Easy Carrot Cake Recipe

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I absolutely LOVE this easy carrot cake recipe. We call it "easy" because it starts with a box of spice cake mix, but it is ultra moist and still has all of the key flavors of our carrot cake recipe from scratch.

The addition of carrots, coconut, spices, crushed pineapple, and pecans is totally worth it!

We have made this flavorful carrot cake mix recipe into Carrot Cake Cupcakes as well! Swirled with cream cheese frosting, there's just nothing better!

Carrot Cake- A Doctored Cake Mix

Don't let this easy carrot cake recipe pass you by. It may start from a simple box of spice cake mix, but there are SO many delicious add-ins that you would never guess it wasn't from scratch. The flavor is fantastic!

How to Make An Easy Carrot Cake Recipe

We love this doctored cake mix version of Carrot Cake because it involves more than simply preparing a boxed Carrot Cake mix.

The freshly shredded carrots, spices, coconut, pecans, and crushed pineapple make all of the difference!

**You can find our full, printable cake recipe further down in this post. Here is a quick rundown of our steps!

  • In the bowl of your mixer combine the dry ingredients (spice cake mix (we used Duncan Hines), all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and ground ginger) and whisk 30 seconds to throughly combine.
  • To this add the eggs, milk, and sour cream and mix on medium speed for one minute ( a bit longer if using a hand held mixer). Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix one minute more.
Batter for Carrot Cake- Doctored Cake Mix
  • Next, fold in the shredded carrots, coconuts, pecans, and drained crushed pineapple.
Carrot Cake- Doctored Cake Mix
Batter for Moist Carrot Cake- A Doctored Cake Mix
  • Makes approximately 7 cups of batter.
  • Pour into prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees. Check at 35 minutes, the cake will be slightly pulled away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center should pull out clean or with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Baked Carrot Cake Layers

Frosting for the Carrot Cake

There's nothing like cream cheese frosting with carrot cake! (We this way about Italian Cream Cake and Hummingbird Cake too!) 

For today's cake, we've used one of our go-to cream cheese frosting recipes which is a simple combination of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla.

Cream cheese frosting is softer than most and so you will need to refrigerate it now and then if you notice it becoming too soft as you are working. In fact, we often pop our bowl in the refrigerator for several minutes just after making a batch.

Cream Cheese too Soft?

If you notice your frosting becoming too soft as you are decorating the cake, simply chill your piping bag, bowl of frosting, or even your cake for a few minutes to firm things up.

**Due to the cream cheese frosting, this carrot cake needs to be refrigerated until within a few hours of serving. If you cannot refrigerate the cake, I would frost with our Classic Vanilla Buttercream- you could even add a touch of cinnamon to the frosting.

Assembling and Decorating the Carrot Cake

Place the first carrot cake layer on your cake base or pedestal. Spread with a layer of cream cheese frosting.

Carrot Cake- Doctored Cake Mix

Repeat for the next two cake layers and then apply a thin coat (crumb coat) of frosting.

At this point, I like to chill my cake for about 15 minutes in the freezer to firm things up before adding the final coat of frosting.

We kept things very simple with decorating- I swirled on the frosting with my small offset spatula and added a border of crushed pecans. (Find more ideas here: How to Frost a Cake).

Carrot Cake- Doctored Cake Mix
Carrot Cake- Doctored Cake Mix

We hope that you enjoy this delicious easy carrot cake recipe. Make sure to check out our other cake mix recipes and favorite cakes from scratch!

Slice of Carrot Cake

More Doctored Cake Mix Recipes to Try

We have made lots of delicious doctored cake mix recipes over the years! From our Orange Cake Mix Recipe to Easy German Chocolate Cake and lots in between!

If you love working with cake mixes, or simply love a great tasting cake whether it's scratch or starts with a box, here are just a few of many that you don't want to miss! Some of our favorites are Marble Cake Mix Cake, Banana Pudding Cupcakes, and Oreo Cupcakes!

Thanks so much for stopping by! We hope that you enjoy this Carrot Cake from cake mix! Don't miss our full collection of Cake Recipes! We have lots of cake mix recipes as well as favorite cakes from scratch.

Also, if you are interested in cake decorating, don't miss our huge collection of cake decorating tutorials!

Yield: 15 servings

Carrot Cake -Doctored Cake Mix Recipe

Carrot Cake- Doctored Cake Mix

Nobody would ever believe that this amazing Carrot Cake recipe starts with a box of spice cake mix! The added carrots, coconut, pecans, and crushed pineapple add wonderful flavor!

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Additional Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour three 8 inch cake pans
  • Do not follow ingredients on the back of the cake mix box, use the ingredients listed below.
  • 1 box Spice Cake Mix, sifted (We used Duncan Hines)
  • 1 cup (121g) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • ½ (3 g) teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (242 g) sour cream
  • ½ cup (118 g) milk
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon (2 g) ginger
  • 1 ¼ cups (112g) Grated Carrots (small pieces)
  • ¾ cup (50g) shredded coconut- We used Baker's Angel Flake Sweetened Coconut
  • 4oz Crushed Pineapple, drained (You can put it in a strainer and let the excess juice drain out)
  • ¾ cup (92g) chopped pecans

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened (total weight 452g) I use full fat cream cheese. Using reduced fat or the spreadable cream cheese will cause the frosting to be too soft.
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt (2g)
  • 6 to 6 ½ cups (690g to 747g) powdered sugar

Instructions

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour three 8 inch cake pans. We also line the bottom of the pans with parchment circles.

