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+ servings
Carrot cake with a slice being lifted up.

High Altitude Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream

Heather Smoke
A classic carrot cake that's moist and full of fall spices, frosted with cream cheese buttercream

All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet. See FAQs for adjusting to higher or lower elevations.

5 from 19 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment



  • ¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups (9oz/255g) carrots, peeled and finely grated
  • ½ cup (128g) unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup (112g) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (269ml) whole buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 cup (216g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (160g) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 4 large (220g) eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 ¼ cups (423g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg


  • 8 oz (227g) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 cups (700g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp (9g) meringue powder (optional)
  • tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste



  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray the bottoms of three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until nutty brown solids form on the bottom of the pan.  Immediately scrape the butter and the browned bits into a large mixing bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Add the carrots, applesauce, oil, buttermilk, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla to the brown butter, and whisk until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and whisk for 10-15 seconds until combined.
  • Divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for about 25-28 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool completely, covered with a clean kitchen towel.


  • In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter for 1 minute until smooth.
  • With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and the meringue powder, mixing until combined.
  • Add the salt and vanilla; on medium high, whip for several minutes until light and fluffy – add a little more powdered sugar if the buttercream is too soft, or 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream if it's too thick.
  • Stack and fill the cooled cakes, then frost all over with a thin crumb coat of buttercream.  Chill for 30 minutes, then frost with a final layer of buttercream.
    Note: I spread the buttercream on fairly thin, for a "semi-naked" look, and used the rest of the buttercream to pipe the swirls on top of the cake.


Leftover cake should be kept refrigerated, in an airtight container or cake carrier, for up to 3 days.  Bring the cake to room temperature before serving.
Keyword Brown Butter, Carrot Cake, Cream Cheese Frosting, High Altitude
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