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Last Updated on April 5, 2021 by Chenée Lewis
I’m back with another mini cake recipe! I love making these 6-inch, single layer cake recipes because I’m usually only baking for 2 or 3 people at most (and sometimes just for myself!). I developed my first small batch cake recipe, this mini vanilla cake, last year at Easter for a small dinner I made for myself and my boyfriend. So it’s fitting that this year I bring you a mini carrot cake recipe. It’s the perfect carrot cake for two to four people, just in time for your Easter celebrations!
This mini carrot cake is small, but big on flavor and spice! It’s moist and tender, perfectly sweet and spiced, and full of lots of fresh carrots, toasted pecans, and crushed pineapple. And you know I had to drape it all with my brown butter cream cheese frosting! It’s such a decadent cake, perfect for a holiday, birthday celebration, or anytime! Sometimes you’re just craving a mini carrot cake!
How do you make a carrot cake moist from scratch?
In this mini carrot cake recipe, we’re using a few important ingredients to make sure our cake stays moist for days (not that it’ll last that long). First, we’re using mostly brown sugar as the sweetener for this cake. It adds flavor and moisture in addition to sweetness, and helps to give us a perfectly soft texture. Next, we’ll use oil as our main fat for the cake batter. Since this mini carrot cake is full of flavorful ingredients, it doesn’t rely on butter to add flavor to the batter. So a simple vegetable oil adds richness without drying the cake out.
And we’re also adding one of my favorite baking ingredients, crushed pineapple. Many carrot cake recipes omit pineapple or use banana, applesauce, or another fruit ingredient. I love the flavor of pineapple in this mini carrot cake! Just like in my pineapple banana bread, the crushed pineapple only adds a hint of flavor, but definitely delivers on texture!
Finally, make sure you don’t overbake your carrot cake — that can dry it out. This cake is slightly denser than other types of cakes, so it may take a bit longer in the oven. But watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t overcook. When your toothpick comes out clean or with moist crumbs, your mini carrot cake is done!
- all-purpose flour – you’ll want to make sure your flour is measured correctly, so either weigh it using a kitchen scale (you’ll need 96 grams) or use the spoon-and-level method.
- baking powder & baking soda – helps to add lift, and keep this mini carrot cake light and fluffy.
- spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves are a perfect warming blend to complement the carrot, pineapple and pecans in this mini carrot cake for two.
- salt to bring out all these flavors!
- toasted pecans – you can buy store-bought roasted pecans, or see below for tips on how to toast raw pecans yourself.
- egg – make sure your egg is room temperature so that your mini carrot cake bakes up fluffy and even.
- dark brown sugar & granulated sugar – a nice blend of sweetness from the white sugar, along with deep molasses flavor and moisture from the dark brown sugar creates a great texture for this carrot cake for two!
- vanilla extract – vanilla isn’t a major flavor in this carrot cake for two, so you won’t need too much of it, but I still recommend using a high-quality pure vanilla extract. Or better yet, check out my post on how to make vanilla extract at home with just 2 ingredients!
- vegetable oil – instead of butter, we’re using oil in this mini carrot cake. It helps to keep the cake moist and tender, and it’s easier to work with than butter! Also, with all the spices, brown sugar, and fruit and carrot flavors, you definitely don’t need added flavor from butter!
- crushed pineapple – canned crushed pineapple is such a fun ingredient to use in baking. I love it in my pineapple banana bread and my pineapple bars, but in this mini carrot cake it adds just enough pineapple flavor and texture to take it over the top!
- grated carrots – where this cake gets its name! We’re using a box grater to give this cake the flavor and texture of carrots all throughout. Make sure to grate the carrots yourself by hand — using a food processor gives you a different texture, and store-bought pre-shredded carrots are cut way too big for our purposes with this mini carrot cake!
First, you’ll need a box grater and vegetable peeler for your carrots. You’ll also need a light-colored frying pan to brown your butter. And definitely a 6-inch cake pan with 2-inch sides. I love these Wilton 6-inch cake pans. I also use these silicone liners for my 6-inch cake pans instead of parchment paper. They’re so easy and my cakes never stick! Here are all my recommendations for tools you’ll need to make this mini carrot cake!
