Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This weekend I had the pleasure of making a baby shower cake for my long-time friend Tisa.  She is having her first baby and some of our high school friends were able to gather and celebrate this new beginning. Before the shower, I asked her what type of cake she wanted and her request was for Carrot Cake with the works. This recipe has excellent spiced flavors, paired with a moist crumb, sweet pineapple, golden raisins and crunchy walnuts.


Since I was going all out on this Carrot Cake, I spared no ingredients. This cake contains oil for moistness and butter for flavor and light texture.  It also contains a combination of white and brown sugar for sweetness, moistness and warm flavor. (Don’t worry though, this cake is not excessively sweet.) I also made sure there was a pronounced spice presence of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  I like this spice combination because they are all warm, rounded flavors that contribute without being offensive.


This cake contains a fair amount of baking soda which interacts with the acidity of the pineapple, carrots and brown sugar. For this reason I added only a small amount of baking powder to the batter in order to prevent overleaving. The resulting cake had a light texture in spite of the weighty ingredients.


This cake can be easily adapted to your palate. If you are not a fan of pineapple in your carrot cake simply substitute another cup of shredded carrots for the pineapple. If you are not a fan of nuts or raisins, leave them out. You could also add 1/2 cup of shredded sweetened coconut to the batter if you so choose.


I frosted this cake with a mild Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream that is not too sweet and compliments the flavors of the cake gorgeously.

I hope you enjoy this delicious rendition of the beloved Carrot Cake!

Happy baking!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream


  • 4 ounces (115 grams) unsalted butter, softened -1/2 cup
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) vegetable oil- 1 cup
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) granulated sugar- 1 cup
  • 8 ounces (230 grams) light brown sugar- 1 cup packed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) vanilla extract
  • 11 ¼ ounces (320 grams) All-purpose/plain flour- 2 ¼ cups
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (3 milliliters) salt
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons (11 milliliters) cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon (3 milliliters) freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups (480 milliliters) packed finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) crushed pineapple, well drained (or an additional cup of carrots)
  • 4 ½ ounces coarsely chopped walnuts- 1 cup (optional)
  • ½ cup (120 milliliters) golden raisins (optional)
  • For the Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) egg whites from whole eggs or a carton
  • 16 ounces (454 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces (57 grams/3 tablespoons) corn syrup
  • 16 ounces (454 grams) unsalted butter softened but not warm
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy or grease and flour.
  2. Beat butter, oil and sugars for 2 minutes on medium-high speed of mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat until well combined. Stir in vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices; add to mixer. Turn mixer on low and mix to moisten dry ingredients. Increase speed to medium and mix for about 1 minute until well blended.
  4. Add carrots, pineapple, walnuts and raisins to the batter and stir until well mixed.
  5. Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cake tests clean with a toothpick. Cool 10 minutes in pan and then turn out to a cooling rack. Cool completely if using immediately, or wrap in two layers of plastic wrap if using later. Frost the cooled cake with your choice of buttercream. Enjoy!
  6. For the Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  7. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl followed by the corn syrup. Make sure the mixture is well mixed so the sugar can protect the eggs from cooking. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 2-4 minutes on high in 30 second intervals whisking well after each 30 second heating. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 160 f/75 C. Pour the syrup into a cake pan or shallow metal bowl (straining the mixture if any lumps are present) and chill in the freezer for 15-20 minutes until it is cool.
  8. Meanwhile, beat the butter in a mixer bowl with the flat paddle attachment on high for about 2 minutes until creamy and lightened. Add the cream cheese and beat on medium-high for 1 minute until well combined.
  9. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually add the cooled sugar syrup to the butter. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl and beat on medium-high for 2 minutes.
  10. Reduce speed to low and slowly add vanilla extract. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute until light and creamy.



