Here’s to a glorious mash-up of two desserts! This carrot Bundt cake is rich, tender, and flavorful just like my original carrot cake recipe and rippled through each slice is a creamy swirl of cheesecake. A 12-15 cup capacity tube pan is ideal for this large cake.
I originally published this recipe in 2016 and I’m bringing it back from the archives with new photos, step-by-step details, and simpler instructions.
At first thought, putting vegetables in cake makes as much sense as cheese in apple pie. Hmm. There’s something here that doesn’t belong. But after you have a slice of today’s carrot Bundt cake, your mind may be swayed. Carrots are a sweeter vegetable– they’re excellent roasted with brown sugar sauce or warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. When grated or shredded, carrots release a lot of moisture which directly transfers into your baked cake.
Carrot cake is a popular choice because when done right, it’s super moist, flavorful, and tender! And when you have something as thick and heavy as Bundt cake, moisture is most certainly favorable.
Here’s Why You’ll Love This Cheesecake Swirl Carrot Bundt Cake
- Cake is generously spiced with ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
- It’s moist without being overly wet and greasy.
- Add-ins like chopped nuts and/or raisins add flavor, but are optional.
- Excellent plain, but you can garnish with vanilla or orange glaze.
- No complicated assembly required.
- It’s like carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, only inside out!
What’s the skill level? A beginner baker can absolutely handle this, but there are a few steps requiring your focus. This carrot cake batter is as simple as whisking and folding a bunch of ingredients together. You need a mixer for the cheesecake layer. And since we’re not creaming butter and sugar together, the carrot cake batter can be made by hand.
Key Ingredients in Carrot Bundt Cake
- Oil: Butter is great in cakes, but it can’t compete with oil’s lasting moisture. A lot of big cakes including pumpkin cake and chocolate cake do not rely on butter’s flavor and use oil instead.
- Brown Sugar: I tried to love carrot Bundt cake made with all or some white granulated sugar, but nothing compares to carrot Bundt cake made with all brown sugar. In such a big, heavy, essentially-upside-down cake, you want all the moisture you can get. End of story on that one!
- Eggs: This is a big cake and therefore requires 4 eggs in the batter for proper structure. You also need 1 egg in the cheesecake swirl. To ensure the batter comes together easily and evenly, bring any cold ingredients to room temperature first.
- Unsweetened Applesauce: Surprisingly, oil, brown sugar, eggs, and carrots don’t supply enough moisture to really make this an over-the-top tender cake. More oil lends a greasy cake, so add some moisture that will complement the other flavors. Unsweetened applesauce is KEY in this recipe and I swear by it in this carrot cake loaf as well. Another popular choice is crushed canned pineapple, an addition we all love in pineapple carrot cake!
- Baking Spices: Ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves make a powerhouse pack of spices. I use a careful ratio of these spices because it’s easy to go overboard. Ginger adds a delicious zing and I swear by it in my regular carrot cake, too. Nutmeg and cloves can be overpowering, so use only 1/4 teaspoon of each.
- Carrots: Make sure you’re grating or shredding your own carrots rather than buying pre-shredded carrots. Why? Store-bought shredded carrots are usually very dry in comparison. When you grate carrots yourself, notice how wet they are– this is GOOD because it moistens the cake. There’s a difference between grating (small pieces) and shredding (larger pieces), but either are fine for this recipe. I usually shred large peeled carrots with a box grater and then give the shreds a rough chop with a knife.
- Block Cream Cheese: Not all cream cheese products are the same. In today’s cheesecake swirl, cream cheese frosting, and even regular cheesecake, it’s in your best interest to use full fat block cream cheese and not the kind you spread on a bagel.
You also need pantry staples like flour, baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla extract. If you’re up for trying something new, add fresh orange zest like I recommend in the recipe below. Sounds odd, but it absolutely works and the flavors really come together if you choose an orange glaze for garnish.
How Do I Make Cheesecake Swirl Carrot Bundt Cake?
It’s really easy and let me show you.
Make your carrot cake batter by whisking the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately and then combining. At this point, you can fold in your chopped nuts and/or raisins. I used chopped pecans in the pictured Bundt cake. Spread half of the batter into your greased Bundt pan.
