Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Orange Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

As most of you know, I’m kinda partial to moist, delicious and super easy to make baked goodies. What you don’t know is this…..I have never in my life made a pumpkin cake. I think it was about time I did, so today was THE DAY.

The other thing you may or may not know about me is that I’m a bit obsessed with carrot cake. Okay, maybe not just a BIT…..I’m totally in love with a good carrot cake. Many years ago, I was hooked on one particular carrot cake that I used to buy from Swiss Chalet. You heard me. Yep, “the chicken place” had good cake. Who woulda thunk it?

Laden with sweet pineapple, nuts, raisins, coconut and the most divine cream cheese frosting, I could literally hear (in my head) angels singing with each bite that I gingerly placed on my tongue. I ate that slice of cake sooooo slowly with an espresso size spoon to make it last longer. Ugh, I hate when my dessert is OVER, don’t you?

After some sleuthing and research (because I have NO LIFE), I discovered that Swiss Chalet used to buy this cake from a specific supplier in Toronto. Then out of the blue, they discontinued MY carrot cake and subbed in another one. WITHOUT EVEN CONSULTING ME. The nerve of these “chicken people”.

Anyhoo, when Swiss Chalet switched suppliers, I stopped buying my carrot cake slices from them. In fact, I was so distraught, I went on a “carrot cake strike” because nothing could match the taste and texture of this cake. I know, I know. I’m making this out to sound like it was a ” global crisis” but…..you already know how nuts I am when it comes to frivolous things like a discontinued carrot cake.

Now if you’re wondering why I didn’t just go and buy this cake from here, there’s a good reason. It’s a huge schlep to go out to their factory and do I really need TWO ENTIRE CAKES (because that’s the way they are sold)  in the house for an occasional craving? Not really.  Needless to say, if I was desperate enough, I would have sent Steve on a “cake” run but didn’t want to bother him (even though I’m really good at it).

Now I was stuck trying to figure out what the heck they put in that cake so I could make it at home.  My game plan was to just wing it and throw a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and see what happened next. Then I thought, why not combine my favourite carrot cake recipe with a pumpkin cake recipe that I’ve had hanging around in my recipe binder for …..um…I dunno…….like…..the past 35 years?

Can I just tell you something? This combo of carrots, pumpkin and pineapple is just beyond. The other thing is, you can throw in everything but the kitchen sink into this cake and it will still taste amazing.


  • Add ins – Feel free to use your favourite nut in this cake (add in 1/2 cup if desired). If you love dried fruit such as raisins in your cake, go right ahead, THROW IN a 1/2 CUP.
  • Measuring your flour. You probably don’t think this is an important step but it actually is. The “Spoon and Level Method” is the key here. Don’t pack the flour into your measuring cup. Lightly scoop out the flour and use a straight edge knife to level the measuring cup. Trust me, this works.
  • The Frosting. Make sure your cream cheese and butter are at room temperature before mixing together the frosting. This will result in a super smooth and creamy frosting on top of your cake.
  • Pineapple. If you want to ensure a super moist cake. Add it in. What happens if you don’t like pineapple? Use applesauce instead and sub in 3/4 cup.
  • Zest. Yes, zest. I added a bit of orange zest to the frosting because there were oranges in the fridge. That’s not the only reason I did that. I thought it would give the frosting a little zing-a-ling and it DID.
  • One Cake or Two? You can definitely transform this recipe into a double layer cake. Baking times will just need to be adjusted. For example, two 9 inch round pans need about 30 – 35 minutes baking time and you will  need to double the frosting recipe as well. Here’s what I did….I made two 9 inch cakes and froze one layer for another time. Smart, right?

Since pumpkin season is officially in FULL SWING, I just had to make and share this recipe with all of you. Oh, and the good news is……..pumpkin is readily available all year long, so feel free to make this recipe during any season.  One thing though. Make sure you buy PURE pumpkin and not PUMPKIN PIE FILLING. Big difference. Another thing. You can 100% throw in 1 cup of flaked sweetened coconut (as I would in my standard carrot cake recipe), but I left it out of this one because my boys are not coconuts about coconut.

Don’t get mad at me here. I said this cake was EASY to make and it absolutely IS, despite the fact that the list of ingredients is as long as my arm. The only excuse I have for that is …..there’s a bunch of spices that are needed to boost the flavours in the recipe. FEAR NOT. Just unleash your measuring spoons and do it.

Now, I have a criteria for a good cake. It must be moist AND STAY THAT WAY. It needs to have the correct amount of spices – not too little, but not too much. As well, this cake needs to be topped with fluffier than fluffy cream cheese frosting which is inspired by my “go to” recipe but jacked up with orange zest and spices.

Give it a try, and you might just be convinced this is the best pumpkin carrot cake recipe ever.

Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Orange Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots - I used 3 large
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • NOTE: you can also use ¾ cup buttermilk, the milk and lemon juice will make a faux version of buttermilk if you don't have it handy.
  • 1 cup pure canned pumpkin (*NOT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING*)
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1½ cups brown sugar, not packed
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 extra large eggs or 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 1 cup flaked sweetened coconut - optional
  • ½ cup raisins - optional
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts - optional
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. I used two 9" baking pans coated well with non-stick spray. You can also use a 9" x 13" baking dish. Set aside.
  2. Peel and grate the carrots on the small side of a grater to get very fine pieces of carrots until you have two cups.
  3. Whisk together the milk and lemon juice and set aside for 5 minutes (it will look curdled but don't panic - you can also sub in buttermilk).
  4. In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin, both sugars, oil, eggs, vanilla, and milk/lemon mixture (or buttermilk) with a large whisk until completely combined. Add in the shredded carrots and crushed drained pineapple. Whisk until smooth.
  5. Place a fine sieve over the bowl and sift in the dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and pumpkin pie spice. Add in the coconut, raisins and nuts if you are using them. Mix until JUST combined. DON'T OVER MIX or you will end up with a dry cake.
  6. Spread the mixture evenly in both pans or 9" x 13" baking dish. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes for the round pans or 40 - 45 minutes for the 9" x 13" baking dish. Test with a toothpick. If it comes out clean with a few crumb on it, it's done. Remove and allow to cool in the pans at least 15 minutes before inverting it. If you are making it in the 9" x 13" baking dish don't invert. Just leave it to cool completely before frosting it. Same goes for the two layer cakes, cool completely before frosting them OR wrap and freeze layers to use at a later date.

Orange Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 package (8 oz.) full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3½ cups powdered sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • zest from one small orange
  • ground cinnamon, fresh black grapes and sliced plums for garnish - if desired
  1. While the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting. In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, add in the room temperature cream cheese and butter. .
  2. Beat until completely smooth. Add in the vanilla extract, pinch of sea salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and orange zest. Beat until smooth.
  3. Add in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time on low speed.
  4. *NOTE*Add in the milk if you want to have a lighter consistency to the frosting.
  5. Frost the cake and garnish as desired.


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