I feel a little silly posting two layer cakes this week, but I just couldn’t choose between them. Tuesday’s Easter Egg Hunt Cake is so much fun, as all things loaded with surprise candy ought to be 😊 And then there’s today’s Carrot Cake, the quintessential springtime dessert. I tried to decide which would have to wait for next year, but realizing that I’d never be satisfied with either decision, I reached out to my little sister and my best friend.
I adore this cake and so do my friends. Carrot Cake is my second most-requested cake (beaten out only by my Vanilla Layer Cake). Every time I show up to an event with one of these in tow, I am positively baffled by the responses I receive. Even my little sister, who once very definitively told me that she did not care for carrot cake, likes this cake…and not just for the frosting. Although Cream Cheese Frosting is as good a reason as any, amiright?!
So, what makes this particular Carrot Cake so delicious? Well, for starters, It’s moist and nicely-spiced, full of raisins and nuts, and coated in my best-ever Cream Cheese Frosting. I could leave it at that, but after making this cake at least thirty times in the last four years, I’ve nailed down exactly why.
Raisins. Yes, raisins are in lots of Carrot Cake recipes, but they are often too chewy and prone to clumping together in the batter. That doesn’t happen in this cake. Nope. Instead of pouring the raisins in straight from the package, I soak them in boiling water while I prepare the batter. This allows them to plump up a bit and mitigates any clumping once they are folded into the batter. The soaked raisins also help keep the cake nice and moist. That comes in handy when you have two layer cakes lying around!
Dark Brown Sugar. Tons of it. Here, there’s three times as much dark brown sugar as there is granulated, and for good reason. For one, brown sugar is delicious–molasses flavor, y’all. It’s what makes chocolate chip cookies, blondies, and this Mango Upside-Down Cake so crazy good. Combined with the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, the brown sugar makes this cake out-of-this-world delicious. It keeps things moist too, helping this cake stay soft for days.
Eggs. There are four of them in this recipe and they are crucial to the success of this cake. Here, they provide a ton of structure. There are only two cups of flour in this recipe, which is much less than you’ll find in most of my layer cakes. With so little in the way of dry ingredients, the eggs are left to do the (literal) heavy lifting.
Cream Cheese Frosting. Yes, I know I’ve mentioned it twice already, but its tangy flavor really makes this cake sing. There is a thick layer on top each layer of cake–yum! The sides get a thin layer–just enough to hold up some chopped nuts. You could certainly skip the nuts and use more frosting on the sides, but I love the added crunch. I also dyed some of the frosting and piped little carrots on top of the cake. I’ve linked to a video tutorial in the recipe. It’s super easy.
makes one three layer 9-inch round cake
1 cup water
3/4 cup raisins
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
3 cups coarsely grated carrots
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces full-fat brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup Cream Cheese Frosting (see above)
orange food coloring (or red and yellow)
green food coloring
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment. Grease again. Set aside.
Pour water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in raisins. Let sit while you prepare the cake batter.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, dark brown sugar, and granulated sugar. It will be thick and sandy-looking. Mix in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Whisk in dry ingredients in two installments. Use a silicone spatula to fold in carrots.
Drain raisins. Fold them and the chopped nuts into the batter. Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake for 30-32 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans on racks for 15 minutes. Invert layers onto racks, remove parchment, and allow to cool completely.
Make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add confectioner’s sugar and salt in two installments, until completely combined. Beat in vanilla. Once combined, beat on high for two additional minutes, until light and fluffy.
Frost cakes as desired, reserving 1/2 cup of frosting if you want to pipe carrots.
Coat sides of the cake with chopped nuts. Pipe carrots (instructional video here), if desired. Slice and serve.
Cake will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.