This is the ultimate Carrot cake with cream cheese mousse filling! Moist and tender homemade carrot cake packed with spices and filled with delicious, airy cream cheese mousse is a great idea any other time of the year, it is certainly a must make for Easter as well as over the Fall.
Forget dense, overly sweet Carrot cakes, try this easy, super light version that you will definitely want a second slice!
Why this is the best recipe
- It is extremely easy – You won´t need any fancy ingredients to make this carrot cake recipe. It comes together really easily, a totally doable from scratch. Both the mixing process of the batter as well as making the cream cheese mousse is very simple, even for beginners
- It is crazy delicious – I never compromise on taste! The moist carrot cake base with a lovely airy, not too sweet cream cheese mousse is the most wonderful flavor pairing, that will blow your mind! You might never make traditional Carrot cake ever again!
- It is an honest, detailed tutorial – While this recipe might look long, all the information I have written here, every tip and trick will help you achieve the perfect results without any issues on the way. Remember, baking is science, and every little detail written here is to help YOU!
How long does it take to make this mousse style Carrot cake
Patience is key when making layered mousse-type cakes, like this Carrot mouse cake recipe. You just can’t rush certain steps or it will make a mess.
Building up the layers is so easy, but you have to respect time, concretely leaving enough time in between the layers until they are set
- The sponges need to cool before building the cake up, ideally also lightly frozen so they are less crumbly
- After assembling the first layer of sponge + cream cheese mousse, pop the cake into the freezer for a few minutes to set before building the second layer of sponge + cream cheese mousse on top
- And then comes the hardest part, let the whole cake set with the mousse ring on it in the fridge for minimum of 4 hours
- Make sure you do not remove the mousse ring and cake collar in the first 4 hours, this is how long time it takes for the mousse to set
As you can see most of the time is spent on waiting, the baking part is in fact rather quick!
For the carrot cake
- Oil: This is an oil-based cake (no butter) that keeps the cakes super moist, soft, and fluffy. Butter-based cakes tend to harden in the fridge, with oil we won’t have this issue. Use no flavor vegetable oil
- Sugar: I am using a combination of granulated white and brown sugar. I absolutely love the brown sugar deep molasses flavor do not leave it out. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article in here
- Egg: Room temperature as always
- Flour: I am using pasty flour to make this Carrot cake recipe but all purpose works too, they are so-called “soft flour” which are low on protein resulting in a delicate, tender texture. If you want to be a Pro when it comes to deciding what type of flour to use in your baking, please read my article in here
- Baking powder + Baking soda: Makes the cake tender and helps the rise
- Salt: We always need at least a pinch of salt in any cake batter to balance the flavors
- Spices: I recommend a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, or simply use pumpkin spice. I have a DYI pumpkin spice recipe in here. Feel free to use any spice you prefer.
- Carrot: Carrot will give further moistness to the cake, I recommend peeling carrots then shredding them fresh. It is a juicy, moist, wonderful addition to the cake
- Nut: Use either walnuts or pecans and it is a good idea to toast them first in the oven for a few minutes. Toasting nuts enhances their flavors. Tip.: worth chopping pecan or walnut into smaller pieces
Exact ingredient quantities can be found in the RECIPE CARD, at the bottom of this page.
For the cream cheese mousse filling
- Gelatine: It´s an odorless, tasteless, and colorless thickening agent, very often used by pastry chefs, particularly in mousse cakes. Powder or sheet versions are available, in my recipes I always use sheet (1,7 g / sheet), which I found easier to handle. Simple soak the gelatine sheet into cold water for a few minutes before you need them and use it according to the recipe. Please note that gelatine is not suitable for vegetarians. Agar-agar can be a good substitution for vegetarians however replacing gelatin with agar agar is not 1:1 and can only be done by reformulating the recipe slightly.
- Heavy cream: Also known as whipping cream, has a fat content between 36% and 40% (I always use 36%). Use it very cold and do not substitute it with vegetable-based “whipping cream”. Heavy cream will make the filling extra smooth and creamy, effectively a mousse-like consistency.
