Ben Starr’s Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Hazelnuts

**Please note, instructions for making this into cupcakes are located at the bottom of the “cake” section of the recipe.

This is the cake that I get demands for every October at my annual Fall Dinner Party, where I serve a 5 course meal with each course based on pumpkin. Regardless of what unique, delicious pumpkin dessert I have planned, people always email and call ahead to ask if I’m doing my Pumpkin Carrot Cake. I can’t let them down.

This is also the cake that Gordon Ramsay loved on MasterChef, and that Graham Elliot said gave his mouth an orgasm.

This is one of the most delicious cakes you’ll ever eat. It has a definite carrot cake flavor, but it’s a lot more moist and spicy. The candied nuts on top add a delicious crunch and extra dimension of flavor.

First, a video tutorial showing the procedure for baking this cake, step-by-step, with common pitfalls for new bakers to avoid.  This is a VERY detailed video, and consequently…it’s an hour long.  Feel free to skip to the recipe below if you’re an experienced baker!

I normally make this as a 3 layer cake using 9″ cake pans.  On MasterChef I sliced each layer in half, resulting in a 6 layer cake.  (To better facilitate the slicing, freeze the cake rounds for 30 minutes to stiffen them up, then carefully rotate the cake as you slice back and forth with a long bread knife.  A lazy Susan helps, but isn’t necessary.)

***A new breakthrough occurred in this cake’s evolution on December 22, 2011.  Following a method for meringue used by my friends in Perth, Australia, I STARTED with the meringue first…something I don’t normally do.  This step makes the cake much easier for beginners, as it virtually ensures you can’t over-beat your whites.  I recommend modifying the recipe by taking this step for now, and when I can remake the video, I will permanently alter the recipe.  To begin, take 6-9 egg whites (I use 9) and put them in the mixer bowl along with 1 cup of white sugar and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar.  Turn the mixer on high and in 2-3 minutes you’ll have stiff peaked meringue.  It is VERY hard to overbeat this meringue.  Stop when the whites start to ruffle up around the whisk, then test by pulling the whisk up through the whites.  If the peak that remains on the whisk or in the bowl is firm and doesn’t sink over, you’re ready.  If the peak is soft and “wilts” then beat it a bit longer until the peak remains stiff.  Then remove the meringue to a bowl, and the bowl can immediately be used to proceed with the cake batter without washing it.  Just switch to the paddle attachment, add the butter, the remaining 1/2 cup white sugar, and the 1/2 cup brown sugar and proceed…

2 sticks unsalted butter (8 ounces, 227 grams), softened (do NOT use margarine)

Whip until the butter is light and creamy.  Then add:

1 ½ cups sugar (10 1/2 ounces, 308 grams)
½ cup brown sugar (4 ounces, 97 grams)

Cream the butter and sugars together until they are light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes, preferably 5.

Then add:

3 large egg yolks

Blend on medium speed for 3 more minutes. Then add:

1 ¼ cups pumpkin puree (319 grams, canned pumpkin is okay, or microwave sweet potatoes or butternut squash in season, and puree)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend on medium speed for 3 more minutes.  You should have a thick, airy, lightly-colored batter.  Then fold in:

2 cups grated carrots (302 grams)

In a separate bowl, combine:

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour (I use 8 oz AP flour and 4.5 oz cake flour, or 227 grams AP and 127 grams cake)
4 teaspoons (16 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
2 Tablespoons (6 grams) ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon (4 grams) ginger
1 Tablespoon (4 grams) ground cardamom
1/4 tsp each (heavy pinch) nutmeg, allspice, cloves
1 teaspoon (3 grams) salt

(To kick this recipe up a notch, lightly toast your spices in a skillet over medium heat for a few seconds to bloom the flavor, then add to the flour.)

Stir around with your fingers until they’re well mixed. Then sift at least twice through a sifter or strainer.  Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix on slowest speed until combined.

In a separate bowl, (or THOROUGHLY wash your mixer bowl to remove all traces of fat) beat:

6 egg whites (or, for extra lift, up to 9 whites)
1/2 tsp (2.4 grams) cream of tartar (optional, but recommended, add when whites begin to get foamy)
2 Tablespoons (8 grams) white sugar (add gradually when whites are going through soft peak stage)

To stiff peaks.  Start out on high speed, and as the whites begin to change color from foamy yellow to a whiter color, add the cream of tartar, lower the speed to medium low and whip VERY slowly, adding the maximum amount of air without damaging the protein structure of the whites.  Slowly incorporate 2 Tablespoons of white sugar, a bit at a time.  Once you have reached stiff peaks, stop immediately.  (It’s better to be just shy of still peaks than past stiff peaks where the white separate into curds when you scoop them.)  Stir 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten the batter.  Gently fold the remaining 2/3 into the cake batter until you can’t see any clumps of white left.

Divide it equally into parchment-lined, greased and floured cake pans. (I spray my cake pans with canola oil, add a round of parchment or wax paper, spray again, and then liberally flour them, shake the flour around, and dump it out.)  Optionally, spray top of batter evenly with water to slow the rising process, resulting in flatter cakes.

Place cakes in a preheated 350F oven, and toss a handful of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven.  This creates steam which again results in flatter cakes.  Immediately reduce the heat to 325F and bake for 30 minutes (or 50 minutes for deep 6” rounds) or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 15-30 minutes. Then dump upside down (gently!) onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

I like to chill my cakes before I frost them. They hold up better. 45 minutes in the freezer is usually perfect, but make sure the cake is fully cool before putting it in your freezer or you may thaw out other things in the freezer. While the cake is cooling, make up the frosting and the candied nuts.


