The BEST Carrot Cake
Only the BEST carrot cake recipe, in my humble opinion. Check it out! ;)
I was planning to wait and post this recipe closer to Easter. But as you all know, I seem to have zero patience when it comes to sharing recipes I’ve made that I really love. And carrot cake happens to fall in the category of recipes I really, really, really love. So without further ado, I present to you a very humbly-named classic:
The BEST Carrot Cake.
Well, at least it’s the best in my opinion, as I am a total purist when it comes to carrot cakes. That’s right. I’m one of those people who does not want to see any nuts, raisins, pineapple, applesauce, or (heaven forbid) carrot substitutes in my carrot cake. Instead, give me a perfectly spiced, moist cake made with a heaping mount of freshly-grated carrots and lots of homemade cream cheese frosting. And I will be a very happy carrot-cake-eating camper.
(Ok, ok, though — if you happen to adore nuts and/or raisins in your carrot cake, we can still be friends. I’ve included an option in the recipe for how to add them in.)
Still, in my world, this recipe is Da Best. I even tested it twice this week just to double check with my friends, and they wholeheartedly agreed. (And for the record, this one is 500x better than a box mix!) So here’s the how-to:
Alright, here’s the how-to:
As I mentioned, one of my absolute non-negotiables for good carrot cake is an entire pound of freshly-grated carrots. They make all the difference in terms of flavor and helping to create a good moist cake. Although don’t worry if you’ve never baked a homemade carrot cake before — the carrots totally blend in to the cake once it is baked. No “eh, what’s up Doc?” carrot crunching moments here. :)
If you have a food processor, this process can be made so much easier by grating carrots using the (fine) grater attachment. But otherwise, you can get a good bicep workout and burn some calories by grating carrots by hand. It will make eating them back up all the sweeter, right?
So grate about 1 pound of carrots…
Then mix up your cake batter, and fold the carrots in at the last minute. Be careful not to overmix the batter.
Then pour it into cake pans that have been greased and floured. I chose to bake 3 8-inch round cakes, but this recipe also works for 2 9-inch round cakes. (You will just need to adjust the cooking time.)
Then once they are done, pop them out of the oven and let them cool until they reach room temperature. Then I like to pop them in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes to cool slightly, in order to make them easier to level and frost.
So while they are cooling, whip up a batch of homemade cream cheese frosting. I made mine with low-fat cream cheese, but any kind will work.
Then pull your cakes out, and level them off to even thickness with a large knife or cake leveler.
Pop them on a pedestal or serving plate, and then layer a nice thick glob of cream cheese frosting between each layer, and then frost the rest of your cake however you’d like.
And then you’ll have one heck of a carrot cake ready to enjoy. Speaking of, I think I’ll go have a leftover piece right now. :)
The BEST Carrot Cake
- 1 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 6 eggs
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 3 1/4 cups flour
- 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- pinch of ground cloves
- 1 lb. finely-grated fresh carrots
- (optional: 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts and/or 1/2 cup raisins)
- 3 (8 oz.) bricks cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 6 cups powdered sugar (or more if needed to thicken)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Or alternately, you can use two 9-inch round baking pans. (Just be sure that every square inch of the pans greased and coated in flour so that the cake does not stick!)
In the bowl of a large stand mixer, mix together oil, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until combined and smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, and mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and cloves) until combined. Add the dry ingredient mixture to the mixing bowl, and beat on medium-speed until just combined, scraping down the pan at least once to be sure that everything is well mixed. Then fold in the grated carrots by hand, and stir until combined. If you would like to add nuts and/or raisins, stir them in at this time as well.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Then bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Remove pans and let them cool on a wire rack until the cakes reach room temperature.
I then like to pop them in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to cool off slightly. Then remove them and use a large knife or a cake leveler to level off the domed tops of the cakes so that they are level and even.
Layer the cakes with the cream cheese frosting, and then frost the outside of the cake as you desire. Serve that day or store, covered, for up to 4 days.
Using an electric mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter on medium speed for 1 minute or until smooth with no lumps remaining. Add in vanilla extract and salt, and continue mixing until combined. Lower speed to medium-low and gradually add in powdered sugar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until combined.
If frosting is too thick, you can add in a teaspoon or two of water. If it is too thin, you can add in more powdered sugar.