89 thoughts on “Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream”

  1. Hi Summer Thanks so much for this recipe! Trying it right this minute – you are a Godsend. When you say finely grated carrot, will that be the finest using a normal grater? Love and Blessings x

        1. Hi Summer Success with second try – managed to find AP flour!!! Cake turned out perfect…yay!!! And I have made muffins – worked out perfect. THANKS so much for this awesome recipe! Christmas Blessings to you and your family. X

  2. Hi Summer Made the cake but sadly I have a “sunken” middle! (Seem to have that problem with Christmas fruit cake too) So very sad – tried to do everything according to recipe other than All purpose flour ( as I mentioned we don’t get it here and I didn’t have bread flour to use with the cake flour) Only other thing I can think of was that I had an interruption, cakes stood in bowl and pans before going into the oven! Please do tell – what have I done wrong? Thanks Kindly
    Warm regards Kathy

    1. Oh no! bummer 🙁 My best guess would be that it is a flour issue. With a cake full of heavy fruits and veggies you really need the gluten as binder/structural element. So I would really try to get your hands on a portion of bread flour to mix in the next time. Other than that, make sure your cake is fully baked. You want to maximize the structural action going on in the baking process. Underbaking this type of cake can be detrimental. I would also try giving the cake a whack on the counter when you bring it out of the oven as noted in my Big Bang Theory post. I find it helpful with cakes of this structure.

        1. Hi Kathy, Sorry, I had crunch some numbers to answer this question. It works out to be right about half bread and half cake flour will be equivalent in protein content to all-purpose flour. Good luck!

    2. You may need high altitude instructions. Do you use cake mixes? If so; do you need to add a tablespoon or two of extra flour? The instructions are on the side of the cake box; just use it for reference, then add the same amount of flour to any other cake recipe. OR you may have needed to bake it a bit longer if you oven is not quite the same temperature as Summers. Always check with a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake (or a couple of spots for a sheet cake) and make sure it comes out clean..

  3. Hi Summer! This cake looks amazing and I am so happy that you posted a recipe with cream cheese SMBC. Can you tell me if the cream cheese SMBC is more stable than a traditional cream cheese frosting? Can it hold up better to piping? I am so excited to try this!!

    1. Hi Paige, This recipe is definitely more stable than traditional cream cheese frosting but it is slightly softer at room temperature than classic SMBC. When chilled it firms up nicely as with traditional SMBC. I believe it would pipe well. I think you would just have to be conscious of it getting too warm in your hand. You may have to periodically chill or switch between two piping bags. Good luck! 🙂

    1. I think it is definitely possible but this is a bit softer at room temperature than traditional SMBC. Because of this you would probably have to make sure it is well chilled and work fast to get your fondant on if you are to get nice sharp corners. You should not have any problems once the fondant is on though; it would be stable underneath. 🙂

  4. Hi Summer,

    Thank you so much for sharing this is the best ever carrot cake recipe!!!
    Followed the recipe closely and it turned out perfect! I love the combination of pineapple, walnut and golden raisins with the lovely cake crumb. Yummy!!!

  5. This is probably the BEST carrot cake – lovely tender crumb, gorgeous texture, not too sweet or rich. Yummmm. Made a couple of changes. I’m allergic to raisins, so I used chopped dried cranberries instead. Also, substituted the walnuts for hazelnuts (should have checked the pantry before baking!). And in the interest of hubby’s waistline, we sacrificed the buttercream … and didn’t miss it! Thanks for sharing this fabby recipe, Summer. It’s a keeper!

    1. If you add much more it tends to want to “break”. If you want to have a buttercream with more cream cheese flavor I would make the buttercream on the Italian Cream Cake and just use all cream cheese instead of mascarpone. It is a really nice buttercream. Best of luck!

  6. Hi Summer! Thank you for sharing the recipe! Will this carrot cake stand up to the weight of fondant and stacking. ..With support, of course. Thank you!