This recipe makes beautiful cupcakes.  Add an additional teaspoon of baking powder, fill cupcake cups almost to the top with batter, and bake in a 375F oven for 15-20 minutes until they test done.  (Don’t spray water or add ice to the oven.  These techniques encourage a flatter top, and cupcakes typically have a more rounded top.)


***Please note this makes enough frosting for a 6 layer cake.  You can halve the recipe if you are only making 2 or 3 layers.***

2 packages (16 ounces, 454 grams) cream cheese (or mascarpone, or lebni/labneh…a Middle Eastern kefir yogurt cheese)
2 sticks butter (8 ounces, 227 grams), softened

Cream together cheese and butter with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until it’s light and fluffy. Then slowly begin to add:

1-2 pounds confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) (454-907 grams) depending on how sweet and stiff you like the frosting

Add the sugar gradually, beating constantly. I like to start with low speed right after I’ve added sugar to keep it from flying everywhere, then increase the speed as it gets incorporated. Continue adding sugar in small batches and mixing thoroughly until the frosting reaches the desired sweetness level. The more sugar you add, the stiffer the frosting will be.  Loose frosting is easier to work with.  Stiff frosting holds the cake together better.  Then add:

2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat on slow speed until the vanilla begins to get mixed in, then beat on the highest speed possible for 2 minutes to ensure a light and fluffy frosting.

Frost the cake liberally. Don’t worry too much about crumbs getting into the frosting, because you’re going to press candied nuts into the frosting anyway, so it’s not critical to have a perfectly clean frosting job.


Spread out a piece of parchment/waxed paper or foil onto a countertop and butter it or spray it lightly with canola oil.  (Or use a silicone pad, which is the preferable method.  No matter how well you butter your paper or foil, SOME of it will stick to the bottom of your candy and you’ll have to scrape it off with your fingernail.)

Into a very heavy skillet, put:

½ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon water

Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Once the mixture is at a full rolling boil, continue stirring and boiling for 3 minutes until the mixture is deep brown and fragrant. (If you have a candy thermometer, you’re shooting for 325F) Then add:

¼ – ½ cup chopped nuts (I like to use hazelnuts when I can find them, pecans if I can’t.  Your flavor will be better if you’ll gently toast the nuts in a skillet over medium heat, tossing frequently, until they are fragrant and have deepened a bit in color.  You can also toast in the microwave using 1 minute intervals on full power, until nuts are lightly browned and fragrant.)

Stir the nuts into the boiling sugar, making sure they are well-coated. Then remove the pan from the heat and pour the nuts onto the oiled wax paper. Let them cool completely before the next step.

Pull the candied nuts off the paper and place them in a zip-top bag. Pound them with a rolling pin or wine bottle to break them up, then roll over them back and forth until they are well pulverized, but not powdered.

After you’ve frosted the cake, sprinkle the nuts on top. Then place some in your palm and press them up against the sides of the cake. (It’s messy, but it works.) Continue around the cake until the sides are coated with nuts.

This cake tastes best at room temperature, and it does disappear fast, but if you’ve got a small crowd eating, you’ll want to refrigerate it after serving. Then let it sit on the countertop for an hour before serving again.

116 Responses to Ben Starr’s Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Hazelnuts

  1. This is your legendary-est recipe.

  2. This cake is amazingly epic – I made it for my Oma’s 80th birthday. Thank you so much for posting the recipe!

    • Lauren, what an honor that you made this for your Oma’s 80th! I hope she enjoyed it. If you have any pictures, please email them to me at ben at benstarrdotcom

  3. Made this cake today for my fiancee’s birthday. It was a big hit. Surprisingly light consistency. And the candied hazelnuts were out of this world. The salt really brings out the explosive flavor. I only made 4 layers since I had only 8″ cake pans so any more layers would have just been too high. Thanks Ben for all the tips in the video. really learned a lot.

    • Sam, I’m so glad it turned out well! (Coincidentally, I am baking the cake today, too.) I spent years working on that texture, taking it from the dense wet carrot cake (which IS yummy, but not in 6 layers!) so I’m glad you enjoyed it. Happy Birthday to your fiancee!

  4. I made the cake again, this time turning 1/3 of it into cupcakes and it was another huge success. I am always surprised when i bite into it at it’s lightness and bursting flavor. In addition, as technical as it is, it isn’t really so hard to make. BTW, Ben are you Jewish? I am and when I watched MasterChef, my JewDar went up. Since I saw you have a website, I figured I would ask.

  5. Ben can you make these into cupcakes?

  6. Roberta Fracalossi

    My name is Roberta,I’m from Brasil, and I just love you way to cook and love your personality (sorry about my terrible english…) The masterchef season 2 don’t finish here yet, but I wish sooooooooooooo much that you win!! Because you are, I have absolutly shore about that, the best cook AND person of the show!! Thanks for everything!!

    • Bom dia, Roberta! BRIGADO! My boyfriend is from Sao Paulo and we have many dear friends there and try to visit once a year. I adore Brasil, it is one of my favorite places on earth. BEIJOS!

  7. Hi Ben! I have a question regarding the carrot-pumpking cake recipe. You say do not use margarine. And you say it quite emphatically. I am wondering why it cannot be substituted for butter, other than for taste reasons. I want to make this cake but cannot use any dairy ingredients. While taste might suffer, is there any other reason that margarine can’t be used? Thanks – and keep up your great work!!

    • Hi, Sharon! I am adamantly against the use of virtually all industrial food products. Margarine is vegetable fat that is altered at the molecular level to be solid and behave like butter, with synthetic esters added to make it taste vaguely like butter. While the jury is still out about how bad for us these hydrogenated fats truly are (in a decade we’ll know a lot more), I choose not to put things in my body that my body that do not exist in nature, and that my body doesn’t know how to deal with.