For the Carrot Cake Layers

  1. In the bowl of your mixer combine the dry ingredients (cake mix, flour, sugar, salt, & spices) and whisk 30 seconds to throughly combine.
  2. To this add the eggs, milk, and sour cream and mix on medium speed for 1 minute ( a bit longer if using a hand held mixer). Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix 1 minute more.
  3. Next, fold in the shredded carrots, coconuts, pecans, and drained crushed pineapple.
  4. Makes approximately 7 cups of batter.
  5. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees. Check at 35 minutes, the cake will be slightly pulled away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center should pull out clean or with only a few moist crumbs attached.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Cut the butter into slices and add to the bowl of your mixer. Beat on low to medium speed until the butter is smooth.
  2. Cut the softened cheese into pieces and add to the butter, beating at low to medium speed until incorporated. If you are using a hand mixer you may need to soften the cream cheese a bit more.
  3. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar beating on low speed until blended. Cover the bowl with a towel to keep down the cloud of powdered sugar.
  4. Increase mixing speed and beat until fluffy. Don't over beat or it will become too soft. If it becomes too soft, just refrigerate a short while to firm it up a bit.
  5. This frosting will pipe best if used while still chilled. You can make it in advance, refrigerate and when ready to use let it soften slightly (do not microwave) and remix.
  6. Will frost a 3 layer 8 or 9 inch cake.

Notes

(We used to have a version of this carrot cake that used a box of spice cake mix and a box of white cake mix (plus all of the add-ins). We phased this one out as it made so much batter. However, if you are searching for this older recipe, here is a link! : Carrot Cake Doctored Mix (Retired Version)

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59 Comments

  1. Hi! I dont know if you’ll even see my comment… but I’m wondering if I leave out the coconut - should I increase the carrots by that amount? Like add an extra 3/4 cup carrots? I’m going to sub raisins for the nuts… I’m afraid if I leave too much out the texture will be off.

    Thanks!

  2. Hi Emily, I think 3/4's cup finely grated carrots would need to be used to replace lost volume. The coconut does add flavor but I think the cake will still be very good.

    1. I used a bundt pan, & baked for about 50 minutes total.
      The cake came out perfectly. I will most surely use the recipe again. thank you. The next time I'll try and snap a picture before the family devours the entire cake. lol

  3. I'm not good at making cakes, but I got compliments on how good the cake tasted. The directions were simple to follow especially for an old guy like me. The cake was for my son's 27th birthday and he loved how it tasted. Sorry, I didn't take a picture of it, but it looked similar to what you had but the swirls were not as spot on. It didn't matter, it still tasted very good. Thank you!

    1. Hi Orlando, It's wonderful that you made the recipe for your son's birthday. I am so happy you enjoyed it, thanks so much for posting!.

  4. If I use a Betty Crocker carrot cake mix would I use the same spices? Also do you know how long to bake if I'm using 3, 6' pans?

    1. Hi Wendy, Yes, I would use the same spices. If using 6 inch round pans, bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. The cakes will be done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.

  5. Sadly the doctored carrot cake did not work out for me. I followed the recipe however the cake was crumbly and fell apart when cut. The cake tasted fine but the presentation for a birthday cake was disappointing. I would not make it again.

    1. Hi Kim, I'm sorry that it didn't work out for you. Carrot cakes and other cakes that have lots of add-ins like nuts and especially coconut, are more likely to crumble a bit when sliced (unless the knife is very sharp), but it shouldn't have fallen apart.

  6. I cut this recipe in half, and it made a very decent sized cake.
    The ingredients sounded great. I was surprised the frosting called for butter. I don't think that is typical or necessary. The cake fell apart when cut, and the Betty Crocker mix had a horrible texture and couldn't hold together. After all the work, I was very disappointed.

    1. Hi Annette, I'm sorry that it didn't work out for you! That is disappointing. We use Duncan Hines spice cake mix and have great results- we will have to try Betty Crocker sometime to see the difference in texture that you are describing.

      As for the cream cheese frosting, this is a very common recipe and one that we love! I don't know of a cream cheese frosting that doesn't contain butter, but as always, you can experiment with whatever frosting you prefer. Thanks for your feedback!

  7. I love this carrot cake recipe. My husband and nephew do too. I love the Varity of recipes you have. Thank you very much. I love your site.

  8. This cake was bomb!! I did modify a bit based on what I had on hand. I used light cream instead of milk. Additions were 8oz of crushed pineapple instead of 4oz, added a cup of diced dates, walnuts. Baked it in a bundt for 50 minutes and it was perfect! I used canned cream cheese frosting! Thanks for the recipe!!