These carrot cake bars with cream cheese frosting are what dreams are made of! They’re soft, dense, and loaded with cream cheese frosting! Basically carrot cake, just a bit more dense and so easy to make! Also a perfect Easter treat, or honestly anytime of year because carrot cake is the best! They come together quickly, and are just so good! Apparently there are two types of carrot cake out there. One version has raisins and walnuts, and the other has pineapple and coconut. I’m a raisin and walnut ALL THE WAY kind of carrot cake. I’m sure you could substitute in the pineapple and coconut if you’d like, but I haven’t personally tested it out and you may have to adjust the flour because the wetness of the pineapple!
What you need to make carrot cake bars with cream cheese frosting + substitutions:
For the Carrot Cake Bars:
- Avocado oil- You can use any neutral oil. Canola, vegetable, etc. I just used avocado oil because it’s what I had and you don’t taste it.
- Brown sugar- Brown sugar gives it that caramel note, perfect sweetness, and deep rich brown color.
- Granulated sugar- You can use white sugar, cane sugar, whatever you prefer. I haven’t tested coconut sugar.
- Eggs- Eggs help bind a recipe and really help give it taste and texture. Make sure these are room temperature as well (on the counter for at least an hour) to help the recipe bind together better.
- Vanilla extract- No baked good recipe is complete without vanilla extract in my opinion. It’s key!
- All-purpose flour- Almond and coconut flour do not have the same measurements so they will not work in this recipe. However, gluten-free 1:1 all-purpose flour works!. Make sure to find one with xantham gum, I love Bob’s Red Mill, but any should do.
- Baking soda- Helps to produce a light and fluffy and perfectly cooked cookie bar.
- Baking powder- Another leavener that helps the carrot cake bars rise.
- Sea salt- Salt is key in a baked good, because it really brings out the flavor!
- Cinnamon- The cinnamon adds the nice warm flavor.
- Nutmeg- A little nutmeg goes a long way. This gives it a little spice!
- Cloves- Cloves really up the flavor in these!
- Grated carrots- They MUST be freshly grated (not pre-shredded) or you’ll end up with super dry bars. No fun!
- Raisins- Raisins are ideal here, I wouldn’t try to substitute for another dried fruit personally.
- Chopped walnuts- I’m actually not a big fan of nuts in my desserts, but the walnuts work well. I did less (1/3 cup) just to give it a little crunch. If you love them, do the 1/2 cup!
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Cream cheese- Cream cheese frosting will forever be hands down my favorite. It’s just SO GOOD. I’ve never tried substituting with dairy free cream cheese, but I’m sure it would work if needed!
- Unsalted butter- You can use both unsalted or salted. Either should work fine. Make sure your butter is room temperature for the perfect creaminess.
- Powdered sugar- This is what makes frosting so delicious! I learned recently that if you don’t have powdered on hand, you can blend up granulated until powdered. Here’s how to do it!
- Pinch of sea salt- Helps to bring out the flavor! You can omit if you do salted butter.
Tips for making them:
- YOU MUST USE FRESHLY GRATED CARROTS. I repeat, please use freshly grated carrots! I tried three time using pre-shredded and couldn’t figure out why it was so dry. The pre-shredded literally soak up all the moisture. So you must grate them yourself. IT IS THE ONLY WAY!
- Let the carrot cake bars cool completely before icing. You want to make sure the bars are completely cooled before adding the frosting. If you don’t the bars will start to melt the frosting and things will get messy.
- To get a more defined line in the icing. Make sure to store the bars in the fridge for about 30 minutes – 1 hour before cutting into them. This will give you a more solid icing line!
If you love these, you may also love:
- Fluffy Lemon Poppyseed Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting
- The Easiest Easter Blondies
- Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars
Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8×8 baking pan
For the Bars:
- ½ cup neutral oil (I used avocado oil)
- ⅔ cup light or dark brown sugar packed
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour spooned & leveled
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp sea salt
- 1½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp cloves
- 1 cup freshly grated carrots (Don't use pre-shredded!)
- ½ cup raisins
- ⅓-½ cup unsalted walnuts chopped
For the Frosting:
- 6 oz cream cheese room temperature
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter room temperature
- 2½ cups powdered sugar packed
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of sea salt
For the Bars:
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until well combined.
- Next, add in eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk until incorporated.
- Add in your flour, cinnamon, baking soda, sea salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, mix until fully incorporated. The dough should be thick & sticky.
- Pour in the freshly grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts. I don't like a ton of walnuts so I did 1/3 cup. If you like a good amount, add in 1/2 cup without changing anything else. Mix until well combined.
- Pour dough into a sprayed and lined (using parchment paper) 8×8 baking dish. Bake for 32-35 minutes until the top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the bars cool completely. While cooling, prepare the icing.
For the Frosting:
- To make the frosting, in a medium mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter with an electric hand mixer. Add in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar (1 cup at a time). Mix until a thick frosting is made!
- Once the bars are completely cooled, cover the top in frosting. Sprinkle with cinnamon & enjoy! Cut into 9 large bars or 12 smaller ones!