      If you are lactose intolerant, I would suggest you try using cultured butter (or “European-style” butter) which has been pre-digested by healthy bacteria. Many people who are lactose intolerant are able to consume products like yogurt, buttermilk, and cultured butter because they are significantly altered by the bacterial culture. If that doesn’t work, I would suggest you attempt to locate RAW milk products, either by finding a local dairy farmer on Craigslist or, or looking in a local gourmet market. Milk contains enzymes that help your body digest it. The pasteurization process kills these enzymes. I am somewhat lactose intolerant, but I can drink a whole gallon of raw cow’s milk with ZERO negative effects. So raw butter will still contain the natural enzymes that help your body digest it.

      Failing these options, please make sure you are buying margarine that contains NO trans fats. On the label, avoid anything “partially hydrogenated” and only buy margarine that is “fully hydrogenated.” Emerging research shows that trans fats (or partially hydrogenated fats) are very, very bad for us.

  8. Thanks for your response regarding the margarine. If I cannot use ANY dairy ingredients, regardless of what they may be, could I substitute oil for part or all of the butter? Would the quality of the cake suffer? Thanks!

    • The texture and taste of the cake will definitely suffer if you substitute oil…however, it will be more like the texture of traditional carrot cake…more dense, moist, and chewy. It will still taste good, but it may be hard to stack 6 layers and to slice.

  9. I made this cake yesterday, (in honor of the Masterchef season finale) and it was wonderful! I wish that someone would have told me years ago to freeze a cake to cut it into layers and to put on the frosting. The cake looked beautiful. My husband and I do not like nuts in our food, but out of respect for your receipe I made candied pecans. We both really liked the pecans on the cake and thought that they added texture and extra “yumminess” to the cake. Thank you so much!

    • I’m so glad you liked the cake! To be honest, I don’t normally put nuts in my food (unless I’m making Thai food, in which case I love adding cashews), and I NEVER put nuts in my cookies or breads or anything like that. But with this particular cake, you gotta have em! So glad you agree. *hugs*

  10. I live in the Czech Republic and love Masterchef and especially love your pumpkin carrot cake! Wow, the moment Gordon sliced it- I was really amazed and decided to try it :)
    I hope to get all the ingredients because sometimes it is difficult (for example, there is nothing like cream cheese, cardamon is not used at all)..
    Thanks for this receipe!! :)

  11. Hey Ben! :) I love that you posted this recipe! I have a problem though, with the Pumpkin Puree. You see, here in our country (Philippines), we don’t have pumpkin, we have what we call “Kalabasa” though, which is fairly abundant in our farmer’s markets. Can I use this? and how do I puree it? Thank You so much ben!! You’re my favorite! I’d really like to try this recipe out!

    Cheers and good luck to all your future plans!

    • Candy, Kalabasa is pumpkin, and it will work perfectly in this recipe. Prepare it the same way you prepare a pumpkin puree. Cut the kalabasa in half, place each half in a baking sheet, and bake in the oven at 350F/170C until it is very soft. You should be able to push gently on it with a spoon and it will collapse on itself. Let it cool fully, then puree it until it is smooth. I usually scrape the puree out onto a bath towel and fold the towel over and press it gently on top of the puree. This extracts excess water. Don’t try to scrape the puree off the towel, simply pick up the towel and hold it over a bowl and shake it, and the puree will fall into the bowl. You can watch this on my pumpkin pie video:

  12. You KNEW and you were right. Yesterday I saw in my country (Portugal) the episode where you baked your cake. Of course the first thing I did was looking for the recipe. It looks so yummy and to die for!
    I had planned to bake a carrot cake this coming weekend which I still intend because it is my favorite carrot cake ever (my daughter´s recipe, she is a pastry chef in N.Y.) but next week your cake will the the next for sure. Thanks for sharing the recipe and will let you know how did it go. Many thanks and all the best.

  13. Hi, I just watched the masterchef episode where you baked this and cannot stop thinking about it! I desperately want to eat this cake!!! Everything about it is perfect, most of all your passion, positivity and enthusiasm. I am going to attempt this for my October cooking challenge (which I just created this instant, inspired by you).

    • Awesome, Alex! When you bake the cake, please take a pic of you with it, and email it to me! ben at benstarr d0t c0m. Lots of fans have sent me pics, I’m going to put up a collage on the site!

  14. So tasty! I have to make it all the time…(on my birthday)
    great job, it is so delicious!
    btw. i saw you in masterchef (i know you from this competition and i liked you, so i had to cook this amazing cake!)

  15. For the 2nd Thanksgiving in a row I will be making 2 of these cakes again for each side of the family…everyone is very excited! Last year I wasn’t even asked to bring a dessert for the one side of the family but I did anyways…it was such a hit family was actually thanking me :)

  16. Pingback: The A/W Bucket List | The Wallflower

  17. Hi! I just watched the episode on master chef where you make this cake and it lookes delicious and I’ll have to try and make it some day, even though I usually don’t bake. Thank you for the inspiration! /Annica from Sweden

  18. Made the cake and I belief I followed the recipe to the letter. Each of the three pans only rose about half as high as they should have! Any thoughts?

