Carrot Cake Bars with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
There is no Easter or even Spring without carrot cake. Like most of you, I am a carrot cake lover and enjoy everything about it. As you can see from my favorite carrot cake recipes over the years, classic carrot cake recipe, carrot cake cupcakes with mascarpone cream cheese frosting and carrot cake donuts. I make sure I indulge in this spring classic. Today, I am sharing with you a new recipe in the form of these carrot cake bars. Sometimes you just need an easy way to enjoy your favorites without the fuss of decking it up and decorating. These bars are that! Easy, flavorful and full of crunch.
What is your favorite addition to carrot cake? Some people must have the raisins or the walnuts but for me it’s the little bits of pineapples!! One of my friends in graduate school first exposed me to this secret ingredient in carrot cakes. It adds a sweet touch and great moisture to an already moist and soft cake and you can find it in all of my carrot cake recipes. But I know not everyone likes pineapples so it is optional.
These carrot cake bars start with this classic carrot cake recipe, adapted and baked in a 9 x 13 rectangular pan for ease. Of course, there are pineapple bits, loads of grated carrots, all the warm spices we love in carrot cake and made with vegetable oil for optional moistness and soft cake.
The cake is frosted right in the baking pan with a sweet, creamy classic cream cheese frosting infused with orange blossom water and ground ginger to add another level of flavor to your frosting. I swear, it would be hard to not just eat the frosting by the spoonful. Luckily, the recipe below makes plenty for left overs.
This Spring and Easter, if you are looking for a low-stress way of enjoying your carrot cake, these bars are for you! They are easy to transport too so perfect to bring with you to an Easter brunch.
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup applesauce
- 1/4 cup crushed pineapples, drained (optional)
- freshly grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (toasted), optional
- 1 8-ounce cream cheese package, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- zest of one orange
- a dash of orange blossom water
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 13-inch rectangular cake pan with baking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and grease the parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the sugars and vegetable oil on medium speed. Beat until smooth, about a minute. Increase speed to medium high and add eggs one at a time; beat until smooth about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add in applesauce, pineapple, zest of orange, and vanilla extract and beat until well combined and smooth. Add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing after each addition until just combined. Fold in the carrots and walnuts using a rubber spatula, making sure it is well mixed.
- Pour cake batter into the prepared pan and evenly distribute. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cake cool in pan completely before frosting.
- To make frosting: In a large bowl whip the cream cheese and butter until smooth with a mixer on medium speed. Reduce speed to low and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high speed and whip frosting for an additional 2 minutes.
- To assemble, spread the cream cheese frosting over the cooled cake in the pan. Evenly smooth the frosting. Decorate with mini carrots or walnuts as desired. To serve, cut the cake into bars.