  7. Just made this carrot cake. Looks and smells great! Can’t wait to top with the frosting. I may have to make another batch of frosting as in this one, I added the cream cheese and butter to a watery sugar syrup….and it’s looking a little separated. Not even close to being firm. So sad. I’m hoping that leaving it in the fridge overnight and rebeating it in the morning will solve my problem! Thanks for the recipe, Summer!

    1. Try chilling but not too long. If it gets too cold it will want to separate too. If that doesn’t work add another stick of butter and beat the heck out if it, fast, for quite some time. Hopefully that will pull the emulsion together. Good luck!

  8. Hello. I just tried this recipe. Extremely smooth it can’t even be trimmed. Well, I haven’t tasted it as I sent it to my friend’s house after 1 month of Gluten free diet 🙂 and he said it’s amazing. As for the cream cheese, I made a big batch of cream cheese (680grm) with 150grm of butter, 2 cups of sugar and it never broke or got soupy. It was delicious, I guess it has something to do with the cheese itself and not over beat it. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe. It is on the top of my approved recipes list

      1. Yes my dear.. I do love meringue though but it takes time to do it and I was in a hurry. Try it and you wont get disappointed.

  9. Hello! I Love your blog! Your recipes are great and your posts are very informative.
    I was wondering if you were at all planning on posting a recipe/post on pineapple upside down cake?

  10. Maybe a dilly question but what do you mean by all purpose/cake flour. I thought all purpose and cake flour were two different types of flour. Thank you so much! Can’t wait to try!

  11. Hi Summer,
    Just took this baby out of the oven, but somehow it sank in the middle! I followed the instructions carefully, did not open the oven’s door at any time, preheated and checked the temperature was the right one (own an oven thermometer) and left it in for 30 mins. Any idea of what could’ve happened? I’m just so frustrated because the taste was absolutely fantastic! I’m a huge fan of carrot cake and this cake is possibly the best carrot cake I have ever tried. You’re a genius btw!! 😀

    1. Oh no! I hate a sunken cake. There are a lot of factors that can go into cake structure demise (ingredients, mixing, ovan temp…). If you want a little insurance, try adding 1/4 cup more flour and another egg. It will give you a bit more of those structural components and hopefully prevent any future flops. Let me know how it goes if you try it!

      1. Hi again Summer,
        Thank you so much for replying. Made the cake again but this time left it 50 mins total. Came out a little burned in the bottom and a little chewy in the middle. Just a little. Though it was still undercooked but stuck a toothpick and came out clean. The only thing I truly regret is I didn’t use your SMBC recipe because I don’t have a way to check the white’s exact temperature, so I went for the traditional Philadelphia cream cheese frosting. The only problem was that the recipe said to add 8.9 oz of butter, and of course, came out with a super buttery taste. I tried the mix while making it and it was ok, but after being in the fridge for like a day it became kinda hard and almost tasted like if you were biting sweet butter! Everybody gave me a hard time about it! My family said it totally ruined the cake’s flavor, I honestly agree. The buttery taste overshadowed the amazing cake flavor.

        In your opinion, how much butter should I add next time? Or better yet, is there a way I can make SMBC without a thermometer or is it absolutely necessary to achieve a good result?

        Thank you so much!! Can’t wait to try it again.

        1. It sounds like your oven temp is running a little high. Try reducing it by 25 degrees or place a sheet pan under your cakes while they bake.

          For the SMBC, by the time the sugar is all the way dissolved you will very close on temperature. Continue 30 seconds more on the stovetop or microwave to be sure. The mixture should feel mildly hot/warm but not much that it would burn a finger. I hope that helps!

  12. Hi Summer
    How long is this cream cheese smb would be shelf stable.. Can it be kept for few days at room temp like traditional smbc?

    1. It’s generally not quite that easy. You have to consider the how much baking powder is in self rising flour. You may have to add some plain flour to get the leavening correct. 🙂

  13. Hi Summer!

    I was wondering if it’s possible to adapt this same recipe into a pumpkin cake by just switching carrots for pumpkin? I’d leave the pinnaple, walnuts and raisins out, but would use SMB. What do you think?