Tips and F.A.Q.
I mean… it does have carrots?? OK, in all seriousness, this mini carrot cake is decadent. It’s got plenty of sugar and fat, so I wouldn’t call it health food by any means. Luckily, its small size makes portion control a bit easier, so you won’t be as tempted as you might with a full size carrot cake!
Another variation carrot cakes have is that most carrot cake recipes use vegetable oil instead of butter to keep the cake moist for days. This mini carrot cake for two is no different! I actually use oil in a lot of my cakes, including my mini vanilla cake. It’s a great way to add a moist texture, and it’s also much easier to work with than butter!
Not much, actually! Carrot cake is basically a spice cake, with some slight variations. This mini carrot cake adds freshly grated carrots, crushed pineapple, and toasted pecans to a basic spice cake recipe. And the result is so good!
It’s easy! Just spread your pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 350° for 5-10 minutes, checking and stirring every few minutes. Your pecans are done when they’re a deeper golden brown on the outside, a light tan color on the inside, and have a toasty, nutty aroma.
I highly recommend grating your carrots by hand using a box grater — since you’ll only need 2/3 cup of carrots for this mini carrot cake recipe, it won’t take long at all. And freshly grated carrots will give your cake the best texture! Just use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer peel, then use the smaller holes on the box grater to grate your carrots.
Cut your salted butter into chunks and melt it over medium heat in a light-colored sauté pan. Once your butter is melted and the milk solids have sunk to the bottom of the pan, they’ll start to turn a deep golden brown. You may also smell a nutty or toasty aroma. That’s when your brown butter is ready and when you should remove it from the heat right away!
Scrape your browned butter (and any brown bits in the pan) into a heatproof container and store it in the fridge for about an hour until it is almost solid. It should have the consistency of softened butter, but if necessary you can let it sit out at room temp to soften back up a bit. For more details on browning butter, check out my Brown Butter Appreciation Post.
You can definitely make some substitutions to personalize this mini carrot cake for two! First, you can swap out the pecans for walnuts for a slightly different nutty flavor. Since walnuts toast more quickly than pecans, you can just use raw walnuts instead of toasting them first. You can also skip browning the butter in the cream cheese frosting. Just prepare the frosting the same way, but with softened salted butter.
Another swap you can make is to switch out the pineapple for unsweetened applesauce, mashed overripe banana, or puréed carrots for even more carrot flavor! Any moist, sweet fruit puree can serve to add moisture and sweetness to this mini carrot cake batter and give it a slightly different flavor!
If you like this mini carrot cake for two, you’ll want to check out all my small batch dessert recipes! I’ve got a mini vanilla cake, Keto chocolate mousse for two, a 6-inch pumpkin dump cake, and so many other, including this deliciously decadent mini chocolate cake! They’re exactly what you need for a small group celebration, or just for your own major sweet tooth!
You will also want to check out my brown butter pecan cake, which is a similar recipe to this mini carrot cake, but with all the indulgent flavor of butter pecan ice cream! It’s got brown butter baked into the cake and in the cream cheese frosting, and toasted pecans throughout. It’s so nutty, buttery, and delicious!
Equipment you may need
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour - (96g)
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- pinch ground cloves
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 tbsp toasted pecan halves - chopped, plus more for topping (see note)
- 1 large egg - room temperature
- ½ cup dark brown sugar - packed
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp crushed pineapple - well-drained
- ⅔ cup carrots - freshly grated
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 6-inch cake pan with 2-inch high sides with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
- Stir chopped pecans into the flour mixture until well coated. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat egg and sugars together for 2 minutes with a whisk or electric mixer until lightened in color and thickened.
- Whisk in vanilla extract, followed by vegetable oil, crushed pineapple, and grated carrots, mixing well after each addition.
- Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Drop from a few inches onto countertop to minimize air bubbles.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist clubs.
Prepare Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- Whip brown butter with an electric mixer until lightened in color. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Mix in vanilla.
- Gradually add powdered sugar and mix well.
- Beat another 2 minutes until frosting is light and fluffy. Spread onto cooled cake layers.
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