Pear, Carrot and Cranberry mini cakes

INCREDIBLE Carrot Cake with Pears and Cranberries | Mini Cakes for the Holidays

Carrot Cake that is fruity and spicy is perfect for Holidays! This carrot cake has pears added for extra moisture and run-soaked cranberries for a little boozy tang. Made as a layer cake, sheet cake, or mini cakes, this is a must for your holiday dessert table!

This recipe started as my original Carrot Cake recipe found HERE but I wanted to create something really special for the holidays. In my audition for the Great American Baking Show, I needed a cake that was inspired by the holidays but different from the cakes that other bakers would be making.

This cake was the answer!

The culinary producer and the chef that conducted the interview said that this cake has an amazing texture and is perfectly spiced. Topped with Candied Pears that look like stained glass, they said this one was their favorite bake of the day.

Yes, I did a happy dance!!

Even though the cake has three kinds of fruit in it, I wouldn’t class it as the much dreaded and loathed fruitcake (sorry to the fruitcake lovers out there!). The pears add moisture and a pit of mellow flavor but they seem to melt into the cake when you take a bite. There is some chew from the rum-soaked cranberries and the perfect amount of carrots.

How to Make Carrot Cake Moist

I have used a couple of tricks to make sure that this carrot cake stays moist for days!

Use Brown Sugar: I have used a little granulated sugar in this recipe but most of the sweetness comes from brown sugar, which also brings moisture to the batter.

Use fresh Carrots: Using older carrots that are not fresh in your carrot cake will make a cake that is not as moist.

Add applesauce: Recipes for Carrot cakes are oil-based. In order to ensure that the cake is not greasy after baking, I replaced a large amount of the oil with applesauce. This keeps the cake moist while cutting some of the calories.

Candied pears for edible decoration for cakes - stained glass pears

Ingredients needed for this Recipe

The list of ingredients below for this carrot cake recipe may look long but it is mostly spices! That’s because this recipe for carrot cake is spiced for fall and holiday baking.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe for Carrot Cake:

  • Rum, optional – I have soaked my dried cranberries in rum for a flavor boost. If you want to leave out the alcohol, just use hot water and a little vanilla extract.
  • Dried Cranberries – Cranberries add just a little tang and chewiness to this carrot cake!
  • Bartlett or Bosc Pears – You will want to use pears that hold their shape and don’t turn to mush when baking.
  • Carrots – Fresh carrots, finely shredded for even texture in the cake!
  • Brown Sugar – Brown sugar brings moisture as well as depth of flavor to this cake!
  • Granulated Sugar – Just a bit!
  • Coconut Oil – You can also use canola oil or other vegetable oil.
  • Eggs – Make sure they are at room temperature so that they mix into the batter evenly and more easily.
  • Applesauce – Replacing some of the oil with applesauce keeps this cake from being greasy and reduces the calories a bit.
  • Vanilla – Don’t we always add vanilla??
  • All-purpose Flour – Don’t use bread flour here as it has too much protein in it and will make a tough cake. All-purpose will give you enough structure to hold up to the fruit. I use King Arthur Flour.
  • Baking Powder and Baking Soda – Two rising agents to lift that batter!
  • Salt – Salt helps to really highlight the flavors in this cake!
  • Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Nutmeg, & Cloves – All of these spices are used in small amounts but come together to make a perfectly spiced cake!

Do you have to Soak the Cranberries in Rum?

In order to impart even more depth of flavor, I soaked the dried cranberries in some spiced rum while prepping the rest of the cake and décor. This helps to plump them up and hydrate them just enough to be soft but still a little chewy…the perfect addition to this cake!!

If you prefer to leave out the alcohol, just use warm water with a little vanilla extract.

Tips for the Best Carrot Cake

Line the pans: Make sure to spray the pans well with baking spray and line with parchment paper to keep the cakes from sticking.

Fold the batter only until incorporated: Over-mixing the batter will cause the cake to be tough and dense.

Measure ingredients correctly: The best way to measure ingredients is on a scale. If you don’t have a scale, you can get one on amazon very inexpensively! This is the one that I use.

Shred carrots finely: The carrots should be shred finely so that they mix into the batter well and are not in chunks when the cake is eaten, creating an even texture.

Changing the Size of pan for this Carrot Cake

I have chosen to make this cake in sheet pans and cut them into small rounds, stacked and left completely naked on the outside.

You could also make a full layer cake if you choose but since I like to give my bakes to several different people, individual servings are the best way to go for me. Plus, I created this recipe for a challenge on the Great American Baking Show and they required mini cakes!

Since then, I have made this cake as an 8-inch layer cake and a 9×13 sheet cake several times.

If you change the size of the pan, you will need to adjust the baking times as well. See the note after the recipe for approximate times.

Can you Freeze Carrot Cake?