    1. Hi Inna, This probably isn’t the easiest cake to convert to pumpkin. Because of the bulk and fiber of the carrots, raisins, nuts etc. the size would be off. I also worry about moisture content differences. I’m sorry! If I can play with pumpkin cake this week I will let you know. I have a great sweet potato cake recipe I have wanted to post that would convert easily. 🙂

  14. Hi Summer…I’m just wondering what the corn syrup does in the Swiss Buttercream, I am so excited to try your recipe, I have made traditional SMBC and it never made sense to me to whip the egg/sugar mixture until cool before adding the butter, I feel like I whip and whip and it takes forever to cool down! Your’s makes so much more sense to just cool it in the freezer/fridge before proceeding plus you can do that part ahead, I love it! Thank you, Dora

    1. Hi Dora, Great question! The corn syrup inhibits growth of sugar crystals. If you even have one or two undissolved sugar granules in your syrup mix it can seed some very unappealing graininess, especially when it’s stored for significant periods of time in the fridge or freezer. So the corn syrup acts as insurance to keep crystalization at bay. Best of luck with the recipe!

      1. Thank you so much Summer! I’ve gathered all my ingredients and I’m going to make it tomorrow, I’m really excited about trying it! Dora

  15. Hi Summer, well I failed! I can’t figure this out. I let my sugar/egg mixture chill & it was exactly 60 degrees on my instant read thermometer, the butter was room temp but not too soft. I did add cream cheese but followed your recipe exactly on amounts and also when to add. I first ended up with cottage cheese so I refrigerated for 15 minutes and beat again, nothing so I did it again and also increased the speed of the mixer, this time it smoothed out but is soup. I added one more stick of butter which you had recommended to someone else on your carrot cake post and I beat the heck out of it, still soup. I just stuck it in the fridge, I can’t figure it out. I’m so disappointed. Dora

  16. OMG…I just took the “soup” out of the fridge, so it was in there for 2 hours, I thought I would give it one more try, it came together in less than 5 minutes! Honestly if you would have seen how runny it was I never ever thought it would come together! It is so smooth and delicious! So do you think the sugar/egg mixture should be more around 45 degrees vs. 60 before starting to incorporate it into the butter?

    1. Yay! Chilling works magic! Honestly I generally use mine quite cold. 45 would work well but you could go even colder. So glad it worked!

  17. Hi Summer,

    Thank you for this amazing recipe. I made it the other day and it tasted absolutely amazing but with just a hint of metallic taste from the baking soda. Is there a way i can leave out the baking soda and substitute with baking powder? Or is there any other way to reduce the metallic taste of the baking soda?

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Juliana, You can reduce the baking soda by 1/4 teaspoon or add 1/2 tablespoon of acid (vinegar or lemon juice) to neutalize some of the baking soda. I recommend using the acid so you don’t lose leavening. I hope this helps. 🙂

      1. thanks Summer for your advice. i made it and its totally delicious. jut wondering, how can i alter the recipe to fit 2 9″ cake pans?

  18. Dear summer, you’re recipes are heaven sent. I just made this beautiful cake. I can’t wait to assemble it! Thank you for sharing your amazing talent with us all!

  19. Sorry to ask another question summer, but why has this recipe got 3 times as much corn syrup as all the other swiss meringue butter cream recipes?

    1. Hi Mikayla, I’m sure I had a good reason at the time for the increase but it’s been so long that I can’t remember. 😉 My best guess is that I was trying to reduce the possibility of crystallization. I had been getting some crystals in the syrup that had been stored in the freezer for a period of time and probably thought the extra corn syrup would help. You can use the smaller amount of you like, just make sure the sugar is fully dissolved. 🙂

  20. Hello Summer, I am yet to make your cream cheese buttercream and I cannot wait to try it. I’m wondering how long it will store for and how best to store it? I am hoping to make it ahead of time.