- Granulated sugar: I use simple, white granulated sugar, nothing fancy. While heating it up with cream make sure the sugar granulates fully dissolve. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article in here.
- Lemon juice: Use freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Cream cheese: A not-too-sweet cream cheese mousse is the hero in this Light Carrot mousse cake recipe! I always use full-fat Philadelphia when I state cream cheese in my recipes. I find it easy to cream (need to bring it to room temperature first) and very pleasant in taste. I usually beat it with a hand mixer for less than a minute, just until it becomes fluffy and increases a bit in volume. Please avoid over whipping
- Vanilla bean paste: Avoid using artificial vanilla. There are several great brands for fine, pure vanilla, I use Nielsen massey which I love and really recommend
Exact ingredient quantities can be found in the RECIPE CARD, at the bottom of this page.
4 Expert Baking tips
1. How to make Carrot cake sponges
This Carrot cake recipe is using simple ingredients that can be typically found in carrot cake: carrot, some sorts of nut (walnut or pecan), some spices, and oil instead of butter.
It is an extremely moist and flavourful cake batter and can be made really easily and quickly.
- Grease the baking pans (I am using 2 x 18 cm / 7 inches pan )
- Pre-heat oven to 180 C / 356 F
- Ingredients must be all measured with a Digital scale
- Eggs must be at room temperature
- Shred carrot fresh
- Whip Oil, egg, and the 2 different kinds of sugar with an Electric hand mixer for a minute or two until combined
- Sift dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, spices) before adding to the mixture
Folded in dry ingredients by hand (using Rubber spatula). Do not use a mixer at this point
Then, fold in the shredded carrot and toasted and chopped nuts
- Pour batter into prepared baking pans and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven door during baking
- After 20 minutes check the middle of the cake with a toothpick. Bake until the toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let them cool on a cooling rack
2. How to make the cream cheese mousse filling
The Cream cheese mousse that we will be using is absolutely lush and what makes this Carrot cake recipe different from other recipes! It is not the usual, heavy, butter-based cream cheese frosting but light and airy with only a very small amount of sugar, feels like biting into the clouds!
Preparing the cream cheese mousse filling is a 3 steps process, do not try to combine them to “save time”. Please note that the cake contains 2 layers of cream cheese mousse plus the decoration on top (as you can see in the pictures) so you will have to make sure that there is enough cream left to do both layers and the decoration too.
- Prepare the gelatin mixture. Soak gelatin sheets into cold water, in the meantime heat cream and sugar until simmering. Mix gelatine sheets into the hot cream mixture then bring it to lukewarm temperature before step 2. Too warm? It will melt cream cheese in Step 2. Too cold? Gelatine will set and will be impossible to mix with the rest of the ingredients. Do not put the mixture into the fridge or freezer as gelatine can form lumps if it cools too quickly.
- Once the gelatine mixture is cooled to lukewarm temperature, whip room temperature full-fat cream cheese until fluffy, for about a minute. Fold fluffy cream cheese and the gelatin mixture together. Cream cheese is an interesting ingredient, it won´t get fluffier or harder if you beat it longer, in fact, it will break and become runny. I suggest using an Electric hand mixer to avoid overbeating
- After step 2, immediately whip very cold heavy cream until soft peaks then fold the cream into the rest of the mixture. Make sure heavy cream is very cold with a high-fat content (36%) or it might be difficult to whip up. While whipping heavy cream, remember that it will go through the following stages: runny, soft peak, stiff peak then it will break and a few minutes later buttermilk separates and you can make butter. For this recipe, make sure you stop after a soft peak. The cream should not be runny but also should not be too stiff which would make it difficult to fold the cream with the rest of the ingredients.