Make your cheesecake batter with room temperature block cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and do your best to spread on top of the cake batter. Try to avoid spreading the cheesecake batter all the way out to the edges of the pan.
Spread remaining carrot cake batter on top and gently swirl with a knife:
Gorgeous! Each slice is already pretty and you barely had to do any “decorating.”
Between all the flavor, texture, cheesecake, glaze, and moist carrot cake texture– your taste buds won’t even know what happened to them. This is most definitely the impressive spring, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, brunch, birthday, no-occasion-necessary dessert masterpiece we all need!
Bundt Cake Success Tips
- Select a lighter-colored Bundt pan: Darker cake pans often mean a darker cake that can quickly over-cook on the edges.
- Capacity: Because of how much this cake rises, any tube pan holding 10 cups or less is not large enough. Look for 12-15 cup capacity.
- My favorites: I love and use Nordic Ware. (Not sponsored!) I love this Bundt pan and this Bundt pan and both are large enough for today’s recipe. This fluted tube pan also works.
- Generously grease: If your cakes continuously stick to the detailed edges of your Bundt pan, your pan is not greased enough. Even if the pan is non-stick, make sure you generously grease it.
Cheesecake Swirl Carrot Bundt Cake
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
- Total Time: 5 hours
- Yield: serves 10 1x
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Find cheesecake swirls when you cut into this deliciously moist and perfectly spiced carrot Bundt cake! The ingredient list looks long, but most items are pantry staples and repeated in other layers of the cake. Make sure the cake cools completely before slicing.
- 1 cup (240ml) vegetable oil*
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) packed light or dark brown sugar (I prefer dark)
- 3/4 cup (133g) smooth unsweetened applesauce*
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange zest (can omit if desired)
- 2 and 1/2 cups (313g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 cups (260g) peeled and shredded carrots* (about 4 large peeled carrots)
- optional: 1 cup (130g) roughly chopped pecans*
- 12 ounces (336g) brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature*
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 Tablespoons (30-45ml) fresh orange juice or milk
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Generously grease a 12-15 cup (2,839-3,548ml) capacity Bundt pan. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, brown sugar, applesauce, vanilla, and orange zest together until combined and no brown sugar lumps remain. Set aside. In another large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold the ingredients together until just combined. Fold in the carrots and pecans. You will have about 6 cups of batter. Pour and spread half of the batter into the bottom of the prepared Bundt pan.
- In a medium bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Beat on high speed until completely combined. Spread cream cheese mixture in an even layer on top of the carrot cake batter and try to avoid spreading it all the way to the edges of the pan. It’s a thick mixture, so do your best to spread.
- Pour and spread the remaining carrot cake batter evenly on top and then use a knife to very gently swirl the batters together.
- Bake for 55-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. This cake is large and heavy and takes quite some time to bake, so do not be discouraged if yours takes longer. Cover the cake loosely with aluminum foil if you begin to see the top browning quickly. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes inside the pan.
- After 30 minutes, invert the slightly cooled Bundt cake onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Make sure cake has cooled completely before glazing, slicing, and serving.
- Whisk the glaze ingredients together. If desired, use more liquid to thin out or more confectioners’ sugar to thicken. Drizzle over cake. Slice and serve.
- Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare cake 1 day in advance. Cool completely, cover tightly, and then refrigerate until a couple hours before serving. Set out at room temperature for a couple hours before serving. It’s best to garnish with glaze close to serving the cake. To freeze, cool cake completely, wrap tightly, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature if desired before serving.
- Oil: This recipe is best with vegetable oil. You can use melted and slightly cooled coconut oil if desired, but be sure that all other ingredients are room temperature so the coconut oil does not solidify before baking the batter.
- Applesauce: Instead of applesauce, you can use 3/4 cup canned crushed pineapple.
- Cream Cheese: Do not use cream cheese spread. Use block cream cheese which is sold as 8 ounce blocks. You need 1.5 blocks since this recipe calls for 12 ounces.