    Thanks, Mon

    1. Hi Monique, The cream cheese buttercream will store easily for a week in the refrigerator. Before you use it bring it to room temperature and beat it again before frosting with it to ensure the best texture. Good luck!

  21. I just made your carrot cake with your cream cheese SMBC for my husband’s birthday. The cake is delicious! It is moist, rich and flavorful and the buttercream really does have just the right sweetness! My husband says it is definitely a keeper!! Thanks for a great recipe. I am going to make your mud cake next! Judy

    1. Hi Judy! I’m so glad this cake pleased your husband on his birthday. I love it best when recipes enhance celebrations for loved ones. I hope you enjoy the Mud Cake! 🙂

  22. Summer, I found your article titled “The Meringue Buttercream Myth” , it was excellent. I have to admit that my buttercream initially curdled and now I know why! I did not cool the egg white/sugar mixture enough! You give the degree range in the article. I did fix the buttercream by heating a cup of it and adding back in the mixer. This is only the second time I have ever made SMBC and this method is much easier. I like understanding the science behind it as well as the fact that you can make and freeze the mixture for future use.

    1. Hi Judy! I have been making this buttercream for so long that I sometimes forget the little things I have learned along the way. A+ for puting the puzzle pieces together! I will go in and add a link to that article (and add some updates) to the original recipe so everyone doesn’t have to sleuth it out the way you did. I hope this recipe continues to work well for you and saves some labor. 🙂

  23. Does this buttercream pipe well? I want a cream cheese frosting that I can pipe ruffles with. What would you recommend?

  24. Dear Summer, thank you so much for sharing this best ever carrot cake recipe. I have made carrot cakes several times using your recipe and the result is yum yum yum every single time !

    Just wanted to know if I can leave out the eggs for this recipe? My vegan friend’s birthday is coming up next week.
    Thanks again Summer.

    1. I’m so glad this recipe has been a success for you! Unfortunately, I fear that taking the eggs out of this recipe could cause problems. The eggs in this recipe provide much needed structure. You could try using a flax meal egg replacement and fill the pans half as full as normal. The thinner layers need less structural support. Other than that, you might have to try a carrot cake or cupcake formulated to be vegan. I recommend the cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. It has lots of yummy vegan cupcake treats. Best of luck!

  25. I’d like to make a smb similar to this, it’s for a friend who doesn’t tolerate cows milk and I’m wondering if soft goat cheese might work as a substitute for the cream cheese? She tends to do ok with butter so I would just be swapping the cheeses. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Alecia, I think that would work fine. It may affect the texture a little bit, but shouldn’t matter a great deal since the cake has a great deal of texture. I think the goat cheese would provide an interesting and pleasant flavor with the cake. Another alternative would be Tofuti’s Better than Cream Cheese product. It has a mild flavor and is dairy free. You could even try half goat cheese and half Tofuti. I hope this works out well for you!

  26. This recipe looks great! I’m working on a red velvet layer cake for an outdoor party, and want to make a cream cheese filling. I’m trying to find something fairly stable, and will ice the outside with SMBC (your quick version) assuming that something with creamcheese will be softer and need to stick with the inside of the cake.
    So, two questions – do you think this would hold up for a couple of hours as a cake filling on a warm day? And, could it be made and frozen in advance?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi! Cream cheese frosting does tend to lean to the soft side. This one is a little more stable because it doesn’t have all the powdered sugar that can melt down, but it is still slightly softer than traditional SMBC. I dont think you would have any problems filling the cake with this buttercream, but if you want extra assurance you can spiral in some SMBC to hold everything in place. I used this method on the Mocha Almond Fudge Cake and there is a description of the technique in that post. You would use less spirals than shown in the diagram since you won’t need as much support as you do when filling with hot fudge or lemon curd. Good luck!

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