Doctoring the Box: Carrot Cake from Spice Cake Mix

An easy and deliciously moist, doctor-the-box recipe for carrot cake! Perfectly paired with homemade cream cheese frosting!

Easy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | ©

 We’re spending more time in the kitchen these days while we’re self-isolating at home. With fewer trips to the grocery store, I’m using what’s in the pantry (sometimes fun, sometimes not. :) I found a box of spice cake mix I had forgotten about purchased back in the fall that was fast approaching its ‘best if used by’ date. Eureka. . .I struck gold!

Doctoring the Box: Carrot Cake from Spice Cake Mix | ©

I’m a fan of  ‘doctoring the box’ when it comes to a cake or cupcakes. The dry ingredients are  measured and ready to go which cuts down on prep time. With just a few substitutions like buttermilk for water and an additional egg, your cake or cupcakes will taste homemade, especially topped with your favorite homemade frosting recipe!

Easy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | ©

I made this cake as a treat to enjoy over Easter weekend. It was hubby-approved, who prefers pie over cake and declared it ‘moist and delicious’. . .quite an endorsement coming from a non-cake eater! I baked it in an 8 x 4 loaf pan. The batter will yield two 8 x 4-inch loaves so you’ll have one to enjoy and one to share or freeze. If you don’t have two loaf pans, you can make this recipe as a 9-inch two-layer cake or skip the layers and make a sheet cake using a 13 x 9 inch pan.

Line your pan with parchment paper for easy removal! | ©

For easy removal, I like to line my pans with parchment paper. Spray your pan and then line your pan with parchment paper that hangs over the edge of your pan. The spray will keep your paper in place and from slipping so no batter gets underneath the paper. Parchment is nonstick and you can lift the cake out of the pan using the ends of the paper. Parchment paper also helps regulate the oven temperature and can neutralize hot spots as a barrier between the pan and your batter.

Easy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | ©

 Carrot Cake from Spice Cake Mix

Makes: (2) 8 x 4-inch loaves, (1) 2 layer 9-inch cake or (1) 13 x 9-inch cake

1 box Spice Cake Mix (I used Duncan Hines  Deliciously Moist Cake Mix)

4 large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple in juice, drained, reserving juice

Reserved pineapple juice + water to equal 1 cup

2 cups finely grated / shredded carrots  (preshredded carrots from the grocery store will be too dry and hard. For best results use a box grater or food processor, removing any large pieces)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped pecans + more for sprinkling on top of frosting if desired

Optional: Add 1/2 cup coconut and/or 1/2 cup chopped raisins to batter if desired (baking time may need to increase)

Cream cheese frosting, recipe to follow

Easy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | ©

Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare pan(s) by spraying baking spray with flour or by lining pans with parchment paper. Blend cake mix, water/pineapple juice mixture, vanilla, oil and eggs in large bowl with mixer at low speed until moistened, about 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Stir in carrots, pineapple and pecans until incorporated throughout batter. Pour batter into pans and bake immediately.

Easy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | ©

Baking times will vary depending on pans and oven. Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and continue to cool on wire rack until completely cool before frosting.

Baking times:

(2) 9 inch pans and 9 x 13 pan:  23 – 28 minutes

8 x 4 loaf pans:  40 – 45 minutes

Easy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | ©

Cream Cheese Frosting

This is a delicious basic cream cheese frosting recipe for carrot cake and perfect for sweet rolls too. Adjust amount of sugar to your taste and for your preferred sweetness.


1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 – 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted so lump free

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Beat softened butter and cream cheese until well blended.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy.

Start with 3 cups of sugar, add more after tasting to desired sweetness. Use 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel) in place of the regular cream cheese if desired.

Easy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | ©


If you don’t have a boxed spice cake mix in your pantry, substitute a yellow cake mix and add 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

Fill your pan(s) only 3/4 full so batter is at least 1 1/2″ below the rim of the pan to prevent batter overflowing pan.

Oven temperatures vary, depending on brand, age, whether electric or gas. Make sure you preheat your oven at least 20 minutes. If you plan on baking more while we’re all hunkering down and self-isolating, invest in an oven thermometer. They’re inexpensive and you can order one on Amazon that will do the trick for around $7.


Doctor the Box Easy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | © #easy #cake #recipes

Thank you for your visit, sharing with:

 Metamorphosis Monday

  21 comments for “Doctoring the Box: Carrot Cake from Spice Cake Mix

  1. Ann Woleben
    April 16, 2020 at 6:30 am

    Yum! This is a “keeper” recipe. Thank you!

  2. April 16, 2020 at 7:22 am

    Thanks Home my friend

    On Thu, 16 Apr 2020, 4:05 pm Home is Where the Boat Is, wrote:

    > Mary posted: ” An easy and deliciously moist, doctor-the-box recipe for > carrot cake! Perfectly paired with homemade cream cheese frosting! We’re > spending more time in the kitchen these days while we’re self-isolating at > home. With fewer trips to the grocery st” >

  3. April 16, 2020 at 7:25 am

    Mary, I love doctoring the box also and I love carrot cake. I always bake a carrot cake for Easter, but not this year. Thank you for sharing your recipe, now if only I had a slice with my coffee this morning!

