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The Famous Frog Commissary Carrot Cake

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An all-time classic from an iconic Philly spot.

The best carrot cake recipe ever comes from Philadelphia’s beloved Frog Commissary cookbook. The Commissary may be closed, but the Frog Commissary Carrot Cake recipe lives on. Here it is: moist, cinnamon-sweet, and full of carrots, nuts, and raisins.

carrot cake and cupcakes on table with carrot peels

There are no bad cakes, but let’s face it: Some cakes taste better than others. Of all the cakes in all the land, carrot cake is my personal favorite (tied with my mom’s Jewish apple cake recipe — make it). Because I like carrot cake so much, I am very particular about it. So when I say that the Frog Commissary carrot cake recipe is the best around, believe it.

Sweet but not cloying, this carrot cake is the moist, tender carrot cake ideal: folded with fresh carrots, raisins, pecans, and just a whisper of cinnamon.

carrots with carrot cake for easter dessert

All About Philadelphia’s Frog Commissary Restaurant

If you lived in or visited the Philadelphia area in the 1970s and 80s and liked nourishing, unpretentious food, chances are you found your way to Steve Poses’s Frog Commissary. The Commissary, on a narrow street in Center City, served upscale but accessible food (cafeteria style) that would have been at home in Berkeley’s burgeoning California cuisine scene. In other words, Poses knew about — and served — sunchokes and lentils before they were a thing. The food still feels fresh and current.

The Frog Commissary closed in the 1990s, evolving into The Frog catering company, but the recipes live on. You can still buy the bestselling Frog Commissary Cookbook, from which this carrot cake recipe is adapted.

carrot cake and cupcakes on table with carrot peels

The Frog Commissary Carrot Cake Recipe

The original Frog Commissary carrot cake recipe calls for baking this cake in a 10-inch tube pan, with a sweet pecan cream filling, topped with cream cheese frosting. The pecan filling is fantastic, but not necessary. I have not included it here. The cake stands on its own. (If you would like to include the pecan cream filling, however, you can get the recipe from Poses’s old blog post.)

My favorite part of Frog Commissary carrot cake recipe, other than the moist, sweet flavor, is its flexibility.  This cake can be made in:

  • A 10-inch tube pan
  • Two 9-inch round cake pans
  • A 9 x 13-inch rectangular cake pan, or
  • About 24 muffin cups, give or take

carrot cake and cupcakes on table with carrot peels

Whether you make muffins, a layer cake, a sheet cake, or — as I have done here — mini round cakes cut from round cutters, you’ll want to follow a few guidepost rules.

  1. Grate the carrots fresh. I find that pre-grated carrots have a bitter, dry flavor that is sometimes metallic, likely from the factory grating machines. Yuck. Use the wide holes of a box grater, the same holes you use to grate mozzarella cheese.
  2. Soak the raisins. Soak the raisins in warm water for about 15 minutes or more before adding them to the cake batter. Raisins want to rehydrate. Soaking them pulls moisture from water instead of your cake batter.
  3. Add the cinnamon to the oil and sugar. Many recipes want you to add cinnamon or other spices to the dry ingredients. Don’t. As a general rule, adding cinnamon to the liquid ingredients helps bloom the flavor. (My pro tip for the day!)
  4. Save some peels for decoration! Just swish them in warm simple syrup for about 30 seconds and wind them into rosettes.

So enjoy the fantastic Frog Commissary carrot cake recipe, a recipe that has stood the test of time, and always will.

carrot cake and cupcakes on table with carrot peels

You’ll also love these desserts:

carrot cake and cupcakes on table with carrot peels

The Famous Frog Commissary Carrot Cake

A moist, cinnamon-sweet carrot cake, famous for a reason, adapted from a beloved Philly café.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keywords:: cake, carrot cake, carrots, commissary carrot cake, dessert, Easter, easy, frog commissary carrot cake recipe, vegetarian
Servings: 2 x 9" layers or one 9 x 13" rectangle cake pan
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Ingredients

