Tag Archives: cream cheese frosting

Carrot Cake

Carrot CakeI 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.

Carrot CakeThey couldn’t decide either. So, here I am with two layer cakes back to back. Anybody want to come over for cake? Because I have A LOT of it.

Carrot CakeI 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?!

Carrot CakeSo, 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.

Carrot CakeRaisins. 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!

Spices. Almost every Carrot Cake recipe contains cinnamon, but mine has ginger and nutmeg, too. Those two extra spices amplify the cinnamon and keep this cake from having a one-note flavor.Carrot CakeCarrot Cake

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.Carrot CakeCarrot CakeCarrot Cake

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.Carrot Cake

Enough bullet points! This cake, y’all. It’s really something special. Make it and enjoy it with your family and friends this weekend! Happy EasterCarrot Cake

Carrot Cake
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

For Decoration:
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.Carrot CakeCarrot CakeCarrot Cake

Mini Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls

 Cinnamon rolls are amazing. (Duh.) Gooey cinnamon filling rolled into soft pastry and covered in frosting–what’s not to love?!

Well…the time commitment. Even supposedly “quick and easy” recipes take three hours. The problem is the yeast. It takes a while. Like multiple-long-rises a while. Add to that the fact that working with yeast strikes fear into the hearts of many casual bakers. I’ve learned that yeast is nothing to fear, but still. When I want cinnamon rolls, I want them *now.* Not in three or six or eight hours–NOW.

I clearly have some pretty serious breakfast pastry needs. 

What if I told you that you could have some seriously good cinnamon rolls on your table in less than 90 minutes? And that you didn’t have to proof any yeast or let anything rise? Would you be interested?

Yeah, I thought so.

Enter Mini Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls. All the sweet cinnamon goodness of classic cinnamon rolls, wrapped up in a delightfully easy cream biscuit dough and positively smothered in cream cheese frosting. Oh my word, are these good. And they’re miniature, because tiny food just tastes better somehow. 

The dough base is the same as the one I used in my Scratch Biscuit Monkey Bread. It’s super easy: mix together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder, and stir in 2 cups of cream (I said quick and easy, not healthy). That’s it. Seriously easy. I do not recommend using a regular buttermilk biscuit dough here–the butter in that dough must be kept cold, or your results will be bricks. No, thank you. This simple cream biscuit dough has no butter, so it doesn’t need to be kept absolutely frigid to bake up properly. Using this base, you can roll and flip and handle the dough as much as you want! 

    Once the dough is made, divide it in half. Take one half and roll it into a large rectangle on a floured surface. Then, take some butter that’s been spiked with granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and spread it over the whole thing, leaving only a thin border. Gently roll the long edge of the dough toward your body until you have a tight cylinder. 

 Cut the rolled dough into 1-inch rolls and place them close together in a buttered pan. Repeat that process with the other half of the dough, and then bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes at 400F.  
 Make a half-batch of my cream cheese frosting, and spread it over the warm rolls. Yes, this is a lot of frosting, but that’s how I roll. <–Ha! Roll. 

Seriously, look at that.

If a metric ton of frosting isn’t your thing, you may halve the recipe. The frosting will melt into every nook and cranny of the cinnamon rolls and make everything super gooey and delicious. In fact, the frosting is so thick, I had a hard time seeing while cutting out individual rolls–but when they’re this good, I don’t care if they’re totally gorgeous. The tang of the frosting with the fluffy biscuit base and sweet cinnamon filling is just…everything. 

So, the next time you have a craving for cinnamon rolls, make these Mini Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls. In less than 90 minutes, you’ll be tucking into a full pan of amazingness, and you won’t have fretted over yeast or waited an eternity! These are perfect for any weekend morning or brunch party. Nobody can resist these sweet little rolls 😊 

 Mini Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls
makes about two dozen miniature rolls

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream, cold

4-ounces (1/2 brick) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter. Set aside.

Make the filling. In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mash together softened unsalted butter, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, until it’s completely combined. Set aside.

Make the biscuit dough. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, salt, and baking powder. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in heavy cream, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Dough will be shaggy. Divide dough in halves.

On a floured surface, roll half the dough into a 14×8-inch rectangle. Use an offset knife (or butter knife) to spread half the filling onto the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border at the edge. Starting at the long edge furthest away from your body, tightly roll the dough toward you until you have one large cylinder. Slice into 1-inch pieces, and place close together in the prepared pan. Repeat process with the second half of the dough.

Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes, until light golden and fully cooked. Let cool ten minutes while you make the frosting.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar and salt, followed by vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Drop frosting in dollops over the top of the warm rolls. Spread with an offset knife to cover the entire top of the rolls. Let set for ten minutes before serving.

Mini Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls are best served the day they are made, but may be kept covered at room temperature for up to three days.

Red Velvet Cake

 We are officially two days from the 88th Annual Academy Awards! Everybody else in the country may look forward to Super Bowl Sunday, but this is *my* big Sunday.