  4. April 16, 2020 at 7:39 am

    Oh this looks soooooooo good! I have not had carrot cake in a long time! Yum! I may actually have a spice cake in my pantry……….. I’m off to look.

  5. Jane
    April 16, 2020 at 7:45 am

    Looks absolutely delicious! My favorite.
    Wish I had a piece of it right now with my morning coffee.
    Have a great day and thanks for sharing………

  6. April 16, 2020 at 8:33 am

    I’m a big fan of the doctored mix Mary, makes baking cakes a breeze! I like your idea of baking a cake in 2 loaf pans, one to eat and one to freeze or gift. Your carrot cake with cream cheese icing sounds divine!

  7. Kathy Menold
    April 16, 2020 at 8:54 am

    It is quite amazing how we can use all those things in our pantry to create good tasting meals during this stay at home order. I have become the casserole queen during this pandemic. Also saving all leftovers the way my Mother did and using every little bit of them. This morning I made scrambled eggs and added a little bit of cheddar cheese and a cup of leftover spinach.Delicious. I am lucky enough to be getting fresh eggs from my daughter who has chickens. Will try my hand at banana bread and may add some shredded carrots I found in fridge. Thanks Mary for your ideas and for continuing to do your blog. It is the highlight of my morning.

  8. April 16, 2020 at 9:27 am

    It’s so funny, Mary, I have a box of spice cake mix in my pantry. I also used your doctored up cake mix for a strawberry cake mix for bunny cakelets, that I brought to Harper and Hayden. Yes, I broke the shelter in place rule, as they invited my son and I to spend the night. My son and DIL are working from home and the little ones haven’t been anywhere. However, I made cream cheese frosting for the bunny tails, but left it in my fridge, so I even have that. Thanks for sharing your recipe with us!

  9. Bobbie T
    April 16, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Looks so delicious! A trick that I use when making a carrot cake is to use canned carrots (drained). I just chop them up with a food chopper before adding to the cake mixture. So easy and also makes the cake moist. I like to doctor up cake mixes also.

  10. Clara
    April 16, 2020 at 9:29 am

    Mary, We also have a box of spice cake that I really didn’t know what to do with! Thanks to you, I know now. I have all the ingredients too. Yay! Looks & sounds delicious! Stay safe and be well. Clara♥️

  11. April 16, 2020 at 9:56 am

    Looks yummy! I made banana nut bread yesterday and plan to make another blueberry loaf today. Lots of baking going on here. Oink, Oink!

  12. April 16, 2020 at 10:01 am

    This receipe looks so good. I get brown eggs from a gal at church, I like brown eggs and keep sending recipes, I look forward to them.

  13. Alice Genzlinger
    April 16, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Yum! since being stuck in the house I’ve done more baking then usual, so much that my better half has suggested not baking for a while. But this cake looks so easy I must try it. I even sent it to my sister in law because carrot cake is her hubbys’ favorite. Keep up the good work. I love your ideas.

  14. Cyndi Raines
    April 16, 2020 at 11:30 am

    This is one beautiful, delicious looking cake! Love home-made cream cheese frosting! Like your tips about the extra egg and the buttermilk. Also, liked Bobbi T’s idea about canned carrots and the ease of using them instead of having to grate fresh carrots. I have a recipe for carrot cake that calls for 2 small jars of baby food pureed carrots and it always turns out super moist also. I will have to print this recipe out and add it to my recently created “Mary’s Recipes” notebook. Thanks Mary! Keep calm and bake on! 😉♥️

  15. Betsy
    April 16, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    Love this post! It’s always great to have a simple, off-the-shelf item and make it great by some simple additions. You don’t have to be a chef to create things that are quick, affordable, and yummy. Of course the bonus is that your house always smells amazing when the kitchen is in full use. I’m sure that now, more than ever, people are appreciating your tips since there are likely more people cooking at home than previously!

    I hope you and your family are well. All the best to you!

  16. Paula
    April 16, 2020 at 8:20 pm


    Thanks for sharing this looks wonderful , and will look great on my hips , hahah!! But, I will definitely bake and share this for sure !!
    Take care of You and your family !

  17. Sabrina Gow
    April 18, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    This looks wonderful! Thank you for sharing your recipe!

  18. April 19, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    love this! I made carrot cake just a few days ago too!! we are on the same wavelength
    nice to find you I am super new here! cheers to making and baking on !!

  19. Gayle Zachariasen
    April 23, 2020 at 1:13 am

    I too doctor the box with my cake mixes and cookie mixes. I am going to have to try this recipe. My husband will love it.

  20. Trish
    July 4, 2020 at 2:44 am

    Has anyone tried using a Bundt pan? Would it work with this? Would the baking time increase?

    • July 4, 2020 at 5:35 am

      A 12-cup Bundt pan should work fine, fill your pan only 3/4 full so batter is at least 1 1/2″ below the rim of the pan to prevent batter overflowing pan when baking (any extra batter can go in a muffin pan). You’ll need to increase baking time since a Bundt pan is deeper, maybe 30% longer.

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