Carrot Cake

  • 1 1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups peeled, grated carrots (about a one-pound bag)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup golden raisins

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • generous pinch of salt

Instructions

For the Carrot Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease or line a 9 x 13" rectangular cake pan, two 9" round cake pans, a 10" tube pan, or 24-ish cupcake tins. Soak the raisins in warm water for about 15 minutes. Drain before using.
    PRO TIP: Instead of cupcakes, you could bake the cake in a 9 x 13" rectangular cake pan, then use round cutters to cut small round cakes. A classy alternative to cupcakes (pictured here).
  • Peel the carrots and reserve some of the long peels if you would like to make rosettes to decorate the cake. Cut the top and bottom ends and grate the carrots on the large holes of a box grater. Set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the oil and sugar until well mixed. Add the eggs, cinnamon, and salt and beat until light and well mixed.
  • Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, flour, carrots, nuts, and raisins. Stir on low, just until combined.
  • Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan(s) or cupcake tins and bake until a cake tester comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed.
    TIP: Approximate baking times are 40 minutes for a 9 x 13" rectangular cake pan, 30 minutes for 9" cake rounds, 70 minutes for a 10" tube pan, and 20 to 25 minutes for cupcakes. These are just approximations.
  • Turn out onto a cooling rack while still warm. Cool fully before decorating.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Combine all ingredients, starting the mixer on low to not cause a powdered sugar explosion. Gradually increase the mixer to medium-high and beat until fluffy and smooth.

To Decorate

  • For Carrot Peel Rosettes: Heat 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved. When cool enough to work with, dip the reserved carrot peels into the warm simple syrup for about 30 seconds, then twist into rosettes by winding each peel around a skewer or your finger.
  • Sweetened Shredded Coconut: Spread frosting on top of the cake or cupcakes and sprinkle generously with sweetened shredded coconut.

36 comments

  • Lisa D’Abramo

    5 stars
    Good morning Lisa,
    did you get to dip your feet in the Pacific one more time? As you can tell I’ve wondered all over your blog this morning,and am serving your chicken posole (apologies in case misspelled) for our dinner tonight.

    But back to the carrot cake recipe. It’s insane -so,so good!!! And the cream cheese frosting is to die for!!!!! YUM. Recipe is very easy to understand. If anyone is considering baking this recipe absolutely do it, it’s a fun recipe & great instructions.

    I wanted to mention Lisa I did purchase The Frog Commissary Cookbook, and I love it (I purchased it I think about 2 years ago.-I think that’s the first time I came across the carrot cake recipe on your site). I was lucky enough to receive a copy that was used & w/the previous owner’s notes! I love that!!!
    The Minnestrone Salad with Garlic Mayonnaise has become a favorite in the summertime!. A and the Sachetorte has become a birthday request w/ family members.

    Thanks Lisa

    • Unpeeled

      Hi!! So glad you liked the cake! It’s truly one of my favorites. And I’m so glad you got your hands on a Commissary cookbook! It’s one of my all-time favorites and so many of the recipes still feel so fresh, and not at all dated. I should try that Sachertorte…Thanks for this great note!

  • Kathleen

    Hello Lisa,
    I’m planning on making this cake for my son’s December 26th birthday. I love the idea of using round cutters for a different look. Would you give me a little direction on the size of the cutters in the photo?
    Thank you,
    Kathleen

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Kathleen! Happy early birthday to your son! This carrot cake is a great birthday cake. For this, I recommend about a 3-inch cutter, but you can go slightly smaller or larger depending on how you’d like to style them: more petit four size vs. cupcake size, for example. I hope you enjoy, and have a wonderful birthday celebration.

  • Karen hessel

    Our favorite for dr adds but you left out the most unique important part? the filling!!!!! I have snd use the original cookbook!? I don’t do the coconut.

    • 5 stars
      Good morning Kathleen,

      omg the PECAN Cream is a slice of heaven! Lisa probably didn’t include it to alleviate some of the time requirements. I know the cookbook recommends starting the recipe a day in advance of wanting to serve the cake.

