Carrot cake has always been my birthday cake of choice. I really can’t remember the last time I didn’t have carrot cake on my birthday. This is the fourth carrot cake I’ve shared on this blog, and it might be the best one. The recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen, and, interestingly, appears to be a logical evolution of the first three carrot cakes.
The cake is not overly dense, with a soft, moist texture more like a traditional chocolate/vanilla cake. I’ve always been unsure of the appropriate volume-to-weight conversion for the carrots used in these recipes, and I enjoyed the clarity this recipe provides (1 lb. of peeled, grated carrots) for ease of measurement. It is nicely spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, although the only change I might make next year is to boost the cinnamon to 1 tablespoon. Then, I may have settled on the perfect carrot cake.
This is now my favorite cream cheese frosting. I think it is the best ratio of cream cheese, butter, and sugar as well as the easiest to prepare (only room temperature butter is required). It is both sweet and tangy with a consistency that is sturdy enough for a layer cake and piping. The quantities in this recipe makes a lot of frosting, and it might be possible to thinly frost a 3-layer 8″ cake with half the recipe (definitely 3/4).
Shockingly, I decided to incorporate nuts into this year’s cake. I don’t think I will ever bake a carrot cake with nuts or raisins in the cake, but both my wife and I enjoyed the toasted pecans on the outside of this hummingbird cake enough that I decided to run it back. The pecans add a different flavor and texture that pairs well with the tang on the cream cheese frosting and the soft, moist carrot cake layers.
It may be blasphemous for some of my family members to hear this, but I may start using my birthday cake to try some recipes that no one would otherwise request for the greater good of my intellectual baking curiosity. But maybe I’ll just bake more regardless. I think I like carrot cake too much to give it up.
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 lb. (450 g) peeled carrots (weight after peeling)
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz.) light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
Cream Cheese Frosting:
24 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
6 cups (24 oz.) powdered sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2-3/4 tsp. salt
24 oz. cream cheese, chilled and cut into 1 oz. pieces
pecans, toasted and/or chopped
- For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack to middle position. Butter and flour three 8″ cake pans. Line the bottom of each cake pan with parchment paper, then butter and flour the parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.
- In food processor with shredding attachment, shred enough carrots to measure 1 pound. Remove carrots to large bowl, add blade, then process carrots until finely shredded. Place carrots in large bowl and set aside.
- In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugars on medium-high speed until combined (~45 seconds).
- Reduce speed to medium, then add oil slowly against the side of the bowl, then mix until incorporated. Increase speed to high until mixture is lighter in color and well blended (~1 minute).
- Stir in the dry ingredient mixture by hand with a rubber spatula until just incorporated, then stir in the carrots.
- Divide batter evenly among the cake pans (~580 g per cake). Bake 20-25 minutes (mine took ~30 minutes), or until cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the cakes. Flip cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely (~2 hours) and remove parchment paper.
- For the frosting: In a stand mixer, beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt together on low speed until smooth. Mix for two minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Increase the speed to medium-low, and add the cream cheese one piece at-a-time, mixing until smooth. Continue to mix for another two minutes.
- Frost and decorate the cakes as desired. Refrigerate the cake for at least one hour before serving, allowing time to bring the cake to room temperature.