We’ve only got two people in our household, so a big two (or three) layer carrot cake is more than we can handle. That’s why this small carrot cake (only 8″) is a much more manageable option. That doesn’t mean its skimping on ANYTHING. In fact, this carrot walnut cake is loaded with chunky pineapple, sweet, chewy flaked coconut and golden raisins tucked into the batter. I always top it with cream cheese frosting, but you can just as easily use powdered sugar or whipped cream. This 8″ square carrot cake will satisfy your cake cravings. Trust me.
This recipe was inspired by my friend, Barbara. She would bring her homemade carrot cakes to the office, back when I held a day job. Her carrot walnut cake was loaded with extra mix-ins, and though I don’t have her recipe, this is a close approximation to it. Though her cakes were usually 9×13″ this small 8″ square carrot cake recipe has all the flavors, textures and spice of hers.
Smaller sized carrot walnut cake
The only difference between a standard 13 x 9″ cake and a small 8″ carrot cake is the volume of ingredients. This recipe has been formulated for a smaller batch that’s perfect for 2-4 people to snack on for several days.
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- Brown Sugar
- Granulated Sugar
- Vegetable Oil
- Crushed Pineapple
- Golden Raisins
Spice blend for carrot walnut cake
- Mace (optional)
I’m a habitual “spice hoarder.” At any given time, my pantry will have up to 50 jars of spices — they literally take up 3 drawers . If you don’t have each of these spices in your cabinet, you can substitute 2 teaspoons of pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice for the individual spices. Believe it or not, it’s the same blend (except for the mace, which is optional). Just make sure that the spices haven’t been lurking in your pantry too long and lost their flavor and potency. Your small-ish carrot walnut cake will thank you.
Regarding wet and dry ingredients
In baking, it’s common to mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another before combining them together. The purpose is to make sure that everything is equally and thoroughly combined. A well blended batter is important, especially for spiced carrot walnut cake, like this. You wouldn’t want to bite into cake and be overwhelmed by a single spice or floury pocket, right?
What about sugar?
The exception is sugar. Technically, dry — sugar is considered a wet ingredient, because when you add sugar to wet ingredients like oil, eggs, milk etc, the sugar dissolves and becomes part of the wet ingredients. That’s why the sugar is mixed with the eggs, oil and vanilla in this small carrot cake.
How about mix-ins?
Mix-ins include things like chopped fruit, nuts, raisins, coconut, chocolate chips, cranberries, (and in the case of this small square carrot cake, grated carrots & crushed pineapple). Mix-ins are almost always added last, to suspend them in the previously blended batter or dough.
For years, I did the shortening and flour method to prepare a cake pan for baking. The only issue was that I invariably had little dried bits of flour stuck to the perimeter and edges of the baked cake (have you ever had that happen?) I’ve discovered a new, less messy and more foolproof method and this is it:
Preparing the small 8″ cake pan
- Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of your pan.
- Spray the pan liberally with vegetable spray.
- Press the parchment paper into the bottom of the pan, so that it lays flat.
- Lightly spritz the parchment with additional vegetable spray.
The parchment paper is the ultimate insurance against cakes sticking to the pan. If the sides are stuck, you can always run a thin, sharp knife around the edges, but if the bottom of the cake sticks, you’re in trouble. The parchment barrier ensures that the cake will release when you turn it out onto a platter. After flipping the cake onto a rack or platter, just peel off the parchment.
Best garnishes for carrot cake
Decorating the small carrot and walnut cake can be as simple as a dusting of powdered sugar or dollop of whipped cream. For me, no carrot cake (especially one with walnuts, pineapple, coconut and raisins) is complete without a layer of my favorite real cream cheese frosting.
The same edict held true for friend, Barbara… who always made a “double batch” of cream cheese frosting to crown her carrot sheet cake. It’s sweet, tangy and rich and gives just the right touch of lush creaminess to this smaller version of her carrot cake recipe.
Moist and perfectly spiced
Crushed pineapple keeps this carrot cake uber moist and tender. The assertive spices blend perfectly with the grated carrots and brown sugar crumb. Pops of sweet golden raisins are plump and juicy. Sweetened coconut adds a little tropical chew and crunchy, toasted walnuts round out the cake. I admit to sneaking a second piece immediately following my first. Even with just the two of us, this small carrot cake only lasted 3 days.
More small cake recipes you might like:
- Grandma Marie’s Chocolate Snack Cake with Maple Glaze
- One Bowl Gingerbread Snacking Cake
- Applesauce Walnut Cake
- Easy Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon mace (optional)
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetble oil
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup grated carrots
- 1/2 cup crushed pineapple
- 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
YOUR CHOICE OF TOPPING:
- Classic Cream Cheese Frosting on this site
- Powdered sugar
- Whipped Cream
- Scoop of ice cream vanilla, butter pecan, rum raisin, coconut would be good.
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray an 8" square baking pan (I used glass) with vegetable spray. Line the the baking pan with a piece of parchment paper cut to the same dimensions as the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
- Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and mace to a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- In a large bowl combine the brown sugar, sugar, eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla bean paste. Whisk to combine.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones and mix until all the flour mixture has been absorbed. Stir in the carrots, pineapple, coconut, raisins and walnuts. Mix well and transfer to the prepared baking dish.
- Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes or until a cake tester poked in the center of the cake comes out clean with no batter or crumbs attached.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
- You can frost the cake (after it has cooled to room temperature) I recommend the classic cream cheese frosting on this site) or just dust with powdered sugar. A plain piece of cake with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream or whipped cream would be very good too.