    • Mark, there could be a number of factors. How old is your baking powder? It DOES lose its effectiveness after a few months. Are your whites getting beaten all the way to stiff peaks? If you take them PAST stiff peaks (where they start to look “chunky”) or if they’re still at soft peaks, you won’t get as high a rise. If you beat the batter for too longer after the flour has been folded in, it won’t rise properly. If the pumpkin puree you are using is too liquidy, it won’t rise properly. (Especially if you’re making it fresh…you HAVE to soak the water out of a fresh puree.) If you live at a high elevation, it won’t rise properly. There could be any number of reasons. Do you bake often? When you watch the cake rise in the pans while they are in the oven, the cake should rise just to the rim of the pan or slightly above it. As the cake cools, it will settle to a bit below the rim of the pan. This ISN’T a sponge cake. It doesn’t rise like crazy. But it DOES rise…

  19. hi Ben…..yes this is what I was looking for, the famous recipe (I asked about it on your facebook profile)…
    I just finished viewing season 2 in Italy and you were great!
    I will try this cake,
    I would like to know if you think it will turn out well with carrots and almonds instead of pumpkin….I love almonds.
    Thank you for your time!

    • Anotoinette, the cake will turn out beautifully with candied almonds instead of candied hazelnuts. However, the pumpkin is critical to maintain the moisture and volume of the recipe. If you can’t find pumpkin, use mashed yams or sweet potatoes instead. But pumpkin is popular in Italy, you should be able to find it!

  20. Yes we have pumpkin here and I’ve just returned home from buying one!….you are totally right about the moisture needed and so I will be faithfull to your recipe, except for the topping, I will use almonds!
    I have tried the frosting already for my famous almond cake, and I wasn’t quite satisfied with the result, it was a definitely too runny, 400gr cream cheese – 200gr softened butter – 125gr fine sugar…
    after reading your recipe clearly my sugar was not enough, but I’m afraid it will turn out to be way too sweet if I add more sugar!….any tips on the frosting correction I should make?

    • Antoinette, a friend of mine did the conversions for me, so I’m not confident they are correct. I use powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar…not fine sugar. It is the consistency of face powder or finer. Like dust. Also, your cream cheese may be softer than ours in the US. You add enough powdered sugar until the frosting is stiff enough to use on the cake. For me, that is almost 1 kg!!!

  21. ok thank you dearly! I used something like philadelfia cheese, I will follow your suggestion and try mascarpone instead.
    good things to you Ben!

    • Philadelphia is the brand that I use, Antoinette. I’m just not certain it is manufactured the same in Italy. However, I think that your problem was not enough sugar if you only use 125g. You need to use more like 450g.

  22. …and the sugar was like powder as you wrote, I actually meant confectioner’s sugar, not fine! thank you again!

  23. Hi Ben! :) I’m from Singapore and i absolutely love your blog. I’m a struggling law student and reading your entries and amazing recipes really cheer me up! I’m still quite the amateur baker but this legendary cake of yours is definitely on my to-bake list ;) with all the technique and care that went into it, i’m not surprised that the judges loved it!!! i must go watch that episode again someday hehe. i have NO IDEA how you managed to pull it off within the time limit, you’re pretty darn amazing if you ask me.

    My sister is my partner in crime when it comes to baking/cooking and we would love to try baking this one day! :) will definitely send you a pic when we do. All the best in everything you do, Ben! :)

  24. I had these cupcakes last night at the bake sale…made by Ben himself :-) , and they are AHHHHMAZING! Have the cake he made in my fridge…keep telling myself I am NOT allowed to eat it for breakfast! Ben, you are a truly gifted artist in the kitchen and I look forward to trying this recipe myself. (PS….the bread I bought…garlic & rosemary…can’t find the recipe :-/ )

    • Kim, the recipe is under Yeast Breads for “Easy Overnight Old World Style Bread.” Then all you do is toss in a handful of chopped rosemary and garlic when you’re stirring everything together. You can add ANYTHING to that recipe you want.

  25. Hello Ben. This is Maria from Portugal. I really loved you on Masterchef, and feel you are a spiritual person, with kindness for everyone. You should have won :) I would like to cook your delightfull cake, but I am scared of the 6 layers. How can I do it with only 2 layers and adjust the portions to a smaller cake? And you know there is an awfull crisis on my country so we have to cut expenses. Thank you. Wish you and your partner all the happiness that you are both dreaming. Beijinhos :)

    • Bom dia, Maria! Thanks for coming to my site. I adore Portugal, I have been there a few times. You can cut the recipe entirely in half very easily. Then bake it in two 9″ cake rounds. It may rise above the rim of the baking dish, don’t worry! You can frost it in two layers after it cools. I would so love a photo of you and the cake after you bake it!

  26. Hey Ben! Words cannot express how simply amazing this cake is. I am currently making it for Thanksgiving when all of my relatives come over. I made it last year and everyone simply LOVED it! Here’s the funny thing…when I told my relatives I’d be making this cake, they were pretty skeptical cause a good amount of them don’t like carrot cake and another good amount of them don’t like pumpkin cake. They ended up having some of it anyways on Thanksgiving last year…and they were HOOKED, ha ha! I’ll be sure to take a pic of me and the finished cake and send it to ya! :D

    Don’t stop being awesome!

    aka Becca Boo

  27. Hi Ben. I read in one of your responses to “soak off water for fresh purée”. Can you tell me how to do so? Unfortunately, I read this after I made cupcakes. While still yummy, texture wasn’t quite rise.

  28. Hi Ben,

    I saw this recipe on Masterchef USA, and decided to do try it right away as muffins. It’s amazing, thank you. I love pumpkin and spices, and will definitely try more variations of the recipe. I did some modifications though: I reduced the sugar in the batter (-30g) and used no sugar in the egg whites because the batter tasted sweet enough. I also added some chocolate chips (because everything tastes better with chocolate!) and hazelnuts to the batter before baking. Love it!
    The muffins are pretty small though… maybe I need more baking powder? (I used 2 and a half teaspoons). I’ll give it a try next time (and there will definitely be a next time).

