It’s really not spring until a carrot cake has passed through the kitchen. Though this dessert has been around for decades, carrot cake was enormously popular in the 70s and it’s still a recipe worth keeping on hand. It’s a cake loaded with freshly grated carrots, toasted pecans then accented with the spice of ground cinnamon and a beautiful note of pure vanilla. It’s not exactly health food but it is delightful nonetheless!
There are a number of versions for this classic cake – some with pineapple, raisins or chopped apples. But in it’s purest form there are so many layers of flavor and textures that keeping the carrots the main focus always seemed to be the right answer.
For the cake, shred the carrots using a coarse shredder by hand or in your food processor (easiest method!). Rough chop the toasted pecans into large pieces. Finely chopped pecans will just get lost in the cake. This recipe makes two 9-inch layers or you can bake it in a 9” x 13” x 3” baking pan. (You might need to adjust the cooking time if you use a large baking pan.) If you’re baking a layer cake, at a minimum make certain you grease and flour the pans. Lining the pans with parchment paper is just a little added insurance for a clean release.
Topped with fluffy cream cheese frosting Carrot Cake is a timeless way to enjoy those root vegetables! (And yes Emily, I will freeze a slice or two for you!)
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups coarse shredded carrots, about 6-8 carrots
1-1/4 cups toasted chopped pecans
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and kosher salt.
In a large bowl stir together both the sugars and the vegetable oil mixing together until they’re well blended.
Add the eggs and stir together.
Stir in the flour mixture about a third of it at a time, stirring just until it is blended into the batter. Don’t over mix or your cake will be tough.
Add the shredded carrots, the chopped pecans and the vanilla extract.
Divide the batter between two 9-inch cake pans that have been greased and floured and preferably lined with parchment paper.
Bake the cakes at 350-degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the cakes test done. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
Place the cake pans on a rack to cool for 15 minutes – if they cool too long in the pans they tend to stick. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake then turn them out onto a wire rack. Gently flip the cakes so they are top up to cool completely. Quick tip: Place the cake between two wire racks then flip to keep from breaking the layers.
While the cakes cool, make the frosting.
For the frosting:
1 package cream cheese, 8-ounces at room temperature
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3-2/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons half and half, optional
Beat the cream cheese and the butter together on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy. Add the vanilla blending into the cream cheese.
Slowly add the powdered sugar about one cup at a time using low speed. If you need to thin the frosting, add the half and half, about a teaspoon at a time until you reach the consistency you like.
To assemble the cake:
Turn one layer of the cake top down onto a flat plate or serving platter. Spread about a third of the frosting over the top pushing the frosting out to the edges. Add the second layer with the top facing up. Frost just the sides with a very thin coating (a crumb coating).
Chill the cake for about 30 minutes to let the frosting set. (If you’re in a rush you can skip this step – it just helps to keep the crumbs out of the frosting.) After the cake has chilled cover the sides of the cake with another layer of frosting then finish by frosting the top of the cake. Chill to set the frosting.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.