Yes! Carrot Cakes freezes beautifully when well wrapped for up to 3 months! You can start your holiday baking early by making the cakes, wrapping well in cling wrap, and freezing. Then you just need to make the frosting, garnish, and serve!

How do you Make Dehydrated Pear Toppers?

I have a detailed post with the recipe and the entire process for how to make the pear decorations on the top of these mini cakes.

Go to THIS POST to see the full video and written instructions!

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INCREDIBLE Carrot Cake with Pears & Cranberries | Mini Cakes for the Holidays

Recipe by Tanya Ott


Prep time


Cooking time




  • For the Candied Pecans
  • 50 light brown sugar

  • 113 grams shelled pecans, chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • For the Cake
  • 65 mL Dark Spiced Rum

  • 100 grams dried cranberries

  • 1 large or 2 small Bartlett pears – 160 grams peeled and chopped

  • 200 grams grated carrots, About 4 or 5 medium carrots

  • 340 grams light brown sugar

  • 110 grams granulated sugar

  • 200 grams coconut oil

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 285 grams unsweetened applesauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 335 grams all-purpose flour

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

  • For the Frosting
  • 170 grams unsalted butter, cool room temperature

  • 8 ounces Philadelphia brand full-fat cream cheese, cut into small pieces

  • 240 to 275 grams powdered sugar, sifted

  • Zest of one Lemon

  • To make the Candied Stained Glass Pears, go HERE for the recipe and instructions


  • Preheat oven to 350°F/176°C.
  • Pour rum over dried cranberries in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Spray two 10×15 jelly roll pans with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Peel, core, and dice two pears and measure out 160 grams of diced pieces. Clean carrots, remove ends, and process through a food processor with the grater blade or shred manually.
  • In a LARGE bowl, mix together the light brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, coconut oil, applesauce, and vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and all spices. Whisk together and then sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  • Stir by hand until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Strain the cranberries and add to the batter. Add the diced pears and carrots to the batter. Mix just until evenly distributed.
  • Add 1/2 of the batter to each lined pan.
  • Bake at 350°F/176°C for 18-22 minutes. Check for doneness. Remove from oven when cake springs back when gently pressed in the center. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto parchment paper. Set aside to cool.
  • Make the icing. Beat butter in a stand mixer for about 1 minute. Butter should be a bit cool to make sure that the cream cheese doesn’t get warm when mixed in.
  • Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and add cream cheese in small chunks.
  • When the mixture is smooth, add in half of the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Add in the remaining powdered sugar and the lemon zest. Mix until creamy but do not overmix or the cream cheese will become too runny to pipe.
  • Scoop the icing into a piping bag fitted with the piping tip of your choice. Place in refrigerator for about 10 minutes.
  • In a small saucepan, toast the chopped pecans for 1 to 2 minutes. Add brown sugar and nutmeg and stir while heating for another 3 minutes. Pour out onto a piece of parchment paper to cool.
  • When cakes are cool, cut out circles with a 2-inch biscuit cutter.
  • Remove icing from the refrigerator and pipe around the border on half of the cake rounds. Place another cake round on top. Place cakes in the refrigerator while completing the decorations.
  • Remove the mini cakes from the refrigerator and pipe a large dollop on the top of each. Apply decorations of your choice and a sprinkle of candied pecans.


  • This cake can be baked as a 9×13 sheet cake or three 8-inch rounds. Baking time will need to be adjusted. Check 9×13 at 28 minutes. Add a few minutes and check until done. Three 8-inch rounds should bake for about 23 to 25 minutes. Check and add time until done. All ovens vary and baking times should be adjusted accordingly.
  • If making an 8-inch layer cake, double the frosting recipe.
Pear, Carrot and Cranberry mini cakes
Stained Glass Pear decorations on the perfect pear, carrot and cranberry mini cakes!



Pear, Carrot and Cranberry mini cakes

Stained Glass Pear decorations on the perfect pear, carrot and cranberry mini cakes!


Pear, Carrot and Cranberry mini cakes
Stained Glass Pear decorations on the perfect pear, carrot and cranberry mini cakes!
Pear, Carrot and Cranberry mini cakes
Stained Glass Pear decorations on the perfect pear, carrot and cranberry cake!



  1. These are gorgeous, Tanya, and with carrots, pears, and cranberries I can only imagine how delicious they are. I enjoyed seeing you on the Great American Baking Show. The stained glass pears on your cheesecake tower were beautiful! I’m sorry you didn’t get further but admire you for competing. The stress of timed bakes has to be beyond nerve-racking. I signed up for your mailing list and look forward to getting your recipes. PS—do you think this could be made as a bundt cake or in another form which is less time-consuming to assemble?

    • Thanks for watching and following! You can absolutely make this cake in other forms. I have made it in a 9×13 pan and 9″ rounds and it has always worked in any pan!

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