    PS – Thank you for providing the measurements in grams as well, that helped A LOT for all of us non-americans.
    Feliz Natal! :)

    • Bom dia, Syrin! If you used the same amount of flour that I call for in the recipe, then 2 and a half teaspoons of baking powder is not enough. You need to use the full 4 teaspoons of baking powder PLUS 1 teaspoon of baking soda in order for them to rise properly. Also, beating the sugar into the egg whites stabilizes them and adds more lift to the muffins. Any time you reduce sugar in a baking recipe, it will have negative results on the texture of the dish, because the sugar is critical in a number of chemical and physical processes that give you the proper rise and texture. You may need to add ADDITIONAL leaveners, perhaps an additional teaspoon of baking powder (to total 5 teaspoons of baking powder) if you are not using the proper amount of sugar in the recipe. That should provide the proper lift. But it may result in a bit of off-flavor because baking powder can taste metallic if used too generously. It’s VERY tricky to do low-sugar baking, particularly with egg whites, because the sugar is very important to give the egg whites the proper structure to lift the cake. You might also try adding 4 drops of lemon juice to the egg whites…this will also help solidify their structure.

      • Hi Ben (it’s almost time for dinner here in Lisbon).
        Oh, right, I forgot to mention that I halved the recipe (hence the 2 and a half teaspoons of baking powder). As for the sugar, I know it affects recipes, but after tasting the batter and now the muffins I have to say that they taste perfect, more sugar would just make them too sweet for me. But next time I’ll try to add some more egg whites and the lemon drops (or a pinch of salt, like my mother usually does).
        Anyway, the muffins are amazing, very soft, and I’m guessing they’ll disappear very quickly. I ended up with 15 cupcakes. Here’s a not so good pic ( I took this afternoon. Paired with a good cup of tea, they taste even better. ;)

  29. Hi Ben!
    Just wanted to say that I did your cake (with some changes because there were no pumpkins in the store) for my bithday. It´s really delicous! I put a foto on this website:
    Thank you for the recipe! Many greetings from the woods in Sweden!!

    • Veronika, that cake looks FABULOUS! What did you use instead of pumpkin? Just FYI, when pumpkins aren’t in season, I use sweet potato or yam and it works beautifully…

  30. Hi!
    Thanks and it´s your cake that is fabulous and amazing! When that episode of Masterchef was on swedish tv and Ramsey cut out a piece of your cake I was just speachless!! I made carrotpuré instead of pumpkin because I couldn´t think of anything else. But I gonna try sweet potatos next time, thank you for that tip! The layer in the botten is hazelnutnougatcream. Thank you one more time for the recipe, everybody how taste it is overwhelmed!

  31. Hi Ben,

    I can see that the comment before mine is from Sweden as well. They have just finished replaying the second season here in Sweden. I have to say that you cake is absolutely mouthwatering. I’m an Egyptian who lives in Stockholm and am crazy about food. I have just started my own blog :) Anyway, I’m planning on making your amazing cake next Saturday for my son’s second birthday and had a couple of questions, and would be super grateful if you can help. Can the came stay over night in the fridge? and would it change it’s texture or taste? what would be the best way to do this? As I’m planning so many things for the day and it’s be great if I can do the cake the day before..
    thank you so much and next time you’re planning on going to Egypt let me know ;)

    • Yosra, thanks for your message! Yes, this cake can sit in the fridge overnight without it affecting its texture. Just let it come to room temperature before serving, as it tastes better that way.

  32. I really don’t think you should freeze it. First, freezing tends to dry out cakes. Secondly, when it thaws, the cake will be drowning in condensed water droplets. Other than that, the recipe looks fine. By the way, do you have the banana cake version of this?

    • Jane, I’ve frozen this cake many times, it freezes very well. When I ship the cake for weddings, it gets shipped frozen rock hard, and I give instructions to thaw in the fridge. The texture isn’t quite as spectacular as fresh, but the cake contains SO much moisture from the pumpkin and carrots that it doesn’t dry out after freezing. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by the “banana cake version”…?

  33. So how do you thaw in the fridge? Just leave it there?

    Carrot cake is most similar to banana cake. The same spices probably work as well in both cakes. Banana with cream cheese is terrific too.

    Also, why do you use pumpkin? Does that contain more moisture than, say, parsnip? I ask because I see many carrot cake recipes using parsnips, sometimes the carrot is completely substituted with parsnip.

    • Jane, the cake thaws just fine if you leave it in the fridge. I don’t ship the cake fully frosted, I frost between the layers and then do a thin skim coat around the outside, then I freeze it for 2 days. Then I ship the cake with dry ice in the box one one side, and the frosting in a ziploc bag on the other side. The person who gets the cake then does the final frosting job after the cake thaws in the fridge.

      I use pumpkin because it’s my favorite ingredient. Virtually all carrot cake recipes are oil-based cakes. I wanted to combine my favor ingredient…pumpkin…into my favorite cake…carrot. But I wanted to dramatically improve the texture, because carrot cakes are often heavy and greasy to me. It took years of experimenting to get the texture right using the butter/sugar creaming technique. And yes, the pumpkin brings a LOT more moisture to the cake than the carrots (or parsnips), which was a challenging in keeping the texture light and fluffy but still moist. When pumpkin is not in season, I often make the cake with sweet potatoes. I have also made it with butternut squash.

  34. Hi Ben!
    Can I make the frosting using Neufchâtel cheese in place of cream cheese? I dont really know the difference other than the fat content.

    • Mack, the frosting will be softer with Neufchatel so you may have to add more sugar to get it stiff enough to hold the cake together. But the flavor will be similar.

