Carrot Cake Bars are dessert bars loaded with shredded carrots and chopped walnuts with a cheesecake swirl and a crumble topping. Check out my Homemade Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting for the best carrot cake recipe!
Carrot Cake Bars
The thing that sets these carrot cake bars apart from the rest is the cream cheese frosting swirl INSIDE the bars! So, you still get the cream cheese frosting with the carrot cake, but also leave room for the crumble topping! The delicious bars also have walnuts added to the batter for a little nutty crunch in every bite.
Carrot Cake Bars Ingredients
There are three important parts to this recipe–the crumble topping, bars, and cheesecake frosting swirl.
Butter: You will use a stick of butter for both the topping and the bars (a total of two sticks), so I chose to use Challenge Butter. Challenge Butter is made the old-fashioned way, churned fresh daily from the freshest milk and cream from happy cows at family-owned dairies since 1911.
In fact, Challenge is the only major U.S. dairy product company that controls the whole process when it comes to making its butter, from milking the cows, to transporting milk, to making the butter to packaging and distributing. Talk about quality control! I also featured Challenge Butter in my Kentucky Butter Crunch Cake and Buttery Bubble Bread.
Carrots: You can’t have carrot cake without shredded carrots! You will need 2-3 large carrots for this recipe. Freshly shredded carrots are best; pre-shredded can be too dry.
Walnuts: I like adding walnuts to these bars for a crunch. However, you can definitely leave them out. If you do leave out the nuts, I recommend that you grate the carrots even finer.
How to Make the Crumble Topping
A crumble topping is made with just a few simple ingredients. The key to a perfect crumble topping is the cold, cubed butter. Most of the time, I stress using room temperature butter, but in this case, keep the butter cold. If the butter is too warm, the crumble will spread out too much while baking.
To make the crumble for carrot cake bars, first, whisk together the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Then, add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients. Use your fingers to work the dry ingredients with the butter. Break down the cubes of butter to about pea-size. Everything should be well incorporated, but it’s okay to have a few chunks. Store the crumble mixture in the refrigerator until ready to add to the bars.
Carrot Bake Bars Batter
After the crumble topping has been made, get the batter made for the bars. First, melt the stick of butter in the microwave until it’s completely melted. Next, combine the melted butter and sugar in a medium bowl, mixing to combine. To the sugar and butter mixture, stir in the egg and vanilla.
Then, add in the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Finally, fold in the shredded carrots and chopped walnuts. Set the batter aside as you prepare the cheesecake swirl and get the bars ready to bake.
How to Make Carrot Cake Bars
With the crumble topping sitting in the refrigerator and the batter ready to go, it’s time to make the cheesecake swirl and get the bars in the oven. To make the swirl, simply beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar with a hand mixer until smooth.
Pour about half the batter into a prepared 8×8-inch baking dish and spread it out with an offset spatula or the back of a large knife. Add the cheesecake swirl on top of the batter that is in the baking dish, spreading it out evenly. Pour the remaining batter on top, and, again, spread it out evenly.
Using a knife or a skewer, swirl the batters together. Finally, top the bars off with the crumble topping and bake the. bars for 35-40 minutes. When the bars are done, the edges should be a light golden brown and there should not be much of a jiggle in the center of the bars.
Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting and serving. Store the leftover bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can freeze the bars for up to 3 months. If freezing, wrap the bars in plastic wrap and store them in a freezer-safe container that has been labeled and dated.
Looking for More Dessert Bars?
- ½ cup (1 stick or 113g) Challenge butter, cubed
- ¾ cup (94g) all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup (42g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup (1 stick or 113g) Challenge butter, melted
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1½ cups shredded carrots, approximately 2-3 large carrots
- ½ cup walnuts, finely chopped
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup (62.5g) confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8×8-inch baking pan with non-stick spray and set aside. You can also line the pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- To a medium bowl, add the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and cinnamon. Whisk together to combine.
- Add the cubed butter. Using your fingers, sift the flour mixture over the butter and then start breaking down each cube into pea-sized pieces. When done, every ingredient should be well incorporated (with a few chunks). Place in the refrigerator until ready.
Carrot Cake Bars
- Place the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. If needed, microwave another 15 seconds to melt the butter completely.
- In a medium bowl, add the melted butter and sugar. Mix to combine.
- Stir in the egg and vanilla extract.
- Add in the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Stir until completely combined.
- Fold in the shredded carrots and chopped walnuts. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, add in the cream cheese and sugar. Beat with a hand mixer until smooth.
- Add about half of the carrot cake batter into the pan and spread it out with an offset spatula.
- Add the cheesecake batter to the carrot cake batter that is in the pan, spreading it out into an even layer.
- Add the remaining carrot cake batter on top of the cheesecake batter and spread it out into an even layer.
- Using a knife or skewer, swirl the batters together.
- Top with crumble topping.
- Bake for about 35-40 minutes until the edges are light golden brown. There will be very little jiggle to the center.
- Cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.