      Great recipe
      Wonderful cookbook!

      Lisa

    • Unpeeled

      You are absolutely right about that delicious pecan filling layer! I did it in the interest of simplicity, but between you and me, we both know it’s the best with the filling. I am so glad you have the cookbook. The entire cookbook is wonderful and so ahead of its time in many ways.

  • 5 stars
    I have made many many carrot cake recipes searching for the right one, this is the winner, my search for perfect carrot cake is over! The little carrot rosettes are so dainty and beautiful. So enjoy your weekly emails and recipes!

    • Unpeeled

      Yea!! I am so very glad you liked it. It’s my go-to carrot cake for life! Thanks for this lovely note.

  • Kelly Wasserstein

    5 stars
    Moist, perfectly spiced and very successful. Will bake this again.

  • Lindsey Asmussen

    Hello, I’d like to make this cake and cut it in the circles as shown and frost individually for serving. It looks nice and would serve more people. I’ve never done this before, does the cake hold together pretty well to cut like this as shown? I’d like to do it the day ahead to avoid stress on the day, but maybe ithe pieces would dry out? ? I think I want to do the candied carrot with a couple nuts on the top of each piece. Advce Please. Thank you!

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Lindsey. All good questions. This cake holds together very well because it is very moist, and won’t crumble when you cut out the circles. The main advice I would give on this front, though, is to make sure that the cake is fully cooled before you cut into it. This ensures that the cake will set up fully. And cake is always better the next day, so I definitely think making it a day (or even two!) in advance is a good idea. To prevent the edges from drying out, cut your circles, then lay them out on a baking sheet and fully wrap the baking sheet with plastic wrap. This should keep them plenty fresh. I would frost and decorate day-of, though, to keep the buttercream looking perky and not dry. Hope this helps!

  • Adrienne

    This is the best carrot cake! I first ate it when my friend baked it for her son’s wedding and carried enough for more than one hundred people onto the plane with her en route to the wedding: It was truly memorable!

    My question is: how far in advance could you safely make this cake ? Would you freeze it if made more than a couple of days in advance? Would you hold off on frosting it in advance ?

    • 5 stars
      I started making this cake for my dorm buddies in 1979 at Philadelphia College of Textile and Science. I was an accounting major and all my roommates agreed that I should go to culinary school instead. This cake has been a hit for over 40 years. No carrot cake is better so stop looking!

      • Unpeeled

        Agreed!! This really is the best, and I am so glad that you have such a wonderful history baking this cake. What a great story! Thanks for sharing.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Adrienne! What a fantastic story! That definitely sounds memorable. My apologies for just writing back now. You could make this cake 2 or even 3 days in advance without worrying about it drying out. Beyond that, I would bake it, cool it fully, and then wrap and freeze. I like to frost the cake as close to serving as possible. Frosting tends to look a little crusty over time; you want it to look fresh and fluffy. I recommend baking and wrapping the layers and leaving them on the countertop or freezing them (depending on your timeframe), then frosting the cake the day of if possible. Enjoy!

  • 5 stars
    This really is the BEST carrot cake recipe. It is a pain to grate the carrots, but that’s ok. It’s delicious 🙂 Thank you for this recipe.

  • 5 stars
    Hi Lisa ,
    I’ll be making this recipe, and I plan on using your suggestion to cut into sm individual cakes . I like that idea a lot!

    My question, are there paper items (like cupcake liners)), that the sm individual cakes can be served in ?

    I hope I explained my question!

    Will take any suggestions

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Lisa! Hmm…I usually just serve them like in the photos, with the sides visible, on small plates or a tray. But you could cut parchment strips and wrap them around the sides and secure with a bit of tape or a ribbon! That is what comes to mind. Hope this helps, and enjoy!

      • 5 stars
        Thank you Lisa…

        I served them as pictured; everyone loved the presentation.

        Thank you!

  • 5 stars
    This was very good and moist.

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