My best pal, Tad, and I spend months preparing for Oscar Night. We start making predictions in October, but by the night of the actual awards show, we’ve changed our answers about fourteen times! We have a pretty solid track record of predicting the winners 😊 Tad and I met sophomore year of college at a failed screening of Shrek 2. The projector broke mid-movie, and while the techs tried to fix it, we got to talking. We quickly discovered that we love the Oscars equally, meaning that it’s all we ever talked about even though nobody else on campus cared that the ingenue is always poised to win Best Supporting Actress. Over the ensuing months, we met multiple times a week with books of statistics, former winners, and a deep, abiding passion for “Hollywood’s Biggest Night.” Let’s just say that if there’s ever a job opening for Oscar Historian, I know two people who would love the job.

Tad lives in San Francisco now, but still gets up to watch the nominations announcement with me, even though it airs at 5:30am in California. He’s that kind of friend. And as if we couldn’t be more perfect for each other, he also shares my borderline-obsessive love of Martin Scorsese–he didn’t even bat an eyelash when I decorated my half of our senior year duplex in a Scorsese theme. And don’t even get us started on Leonardo DiCaprio–fingers crossed that this is his year! 

Among our Oscar traditions is a meal. Back when we were sharing one kitchen with an entire dorm, I’d go down to the basement before the pre-show to put together pesto-mozzarella grilled cheeses on good country bread, and a spinach salad with mandarin oranges, thinly-sliced red onion, and balsamic vinaigrette. The pièce de résistance was always a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I wasn’t any sort of baker yet, so both were courtesy of Betty Crocker, but it didn’t matter. The memory of that cake has stuck with both of us, and even now, Oscar Night doesn’t feel like Oscar Night without it…and our constant stream of text messages. 

These days, I make my Red Velvet Cake from scratch, and it is waaaaay better than Betty Crocker could ever hope to be. It’s the perfect combination of chocolate and vanilla flavors, and kept super tender thanks to the additions of cornstarch, oil, and buttermilk. And of course, it’s red, just like the red carpet! 


The frosting is the dreamiest, creamiest cream cheese frosting I’ve ever had. Many cream cheese frosting recipes use twice as much cream cheese as butter, and not enough confectioner’s sugar. In my experience, this results in frosting that tastes divine, but is somewhat soupy, and therefore difficult with which to work. Cream cheese simply does not whip as well as butter. But this recipe uses equal weights of both ingredients, so we get all the tang of cream cheese and the stability of butter. A full pound of confectioner’s sugar is beaten in, along with a pinch of salt and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. Once all the ingredients are combined, the frosting is beaten on high for two additional minutes, so it gets extra light and fluffy. It’s what makes this cake the stuff of dreams! 

 Once the frosting is made, use a serrated knife to even out the cakes so they stack evenly. Crumble the cake scraps into a small bowl–you can use these to decorate the frosted cake! 

  As you can see, I added an Oscar to mine, too! To do this, I used a fork to stir gold and black gel food coloring into sparkling sugar (found near the sprinkles at most well-stocked grocery stores). I added some gold luster dust to the gold-dyed sugar, just for some extra sheen. I used a mummy cookie cutter (like this one) for Oscar’s body, and went freehand for the rest of it. I think it turned out pretty cute!

This Red Velvet Cake is perfect for Oscar Night, but it’s great for birthday parties (or just dessert), too! With a tender red crumb, wonderful chocolate and vanilla flavor, and fluffy cream cheese frosting, it’ll be a winner all around 😊 

 Red Velvet Cake
makes one two-layer 9″ round cake or 28 cupcakes

For Greasing:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar*
2 cups buttermilk*
1/2-3 tablespoons liquid red food coloring*

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

For Decorating (optional):
reserved cake scraps, from trimming the layers
4 tablespoons sparkling sugar*, divided
gold gel food coloring
gold luster dust
black gel food coloring

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small bowl, whisk together greasing mixture ingredients. Using a pastry brush, paint the mixture onto the entire insides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

Make the cake. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, eggs and yolk, vanilla, white vinegar, buttermilk, and red food coloring. Add dry ingredients in three installments, combining completely after each addition.

Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Tap full pans lightly on the counter five times. Bake for 23-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for ten minutes. Run a small thin knife around the edges of the pans before inverting the layers onto racks to cool completely. Once layers are cool, use a serrated knife to even the tops. Reserve the cake scraps.

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.

Fill and frost cooled cakes. Crumble reserved cake scraps and use them to decorate the cake as desired.

If you want to decorate with sparkling sugar, place two tablespoons of the sugar into two small bowls. Add a small dab of gold gel food coloring to one bowl, and a small dab of black to the other. Use forks to stir the gel into the sugar until it’s completely dyed. Stir a touch of gold luster dust (less than 1/8 teaspoon) to the gold sugar. Decorate as desired.

Frosted cake will keep covered at room temperature for three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.


1. For cupcakes, divide prepared batter into 24 standard muffin cups, filling them 2/3 of the way full. Bake at 350F for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
2. Apple cider vinegar may be substituted.
3. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, place 2 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice in the bottom of a liquid measuring cup. Pour milk up to the 2 cup mark. Stir. Let sit for five minutes before using. Do not use skim or fat free milk.
4. Add as much or as little red food coloring as needed to achieve your desired shade, keeping in mind that the color will darken as the cakes bake.
5. I use Wilton White Sparkling Sugar.