Carrot Sheet Cake With Cream Cheese Icing

I don’t know which was more fun — making this carrot cake from Allrecipes or reading the reviews. Out of hundreds of reviewers, I think only a handful of people made the cake as directed, while other bakers modified it, with the most popular modification being to substitute a cup of the granulated sugar with brown and use 1/2 cup of applesauce in place of 1/2 cup of oil. I tried those substitutions too, but there was a problem.  Whenever I added brown sugar and applesauce, the cake sank in the middle.  Aside from that, I loved the texture, color and flavor and wanted to keep using the same recipe, so I did some experiments and found a way to keep the carrot cake from sinking.

Carrot Cake

My theory was that the acid from the brown sugar and applesauce worked in conjunction with my potent double-acting baking powder and caused the cake to rise a little TOO fast, then sink.  To fix the problem, I cut the baking powder (acid) to 1 teaspoon and baked at  325 instead of 350F.   Cutting the baking powder and lowering the temperature seemed to solve the problem, so if you feel the need to test the theory yourself, give it a try. Here’s the modified version of the recipe. You can also halve it and make it in an 8 inch square cake pan.


Carrot Sheet Cake With Cream Cheese Icing
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A carrot cake made with applesauce and oil that should not sink when baked at 325 degrees F.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 16
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, light packed (7 oz)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7 oz)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (9.8 oz)**
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup toasted and chopped pecans
  • 3 cups shredded carrots, shredded then chopped after measuring**
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 ounces of softened butter
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus more if desired
  • 1/2 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9x13 inch metal pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, applesauce, both sugars and vanilla.
  3. In a second bowl, thoroughly mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture until blended, then stir in carrots and chopped pecans.
  5. Spread evenly in the pan and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until cake appears brown all over and has pulled away from the edges.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Frost with cream cheese icing.
  7. To make the icing, beat together cream cheese and softened butter. Add sugar and beat until smooth, then beat in vanilla.
When I use 2 cups of flour, that amount normally weighs 9 oz. However, I think these older carrot cakes that call for 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of sugar were developed with heavier cups of flour (from scooping or packing or whatever). So for this recipe, I weighed 9.8. If you never weigh flour, don't worry about it, but for those of you who are diligent about carefully aerating flour, scooping and carefully leveling, you may want to take a more careless approach OR just weigh it.


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  1. Mela says

    Hi Anna, how’s the taste of this carrot cake? Would you say, this is your favorite carrot cake as of now? Thanks!

  2. says

    That recipe is almost the same as the one on with the 2 cups sugar, 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons soda and 2 teaspoons baking powder. If people are having trouble with the recipe the way it is (and it’s not the addition of brown sugar and applesauce that’s causing problems), maybe it’s just the brand of baking powder. Maybe people who use Rumford double acting are getting a faster rise and fall, whereas people who are using Calumet or Clabbergirl are getting a steadier rise and no fall. At any rate, I think 2 teaspoons of baking powder is too much.

  3. says

    Mela, I forgot to answer your question. I have a lot of favorite carrot cakes! This one had a lot of good brown sugar and spice flavor and wasn’t overly carrot-y. I’ve learned to avoid recipes with over 2 cups (3 is pushing it) because the vegetable taste. The texture is softer thanks to the applesauce, but most people around here seem to like that. I personally like carrot cake that’s kind of flaky, but I do like this one and I also love the brown color. I used to wonder why some carrot cakes were browner than others, then I figured out it was the baking soda that was doing it. I think the high level of baking soda in carrot cakes is more of a browning agent than a leavening agent.

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