3. How to assemble this Carrot mousse cake
Assembling the Carrot cake with cream cheese mousse is super easy, however, a step by step process
1. You will need to make the carrot cakes first, let them cool on a wire rack. For a neat-looking cake, I recommend keeping one of the sponges as it is (that will be the bottom) and trimming 1-2 cm (0.5inch) around the other one, so it will be smaller in diameter - this will be the insert. Freeze both sponges for half an hour before assembling so they are less crumbly.
2. While sponges are in the freezer prepare the cream cheese mousse as per instructions in the recipe. The consistency of the cream will be runny (but fluffy) at this point so it will be easy to assemble the cake, but, it will be set in the fridge in 4 hours into a mousse cake-like consistency
3. Assemble the mousse ring; Set Mousse cake ring to 18 cm / 7 inches, the same size as the larger sponge. Use Acetate cake collar around the ring inside for neat-looking end results. Place the larger, chilled cake into the mousse ring tightly then pipe cream cheese mousse on top and smooth the top with an Offset spatula. Chill the cake for 10 minutes in the freezer then place the second, smaller sponge on top of the cream cheese mousse and pipe another batch of cream cheese mousse on top and around, and again smooth with an Offset spatula. Place cake into the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours for the gelatine to set.
Tip.: Worth measuring the cream cheese mousse before piping so that the two cream layers are even. Set some cream cheese mousse aside for decoration.
4. How to decorate
After the cake sets in the fridge, as well as the remaining cream cheese mousse, carefully remove the mousse ring and acetate cake collar from the cake. Move the remaining frosting into a piping bag fitted with a French star nozzle tip and pipe decoration on top. To finish, dust the cake with cinnamon or pumpkin spice. Voila, your Carrot cake with cream cheese mousse is ready!
The Mousse cake ring (adjustable in size) can be replaced with spring form however mousse ring is adjustable in size, therefore, can be used for many different kinds of cakes.
Acetate cake collar is an inexpensive baker hack you can purchase from Amazon and just makes all the difference! Once the mousse ring is set, place Acetate cake collar inside the ring and start building the cake up from the bottom to top as stated in the recipe, it will encourage the side of the cake to look very neat.
Make sure you do not remove the mousse ring and cake collar until the cake is set. Once unmold the cake ring, remove acetate very carefully. If it happens to be any “wrinkle” on the side, you can gently smooth it out with an Offset spatula
Yes, you can, however, you will need to adjust the ingredient quantities and baking time accordingly. Having said that, the larger the cake the riskier that it won´t bake throughout, so you have to pay extra attention to the correct oven temperature and apply the toothpick check
Most probably yes, you can, however, you can´t just leave out / change an ingredient without reformulating the entire recipe. When one ingredient changes, some other ingredients need to be changed too in order to keep the balance in the texture and flavor. Sadly, I am not able to provide substitutes for all sorts of allergies and diets.
Yes, you can, however, you will need to use another thickening agent, eg. agar agar
This is a super moist cake due to the oil and high ratio of wet ingredients, and very difficult to mess it up.
A few reasons can cause dry, crumbly texture on your cake 1. ingredients not measured correctly eg. too much flour added to the mixture 2. inappropriate mixing technique eg. over mixed cake batter 3. over baked, meaning it dried out too much. Consider investing in an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer to be able to measure the correct oven temperature and please make sure to use a Digital scale during baking, cups are not an accurate way of measuring for consistent results.
Probably the cake would have needed more baking time. Either, it was taken out of the oven too soon, or perhaps your oven is under heat. Consider investing in an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer if you tend to struggle with the baking part of your desserts.
Another issue that can cause raw texture is measuring the ingredients inappropriately eg. adding less flour to the recipe. Consider using a Digital scale
First of all, are you sure that the cake is chilled long enough in the fridge? The cream cheese mousse will set as it cools, it should not be de-assembled before it becomes stable
What makes the cream cheese mousse airy yet stable is 1. appropriate preparation technique in 3 steps 2. gently folding the whipped ingredients together without deflating 3. usage of gelatin. Make sure you do not leave the gelatin out and follow the recipe step-by-step.
