Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Everyone has an opinion on carrot cake. I have debated the merits of adding common ingredients like coconut, pineapple, and chopped nuts. I've even experimented with just how much carrot to add. In the end, the classic carrot for me should definitely be loaded with carrots, pecans and topped with cream cheese icing. I add candied pecans to my recipe to add a little more decadence and southern flair to the cake.
For the Cake:
3 cups walnuts
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound carrots, shredded (about 4 cups)
2/3 cup raisins
For the Frosting:
4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Coat three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper; coat the parchment with more cooking spray. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool, then roughly chop 1 1/2 cups walnuts and finely chop 1 1/2 cups. Set aside the finely chopped nuts for topping.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the vegetable oil, granulated sugar and brown sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just combined. With the mixer on medium-low speed, beat in the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk, until combined. Stir in the vanilla. Gently fold in the carrots, raisins and roughly chopped walnuts with a rubber spatula.
Divide the batter among the cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool 20 minutes in the pans. Remove the cakes from the pans, remove the parchment and let cool completely on the racks.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: Beat the butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Place one cake layer on a platter or cake stand and spread 1 cup frosting on top. Add another cake layer, spread with another 1 cup frosting and then add the last cake layer. Cover the top and sides of the cake with a very thin layer of frosting (this is the crumb coat). Refrigerate 1 hour.
Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting, then carefully press the finely chopped walnuts into the sides.
For my carrot cake I leave out the raisins. You don't need them and they're off putting to some people. I also don't use walnuts and instead use Mississippi pecans for the cake. I add candied pecans to the outside of the cake for garnish (above).
For the icing this cake is ridiculously fatty. 4 sticks of butter and 3 - 8 oz packages of cream cheese? Really?
I make the icing 1 stick of butter to 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese +4 cups powdered sugar. The cake is still plenty sweet and you get that great cream cheesey and buttery flavor throughout without making yourself sick.
This very rich and walnutty version of the Classic Carrot Cake appeared on the Cover of the May 2021 "Time for Cake!" version of the Food Network Magazine.
I've found that in a rush a perfectly passable version of the classic carrot cake can be achieved with Duncan Hines Signature Perfectly Moist Carrot Cake Mix. No one will know the difference if you add some freshly grated carrots and top with homemade cream cheese icing.