- Add the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Gently stir the carrot mixture into the flour mixture. Stir in the raisins.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top.
- Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out cleanly.
- Let cool and top with Cream Cheese Frosting, if desired.
- Once cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Serve cold.
- You can also freeze the cut cake, frosted or unfrosted (though unfrosted is cleaner) in a freezer bag with as much air removed as possible for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature or in 15 second increments in the microwave.
- This bakes best in a metal pan, rather than glass. If baking in glass, the middle will take longer to set. Follow the recipe, then cover with foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
- Gluten-free: Substitute cup-for-cup gluten-free flour in place of the wheat flours.
- Top with Cream Cheese Frosting. Soften 8 ounces cream cheese and ¼ cup unsalted butter at room temperature. Add to a bowl with ¼ cup honey (for kids over age 1) and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Start mixing on low with a handheld mixer until fluffy. Place on top of the cooled bars and spread evenly.
- If you prefer your baked goods sweeter (or if you leave out the raisins) increase the brown sugar to ½ cup.
This post was first published March 2019.