      • Hi Ben!
        Your cake was a hit! (I used plain cream cheese to play it safe). I know August is a bit unorthodox for a pumpkin-carrot spiced cake, but you can’t help a hankering and I didn’t want to wait for the holidays! I’m afraid I may have butchered your recipe, the cake is a bit lopsided, and curiously only yielded 2layers (I suppose I underestimated my spillage frequency). I may have underbeat the whites for fear of making a curd-like consistency. But the cake was great! The cardamom really added that extra touch that means so much! Thank you!! Would like to post a photo

  35. Hi Ben! I’m Francesca and I’m writing from Italy. I only want to say THANK YOU THANK YOU BEN! for all your wonderful recipes, I really can’t beleive that you are sharing them with us! I want to try your pumpkin carrot cake but… no pumpkin in Italy now! I have to wait…

  36. HI BEN! I just watched your season on Masterchef (for the second time). My boyfriend and I love your enthusiasm and how positive you were! We were rooting for you to win the first time watching it, and re-watching it recently I found I couldnt help but do the same again.
    Now down to a serious question, I have a bad allergy to cloves, but I have been dreaming about your pumpkin carrot cake. Can I substitute/leave out the cloves and still have it taste delicious?
    Thank you so much for being awesome!

  37. Hi Ben,

    Loved watching you on MC and seeing the latest finale this past week reminded me that I have been wanting to look up this recipe. I can’t believe it is posted online! I will be making it for an out-of-town family and friends BBQ on my sister’s wedding weekend.

    1: How many cupcakes will/should the recipe make?
    2. How much batter per cupcake?
    3. Do you think adding a touch of cinnamon to the icing would taste good?

    • Angela, I normally get about 24 cupcakes out of this recipe. I use a big ice cream scoop to fill my cupcake tins so that they are evenly filled, probably about 1/2 cup of batter per tin. You won’t get much cinnamon flavor out of the icing unless you use a LOT of cinnamon, which will color the icing. The cake is EXPLODING with spice flavor, so a touch of cinnamon will just disappear. I’d use cinnamon oil or extract if you’re looking to get cinnamon flavor in the frosting.

  38. Thanks! I’ll leave the icing alone :)

  39. I have 2 cake pans ben, can i do 2/3 of the recipe

    • Ramon, it’s dangerous to cut down baking recipes…they don’t always work the same way. I would suggest getting another cake pan, or making the full recipe and saving the batter in the fridge, and bake a 3rd cake once the first 2 have come out of the oven and you get a free pan. That third one won’t right as high, but you won’t be wasting any batter.

  40. Hi Ben, big fan of yours in MasterChef, loved your spirit and niceness :o ) And thanks a lot for sharing the recipe, of course.
    I am planning to bake the cake (or maybe two or three of them with less layers) for my friends´ informal wedding party. I have a homegrown hokkaido pumpkin, and I am tempted to use it. I know, however, that the taste is somewhat different from the regular pumpkins. Would you personaly “dare” to use the hokkaido pumpkin?
    I will be most grateful for reply. And good luck with whatever you are doing :o )

  41. I made a carrot cake last week-end for my birthday. I used a recipe from an old farm ladies recipe book. I had your recipe somewhere but was too lazy to look for it. The cake was way too greasy using 1 1/2 cups veg oil. You could feel the oil slick in your mouth which ruined the whole thing. I have since printed off your recipe and will not make that same mistake again. I can not wait to taste the real deal again. Thanks Ben. Hope you are doing well.

  42. betina egebjerg

    Masterchef USA has just been shown on television for the first time in Denmark.
    I just love the way you cook, it’s entertaining and with your heart.
    so now I will try to make your lovely cake.
    I have never baked anything with pumpkin before, because we in Denmark have no tradition of using pumpkins in our cooking. I hope I succeed. Wish me luck :-)

  43. Hello Ben, I don’t watch TV and am only barely aware of what Master Chef is, but googling “Pumpkin Carrot Cake” produced your link. When I read “toast spices”, my husband started to drool. (He made a kick-butt spinach pachadi last night.) Anyway, the question I have is about how much sugar is needed to chemically create a cake like this. I can’t eat sugar, but I love to bake. I spend my life with stevia, glycerin, sucanat, and agave syrup (of which the last two are sugars, I know). I’m not adverse to putting in a teaspoon or even a tablespoon of sugar if it is chemically required. Because of this I usually spend my time with sourdough, cream pies, and custards, but darn it, occasionally, a cake is necessary. What’s your thought on this? Thank you for teaching baking!

    • Howdy, and welcome to my world! I grew up with a mom who never baked with sugar. She primarily used honey. (There weren’t easily available sugar substitutes back then.) I have to say, baking without sugar is VERY challenging. Sugar is responsible for much more than chemical processes in cakes. Its physical structure is, perhaps, even more important. Creaming the butter with the sugar wraps each sugar crystal in fat, and the whipping effect of the sugar crystals into the fat fills it with air, resulting in a light texture. You MAY be able to recreate this with the sucralose that is manufactured in cellulose crystal structure form specifically for baking…but I’ve never tested it before. This cake will still taste delicious if you modify it for an artificial sweetener, or agave/honey, but the texture will be dense and brick-like. If you DO find success in your experimentations, please let me know so that I can post alternatives for my sugar-free fans!

  44. thanks for writting the recipe in grams too! we usually don´t use cups in Spain. well, I watched the WHOLE video, I readed the written recipe, i think i´m ready for the legendary cake…we´ll see how it turns out! :P but it won´t be as good as yours if the cook doesn´t wear a pumkin hat… anyway, thanks for sharing the recipe! xoxo!

