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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.
You’ll also love these desserts:
The Famous Frog Commissary 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
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.
- 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.
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!
Yea!! I am so very glad you liked it. It’s my go-to carrot cake for life! Thanks for this lovely note.
Moist, perfectly spiced and very successful. Will bake this again.
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!
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!
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 ?
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!
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.
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
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!
Thank you Lisa…
I served them as pictured; everyone loved the presentation.
This was very good and moist.
Best carrot cake I’ve ever made! My husband loved it for his birthday cake. Definitely a keeper. Thanks for the story on the Frog Commissary too – I found the blog. I have shared this recipe and website with a few fellow cooks. Thanks for sharing your talent and great tips!
Hello and thanks so much for this! I am so glad you liked it (definitely my favorite cake). Please pass along a happy birthday to your husband as well!
Are you able to provide measurements by weight? Can I assume 201 g per cup for sugar and 150 g per cup of AP flour? Thank you.
Hi, Sally Ann. I am working on upgrading my recipe card to show weight conversions, but for now: King Arthur makes a great (printable) volume/weight conversion chart for baking, which I consult often. They list 1c of sugar at 200 grams, and 1c all-purpose flour at 120 grams. You can find it at: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/learn/ingredient-weight-chart . Hope this helps, and sorry about the inconvenience! Improvements coming soon!
Thank you! I;ll use those measurements.
Rebecca P Chisholm
Eggs are mentioned in the instructions but not in the list of ingredients doesn’t mention eggs but the instructions do.
4 eggs!! Thanks for catching this. I have tried to insert the egg quantity several times, but it never saves. I don’t know why–maybe WordPress has something against eggs? Hopefully my software update fixed it and 4 eggs is now listed in the ingredient list for you.