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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!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: carrot cake, cream cheese frosting, doctor the box, spice cake mix


  • 1 box Spice Cake Mix (I used Duncan Hines Deliciously Moist Cake Mix)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice; drained, juice reserved
  • 1 cup Reserved pineapple juice + water to equal 1 cup
  • 2 cups finely grated / shredded carrots (bagged preshredded carrots from the grocery store will be too dry and hard. For best results use box grater or food processor, removing any large pieces)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup + more chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3 - 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted so lump free
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare pan(s) by spraying baking spray with flour or by lining with parchment paper. See notes below.
  • Blend cake mix, water/pineapple juice mixture, vanilla, oil and eggs in large bowl 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.
  • Baking times will vary depending on pans and oven. Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Shield top of cake with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning if needed.
  • 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

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 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.


  • May substitute boxed yellow cake mix for spice cake mix and add 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Fill your pan only 3/4 full with your batter at least 1 1/2" below the rim of the pan to prevent batter overflowing pan.
  • You can use two 9 x 5 pans instead of two 8 x 4 pans but the cake will be flatter and won’t rise as much. It’ll also bake a little faster so check for doneness earlier.
  • For easy removal, I like to line my pan 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 temperature and can neutralize hot spots as a barrier between the pan and your batter.
  • Optional: Add ½ cup coconut and ½ cup chopped raisins to batter if desired (baking time may need to increase)
  • Oven temperatures vary widely, depending on brand, age, whether electric or gas and it’s not unusual for an oven to run 5 or 10 degrees hotter or colder. 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.