  45. Pingback: Pumpkin Carrot Cake | Smell Good KitchenSmell Good Kitchen

  46. Hi, i always remember you. I wish you won masterchef, because this carot cake is sooooo amazing. And you look like a nice guy to me, who deserves the title of masterchef. Greetings from czech republic :)

  47. My God….I made this cake this last weekend and did a blog post on it. Best cake recipe ever. Great baking tips too. :)

  48. I’m making this cake for my mother’s birthday (already candied walnuts for the topping since that’s her favorite nut), but the issue is I have to travel with it and I planned on making it a couple of days in advance. I read in one of your responses that you freeze the cake with the icing in between the layers and a crumb coat. Is that what you would recommend if I do it a couple of days ahead of time and need to travel a couple of hours with it? And how should I go about defrosting it? Thank you! I am so very excited to try this recipe and I’m so glad I found it since it combines my mom’s 2 favorite things- carrot cake and pumpkin!

    • Hi, Kelly! Your BEST bet is to freeze the 3 rounds wrapped in foil, let them defrost on your drive, and frost the cake when you arrive. The longer the cake sits frosted, the more its weight starts to compress it, and that combined with a drive is not a good plan.

      If the cake has to be frosted before you arrive, wait until just before you get in the car, then frost the cake and insert 2 or 3 straws down into the cake in various places. Snip the straws off near the frosting so that you can see where they are placed and can avoid cutting into them when you slice the cake. This common technique is used by wedding cake bakers and it’s called “stabilizing.” It will keep the cake layers from sliding in the car.

      • Thank you so much for the advise! I made the cake last night and it looks and tastes great! Can’t wait to try some more of your recipes! You have a great site!

  49. I LOVED this video! I am not a pro baker but I am not a novice either but I learned so much from your video! Thank you for taking the time to do it. I wish you would do videos for all of your recipes (hint, hint)! I plan on making this cake for Thanksgiving this year and will do a ‘practice run’ before then. Thanks again!

  50. Hi Ben, what are your thoughts on sifting? I’m currently using a strainer to do this, but I’ve also read that this isn’t the best way. Others even say sifting isn’t necessary. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter and what you think is the most efficient method of sifting. Is it worth it to purchase a sifter?

    • Kristin, a strainer is perfectly acceptable for sifting. Sifting is an older technique for when stone-ground flours sometimes came with little grits of stone from the grinder in them. So it isn’t necessary for virtually all recipes that call for it. However, in some recipes where the dry ingredients need to be aerated for a very delicate texture, like in this cake which is otherwise moist and heavy, it can be a valuable technique. (Delicate cakes like angel food and sponge cake need to have their flour sifted several times, too.) But a strainer is perfectly acceptable.

      • Thanks, Ben. After wanting to make this cake for a year, I made this cake yesterday. Despite having an awful mixer (with only one beater) it turned out fantastically. A couple people have told me it was the best cake and even the best dessert they’ve ever had. You are a superstar.

  51. Hi, Ben! I just saw The cake episode of MC in Finland and immediately had to Goole the recipe. I love carrot cake but this sounds soooo much more delicious! I’m a pastry chef and love baking cakes. It was so nice to see that there are people who share my passion. After my sugar-free January is over I’m definately going to make this cake! Thank You so much for sharing this recipe.

  52. Hi Ben! A few days ago I saw MasterChef in Spain. On Sunday my boyfriend and I made your cake. OMG, this is the best cake we’ve ever tried. Your recipe is awesome. Thanks for sharing it.

  53. Hi Ben, A couple of weeks back I watched the Master Chef S3 episode where you baked this amazing cake (I’m a huge fan of S3, btw) and I keep thinking on trying to do it myself, though I’m concern that here in Spain it might be difficult to find the pumpkin puree… any suggestions on this? can I bake the cake without it? Regards and thanks a lot for this recipe

    • Ana, you should be able to find a suitable substitute in Spain! Take any hard squash, bake it until it’s soft, and mash it or puree it in the blender. If the puree is very wet, place it on a dish towel first to absorb the excess moisture. You can also bake this with yams or sweet potatoes, which you can usually find in the market or canned. The recipe will not come out properly without the puree, so you DO need to add SOMETHING to make it come out right! But hard squashes are easy to find all over Europe during most seasons.

  54. Ben, how many cupcakes does this make? I have been dying to try this recipe!

    • Jessa, I believe this recipe churns out about 12 normal sized cupcakes. (However, I could be wrong and it may surprise you with 24.) Just keep the batter aside if you fill up a full pan and don’t have another…you can bake the second back after the first comes out!

  55. I made this fantastic cake for Father’s day. Totally worth the effort and it was delicious. The only small issue that 3 cake pans were apparently a tiny bit too small for our oven and we didn’t notice the one layer at the back that wound up a bit lopsided….but it was not too noticeable…and certainly didn’t affect the taste. As this was the first father’s day without my grandfather it certainly meant a lot to my grandmother that she was able to help (in a supervisory capacity) – which meant a lot to her.

    I hope to have a photo to add soon! What a fantastic recipe!

    • here is the cake – It at this point of the process does not have the candied nuts on the sides, but it despite that it’s close to the finished product and again – really was quite amazing. There’s nothing of it left now as of Wednesday and fittingly, my father got the last slice. It cut like a dream too.

      The only thing that went wrong was that QUITE a number of eggs got broken – I broke a yolk on my 3rd of one in and started doing them one by one….I managed to bust half of my 16 in the end and feared I might have to go out and get another carton of eggs and NOT just because of the fact the cake needs a lot. That is UNHEARD of for me- I buy as close to farm-fresh as I can get and I usually am spot on and experienced enough that my sodium deficiency making my hands shake doesn’t stop me from making pots de crème.. but I honestly just think I had an off day, or was so worried about the more technical things I could mess up (Like making candied nuts without a candy thermometer) that I panicked and ruptured eggs.

