This pistachio cardamom carrot cake is so moist and flavourful, plus you don't need a mixer to make this layer cake! I've topped it with a whipped cream cheese frosting. This frosting is made using heavy cream and is super soft and light.
Tell me about this cake!
- Flavour: this carrot cake is packed with pistachios and spices like cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. This makes for a nicely spiced and warm cake but not so spiced that it gives you only Fall flavours
- Texture: the layer cake is really moist and dense, which matches up perfectly with this cloud-like frosting. This cream cheese frosting has no butter or powdered sugar, and is super light and soft.
- Ease: this is a really simple recipe, and you don't even need a mixer for the cake. A beginner could definitely tackle this project.
- Time: The longest part of this recipe is waiting for the cake to bake. The cake itself only takes 15 minutes to put together, and the frosting takes 12 minutes. This is a super simple and easy cake.
- Would I make this again? Definitely! Carrot cake should be enjoyed all year and not just in Spring, and I will 100% be making this throughout the year.
How to make a carrot cake
- Whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs, spices, vanilla, baking soda and salt - oil in this cake instead of butter keeps the cake really moist
- Fold in your flour until smooth - don't overbeat it as that will make it tough
- Fold in your grated carrots and pistachios - make sure your grated carrots aren't too large, we want this cake to be light and not 'crunchy' from carrots
What size pan to use
This recipe is for two 8" pans. You could use a 9" pan but you'll decrease the baking time to 35-40 minutes. Pour out about 700g (just under 25 ounces) into each cake pan to make them even.
Make sure you tap each pan on your counter before baking to get rid of any air bubbles.
Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
No soupy cream cheese frosting here! This cream cheese whipped cream frosting has no butter in it, and is made with heavy cream, granulated sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and salt.
In this recipe, we want our heavy cream and cream cheese to be cold, so no need to get them up to room temperature. I like to keep my mixing bowl in the fridge overnight too.
If you live in the UK, your cream cheese comes in tubs instead of bricks. Cream cheese in the UK has a higher moisture content so your frosting might come out a bit wetter and less easy to handle. Take your cream cheese out of the tub and pat it down with paper towels until it's dry.
In your stand mixer, or in a bowl with a handheld electric whisk, beat the heavy cream, sugar, salt and vanilla together until it begins to look like greek yoghurt. If you look at the image below with the whisk, that is how thick you want it to be.
Then with the mixer running on low speed, add the cream cheese a tablespoon at a time. It will start to look like cottage cheese and curdled. Stop the mixer, scrape the whole bowl making sure you have no cream cheese on the side, and then mix on high until smooth.
Substitutes you can make
- If you aren't a fan of pistachios, sub them out for an equal weight of walnuts, pecans or any other toasted nuts.
- If you prefer a butter based cream cheese frosting, you can use this recipe.
- Sub out the cardamom and add in a ¼ teaspoon cloves or nutmeg
Storing the cake
Because of the cream cheese frosting, this cake should be stored in the fridge. It should stay moist and fresh for up to 3 days.
Freezing the cake
Good news, you can freeze carrot cake! Slice the cake and wrap each slice in clingfilm, and you can keep it in the freezer for up to 1 month. Take the slice out of the freezer and let it thaw at room temperature for one hour before eating.
Frequently asked questions
For the carrots, grate them on the smallest side of a box grater. For your pistachios (or any other nuts!) put them in a ziplock bag, and crush them using a rolling pin.
You can bake the carrot cake layers a day ahead. Once cool, wrap each layer in clingfilm and store in the fridge overnight. The frosting though is best used immediately.
These cakes are pretty flat, but if you have a bit of a dome on them then use a serrated knife to cut the dome off and flatten the cake. Place the first layer down, and put a third of your frosting on top. Use a small offset spatula to evenly spread the frosting. Place the second layer down, then place about a cup of frosting on top. Use the offset spatula to smooth it around the sides for your crumb coat. This will lock in any loose crumbs! Put the cake in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up. Take the cake out, then smooth over the rest of the frosting.
Use a large spoon to swirl around the frosting, I've found this works better than an offset spatula!
Use a large knife (not serrated!) and after each cut, wipe the knife clean.
Other cake recipes to try:
- Cardamom Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
- Chocolate Brownie Cookie Dough Cake
- Double Chocolate Sour Cream Pound Cake
Pistachio Carrot Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 x 8" cake pans
- 4 eggs
- 320 grams grated carrots
- 240 grams all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 130 grams pistachios crushed
- 198 grams vegetable/canola oil
- 400 grams white sugar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 339 grams cold cream cheese
- 150 grams white sugar
- 3 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 210 grams heavy cream
- Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease and line 2 8" cake tins.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs, spices, vanilla, baking soda and salt together. If using a stand mixer, whisk for about 3 minutes, if doing this by hand, then whisk for about 8-10 minutes.
- Fold in the flour and mix until smooth, making sure there are no flour pockets. Add in the carrots and pistachios and fold together until combined.
- Pour 700g into each cake tin. Bake for 50-55 minutes, a toothpick inserted should come out clean (or with just a few crumbs). Let cool for 15 minutes, then remove from the pans and let cool completely.
- Chill your mixing bowl for at least 1 hour, or overnight. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the heavy cream, salt, sugar and vanilla on medium-low for 2 minutes. The sugar needs to have completely dissolved.
- Increase the speed to high and whisk for 2 minutes, until it looks very thick like Greek yoghurt.
- While the mixer is running on a low speed, add in the cream cheese a tablespoon at a time. By the end, it should look like cream cheese. Turn off the mixer, and scrape the entire bowl to make sure no cream cheese is left on the side. Turn the speed to high, and whip for 3 minutes until smooth.
- If you don't have a food processor to grate the carrots, grate them on the smallest side of a box grater.
- If you are in the UK and your cream cheese comes in tubs, take it out of the tube and pat it down with kitchen roll beforehand to remove excess moisture.