- Pecans & Other Add Ins: You can add up to 1 and 1/4 cups add-ins to this cake. I usually use just 1 cup (130g) roughly chopped pecans. You can use raisins, chopped walnuts, and/or shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened). A combination of any works as long as the total amount isn’t over 1 and 1/4 cups. Or you can leave the cake plain without any add-ins.
- Loaf Pan: Some readers have halved this recipe and baked it in a loaf pan at the same oven temperature for about 1 hour, though my team and I have not tested it. You could also try this carrot cake loaf instead.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Vegetable Peeler, Box Grater, 12-15 cup Bundt Pan (such as this Bundt pan, this Bundt pan, or this fluted tube pan)
Keywords: cheesecake swirl carrot Bundt cake
Reader Questions and Reviews
I came across your webpage quite by accident and have been a die-hard fan ever since and I always check in with your recipes before making any comparison with other similar recipes and I always come back to yours. You have set a pretty high bar for all of the other bakers and have yet to see anyone even get close. Yours remain the best every single time. Love the explanation and the do’s and dont’s and the tutorials. Thank you, thank you for the confidence I now have to enter the world of baking
Firstly I gotta say, Sally I’m so glad I found your blog in Feb. 2020! I started with your Flatbread pizza and never looked back.
Now… will substituting Coconut Oil giving me same results?
Years ago a remember using coconut in my carrot cakes (and crushed pineapple) with rave results.
So glad you’ve been enjoying the site, Anna! Yes, you can use melted coconut oil here instead.
I’m a huge Carrot Cake fan so this recipe intrigues me 🙂 I have all the spices!
Just curious if coconut sugar (brown sugar variation) be used instead? Also, could some pineapple juice be mixed with the applesauce to add some pineapple-y flavor? I also thought about adding it to the cream cheese as my current carrot cake recipe uses pineapple juice in the frosting. Thoughts?
Hi Lori! You can try replacing the brown sugar with coconut sugar, but the final taste and texture will be different than intended. You can absolutely add pineapple to the recipe — see recipe notes for details. Hope you enjoy it!
Delicious, beautiful cake. My only comment would be that cooking spray was not enough to get it out of the pan intact the first time I made it.. I made it a second time and used cake goop: equal parts shortening, vegetable oil, and all-purpose flour. I painted it on with a pastry brush and it came out of the pan perfectly the second time.
I baked this cake this morning. The aroma filled the house with warm spices. I couldn’t wait to try it!
Unfortunately, I noticed the cream cheese sank to the bottom of the pan which would be the top of the cake when flipped over. I was a little disappointed and unsure of what could have caused the cream cheese filling to sink. Any ideas? The cake was still good.
I’m happy to help troubleshoot! If the cake batter is thin, the heavy cream cheese layer will sink. Did you change anything in the recipe?
I would love to try this recipe but I don’t have a cake pan with such capacity. Would it be possible to halve the recipe? Thanks
Hi Anita, Though we haven’t tested it, some readers have halved this recipe and baked it in a loaf pan at the same oven temperature for about 1 hour. You could also try this carrot cake loaf instead.
This recipe was a big hit. I added some sweetened coconut and small pieces of candied ginger to the batter before cooking. After completely cooled, I decorated it with a whipped cream cheese frosting
Can I use butter instead of oil and cream it with the sugar? Thanks!
Hi Chandra, we recommend following the recipe with oil. It makes for an ultra moist cake and really lets the spice flavors shine through. We do not recommend butter in this cake batter.
I love this recipe! Thank you.
Do you think it’s freezable since we have leftovers??
Hi Alison, absolutely! See recipe notes for freezing instructions.
Amazing as usual Sally. I reduced the sugar by 50 grams and baked for 55 minutes. I made the crushed pineapple version with orange zest and made an orange glaze with the addition of melted butter. I covered the Bundt with foil around the 40 minute mark. Family loved it!
Sally strikes again at our holiday gathers! This cake was a huge hit this Easter and it was plenty for the 15 people we had (depending on your portion size). Thanks again!
Hello made the cake but want to put the glaze on the cake after its cool? Is that acceptable?
Hi Rita, yes, we recommend making sure the cake has cooled completely before glazing, slicing, and serving.