Any leftover cake can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. I suggest you cover the dessert so it does not absorb any smell from the fridge, or from the kitchen.
You can freeze the sponges after baking however I do not recommend freezing the entire cake after assembling with the cream cheese mousse
Other Carrot cake recipes
Easter Bunny head carrot cake - This Easter Bunny Carrot cake recipe can be the showstopper dessert on your Easter table yet so easy and no special skills are required to make it. Carrot cake shaped into a super cute bunny head, a super pretty cake that will certainly impress everyone!
Mini carrot cake - This Carrot Mini Bundt cake recipe with silky cream cheese frosting is the Ultimate Carrot cake experience in a lovely Mini Bundt version! These Mini Bundt cakes have the perfect individual serving sizes and the most amazing soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture with silky cream cheese frosting and a super-easy yet decorative candied carrot finish.
Carrot loaf cake with a surprise inside bunny - This Surprise inside Easter carrot cake is the ultimate Easter cake with a hidden bunny in each slice! Yes, I understand the irony of having a bunny in a carrot cake, but how adorable is it?!
Carrot cake with cream cheese mousse filling
- 160 g All purpose flour sifted
- ½ teaspoon Baking powder
- ½ teaspoon Baking soda
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 2 teaspoon Pumpkin spice or a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves
- 100 g Granulated sugar
- 50 g Brown sugar
- 2 Eggs room temperature
- 160 g Vegetable oil
- 200 g Carrot peeled and freshly shredded
- 100 g Nuts toasted & chopped walnut or pecans
Cream cheese mousse
- 5 Gelatine sheet 1.7g / sheet 36% fat
- 120 g Heavy Cream
- 130 g Granulated sugar
- 10 g Lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 400 g Cream cheese ex. Philadelphia full fat
- 360 g Heavy Cream 36% fat, use it very cold
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla bean paste
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- Heat oven to 180 C / 356°F
- Prepare 2 x 18 cm / 7 inches pan with parchment paper or grease throughout
- With an Electric hand mixer whip together room temperature egg, oil, granulated sugar, and brown sugar for a minute or two
- Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt) and fold into wet ingredients, then fold in shredded carrot and chopped nuts with the help of a Rubber spatula
- Pour cake batter into the prepared cake pans. Make sure they weight equal, use a digital scale
- Bake for 20 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean
- Cool them on Cooling rack
- Once cakes are cooled, trim 1-2cm / 0.4-0.8 inches off around the edges on one of them, keep the other one as it is. Pop them into the freezer for 5-10 minutes before assembling the cake
Cream cheese mousse
- Soak gelatin sheets into cold water
- Heat cream (the first cream that is 120g) with sugar on low medium heat until just simmering
- Squeeze excess water from the gelatin sheets and stir them into the hot cream, then mix in the lemon juice. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Do not place it into the fridge as gelatin tends to form lumps if cools to quickly
- Whip heavy cream until soft peaks and very gently, using a Rubber spatula fold into the cream cheese mixture. It must stay light and fluffy
- Assemble the mousse ring and set it to 18 cm / 7 inch in diameter (Mousse cake ring (adjustable in size)) just as the size of the larger sponge
- For a neat looking, smooth side surface use Acetate cake collar within the mousse ring
- Start to build up the cake from bottom to top
- Place the larger, 18 cm / 7 inch diameter sponge into the mousse ring, then with the help of a Piping bag pipe approx. 2cm cream cheese mousse on top. Pop it into the freezer for 5 minutes
- Place the smaller carrot cake sponge on top, then pipe cream cheese mousse around and also another 2cm on top and smooth the top of the cream with an Offset spatula. Make sure you leave some mousse for later to decorate the cake
- Place the cake and the leftover mousse into the fridge to set for a minimum of 4 hours
- Once the cake is fully set, carefully remove the mousse ring and cake collar
- Store refrigerated for 2-3 days