Recipe: The Perfect Carrot Cake

Well, another week has begun – I hope you guys had a great Easter! It was so nice to have Friday off, it was a much-needed long weekend and I spent the day tying up loose ends with wedding stuff and working on the new website, which is coming soon! On Easter Sunday we had a little brunch at our house, just the two of us, then visited family for dinner. One of my favorite cakes EVER is carrot cake, so it felt appropriate to bring along for the Easter Bunny feast.

I prefer nuts and raisins in my carrot cake, but I left them out in case those weren't crowd pleasers. The cake was still awesome and didn't feel lacking, so it's just personal preference! I've adapted this from various recipes, and this is what works for me. I hope you try it and enjoy...it's delicious!

THE CAKE:

1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

6 eggs

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (you can use all-purpose instead, this is just my variation)

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 lb. finely-grated fresh carrots

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional but YES)

1/2 cup golden raisins (optional but also YES)

THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 Tbsp. clear vanilla extract (regular will yield more ivory frosting)

6 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large bowl, combine flour and dry ingredients (spices, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and set aside. 

Mix oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla slowly and continue mixing. Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until combined. 

Fold carrots into batter with a spatula just until combined, then add in nuts and raisins. Be careful not to over work the batter, just fold until combined.

Grease and flour two 9" cake pans, and pour batter evenly between the two. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Place pans on a wire rack and cool completely – this usually takes a couple hours, so now's the time to make your frosting. Before I frost the cake, though, I like to pop it in the fridge to chill down – a cold cake will be much easier to frost.

TO MAKE THE FROSTING:

In your stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Mix in the vanilla extract. Slowly add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, adding or subtracting based on desired thickness. You can add milk to thin the frosting, or add more powdered sugar to thicken it up.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:

Carefully run a table knife between the cake and the pan to loosen the cake, then flip the pans upside down to release the cake. Using a sharp serrated bread knife, level off the rounded tops of the cake layers. Place your first layer on the plate or cake stand, followed with a big dollop of frosting in the center. Spread the frosting thickly and evenly across the layer – don't worry about it being perfectly smooth, just try to get it even. Spread from the middle of the layer out to the edges and slightly down the side. 

Add your second layer, centered on top of the first. Repeat the frosting process by starting with a large dollop on the top and work your way down the sides, filling and smoothing with an offset spatula. 

Check out this helpful video with instructions on how to achieve a smooth finish with your frosting. Carrot cake doesn't demand a lot of embellishment with the icing, so I made a few calligraphy flags to jazz up the cake for the holiday.

You can serve the cake right away or pop it in the fridge to cool down and set, which I like to do with cream cheese frosting. You'll want to store your cake in the fridge when you're not devouring it. And that's it! Pure carrot bliss.