      • Hi, Ash! The cake looks great, and I’m so glad you liked it. If lots of your yolks were breaking, chances are the eggs were pretty old, rather than your technique (especially if you’re accustomed to separating them.) Old yolks are very fragile…fresh yolks are incredibly sturdy, like you said, and even farmer’s market eggs can be old. (Also, eggs age much faster at room temp, and farm eggs are typically sold at room temp because eggs don’t really NEED to be refrigerated, so they definitely age much faster than commercial eggs. So it’s quite typical to get more fragile eggs when you buy at the farmer’s market and store them at room temp. This IS what I do, but I get my eggs in my back yard!)

        Do you separate in your hand, or by pouring the yolk from half-shell to half-shell? I stopped doing the latter a long time ago because I broke so many yolks, now I just crack into my hand, open my fingers a bit to let the white drop through, and then set the yolk in the separate bowl, and it’s very rare to break a yolk that way unless it’s really old.

        • You know I really do think that could be the reason – Gran agrees. I was using Gran’s eggs not mine and she’s an elderly lady (but a pretty damn good baker considering she’s almost 90 but her eyesight’s not as great as it used to be and it’s entirely possible that she might have bought some eggs that weren’t quite as fresh as possible. I separated some eggs for my pecan and potato crisp cupcakes the other day that went smoothly so I think that’s the answer

          As I am a doctor and therefore I need to be sure I tell you each minute detail, I do separate in my hand – I kind of do a combination of one handed or two handed separation, given how I gauge how my sodium deficiency is that day. I’ve come to the point where it’s absolutely help more than a hindrance – my left hand has the tremor and so I crack the egg with my right empty the egg into my left which since it shakes regardless, it will cause the white to ooze through my fingers almost instantly and pretty easily. But if I need to do two handed it’s more or less because I didn’t crack it neatly enough on the countertop.

          And even though I made this cake in North America I am from Ireland and got my Doctorate in Scotland which means more or less that I don’t keep my eggs in the fridge. Hehe~

  56. Marcelo Grisolia

    Hey Ben, thank you for sharing the recipe and the awesome video.
    I will try to make your cake over this weekend and I will send you a picture if I succeed!

  57. What’re the advantages of using fresh sugar pumpkin? I saw a bunch of articles saying canned Libby’s works best

    • The advantages are:

      1. Knowing you used as close-to-the-earth ingredients as possible

      2. Being able to tell family and friends you didn’t take the shortcut of the can

      3. A fresher flavor and a texture that’s more moist than from a can

      Will a can make a bad cake? Of course not. And I used a can on MasterChef because that’s all I had time for. And when I make this cake in the off-season, I have to use canned pumpkin. But if I can get my hands on fresh pumpkin, I ALWAYS opt for that.

  58. Hi Ben, I’m a little confused about the recent revision to the recipe with the meringue. Once the beating of the egg whites is finished are you supposed to add the butter/sugars into a separate bowl or the same bowl that contains the meringue?

    Also, is there any substitute to cream of tartar?

    I only have a hand mixer, so I dont have a whisk attachment. Is the regular attachment okay?

    • Hi, Jess! Once you make the meringue, just move it to a separate bowl and then use the “dirty” bowl to cream your butter and sugar. To substitute cream of tartar, use about 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar. The regular attachment for your hand mixer is fine, it will just take longer, so be patient!

  59. BEN! I loved you on MC and have made this recipe as a cake twice, as cupcakes multiple times. This year I will be walking my niece through the steps of making this awesome masterpiece of yours. I refer to this as the ‘Ben Starr’ cake when I make it. It will be part of our Thanksgiving feast this year. I know my niece will do you proud! I’ll try to remember to take pictures. :-)

  60. I just made this for the second time for THanksgiving! Last year I did it with hazelnuts and white flour as suggested but this year I tried it with walnuts and whole wheat flour and it worked perfectly still! I am always a little worried when using fresh ground whole wheat but all the measures taken to make it so light and fluffy did the trick! I don’t remember last years being any fluffier! Yay! Just thought I’d share! THanks for a great recipe, everybody loved it and I told them all about you!

  61. Hi Ben

    When I saw the episode where you made the Pumpkin Carrot Cake I was sold. I wanted the recipe soooo much, but I had no idea where to find it. Thanks to your Blog I found it, yeah ;)

    To know what I know now about Krissi and Bri is so wierd to me. To know they are actually best friends is peculiar when the show portraits them as enemies.

    I’m sorry about my spelling as my first language isn’t english.

  62. Irina Ungureanu Manole

    I baked this cake for the first time today and I think it’s the best cake I’ve tasted in years. I couldn’t believe it because I used to reject the idea of carrots in cakes. I think I did something wrong with the caramel because it’s a little bit like sand, I’ve tried it twice and the second time was better but not perfect. I used it anyway. Thank you for the marvelous recipe and for being patient to explain every little detail. Kisses from Romania!

    • Irina, what happened to your caramel is that it crystallized. That’s never a problem, it still tastes great. You can help avoid this problem next time by adding a little more honey or corn syrup to the caramel in the beginning. The glucose helps prevent the sucrose from crystallizing. Stir it a little more slowly and a little less, to avoid getting the syrup up on the sides of the pot where it can dry out and crystallize, which drops seed crystals into the caramel and causes it all to crystallize. So glad you like the recipe!!

  63. Hi, Ben! You’re such a great teacher! So many baking tips and secret details! I’ll use this knowledge in future! The result exceeded all my expectations! Previously I had difficulties in baking, but now I feel more confident!
    And it’s really yummy :) )) Here’s my photo of cake: (I actually wipped cream with sugar for a frosting, it’s less calories, I think)
    Many-many thanks from Moscow, Russia!

  64. Im gonna try it this week