Carrot cake is my favorite cake, ever. Hands down. As per tradition I make a carrot cake for Easter every year and have for (counting and thinking) so so many years.
Actually the first year I started making a carrot cake for Easter was the same year we showed up to Easter dinner at a friend's, with the cake, long story short they thought we were bringing an Easter ham, we thought they were cooking the Easter ham.
There was no ham.
But there was this carrot cake and it's a show stopper.
This carrot cake is loaded with grated carrots, spices and just a bit of walnuts. You won't find pineapple in this cake. Listen, I'm not here to say "you cannot have xyz in your carrot cake" by preference I don't add pineapple but my mother loves it with pineapple, and I love walnuts so walnuts it is.
I will say, she tells me this is the very best carrot cake she's ever had and she's from a town that supposedly has the world's best carrot cake. Just saying.
Carrot cake seems to have a lot of questions about it though. I know when I first started making them I had way too many. Why was it dry? Do I add pineapples and walnuts? How much spice should go in? Should I use butter in my batter? Oil? Milk?
I'm here to help tackle a few carrot cake questions. See below.
How do you get all that moisture without pineapple?
Oil and buttermilk. This recipe has no butter in it, solely oil and buttermilk. Because it's a spice cake you can't taste the oil and it gives you a super moist cake. Just regular old vegetable oil.
What temperature do you bake your carrot cake at?
I also bake my carrot cake at 325. To be honest, it takes a bit longer. If you don't have the patience feel free to crank up the oven to 350, however i'm not sure what the time on that would be, I usually go off of the old when you can smell it it's done and then a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, it's done. But I think cooking it at a lower temperature lends to a more moist cake.
Another note on baking, it's best to have your refrigerated ingredients always at room temperature when you are baking. Adding cold ingredients brings down the temperature of your batter. So have room temperature ingredients to keep it cooking uniformly.
What size cake pans do you use?
I use a 6"x3" cake pan. I just love the way it looks, all tall and regal. Like, "hello the carrot cake has arrived". But if you use a standard 9"x2" round you'll need to adjust the cooking time.
How do you get such a flat cake on top without the round dome?
I bake my cakes with strips of wet towel or old shirts that you can cut to be the width of the pan, then secure them with a safety pin. It sounds tedious but it's not and then you can re-use them later. If you don't want to both you can actually buy cake strips. This helps to ensure a relatively flat cake, much more flat then if i don't use them. If it's a little rounded on top i cut it off and let my kids taste test. No sense in throwing away perfectly good cake!
So there you have it, some common carrot cake questions. Are you ready to talk cream cheese frosting? Yeah baby. Or as my son would say, "sweet baby".
The things kids say.
Cream cheese frosting. Let's do it. This is by far the BEST cream cheese frosting. You can taste all that cream cheese (vs the powdered sugar). Here's my secrets to amazing cream cheese frosting, both flavor and consistency.
room temperature butter and cream cheese
vanilla, salt, heavy cream - you need these, don't leave them out
Whip the butter on high speed (scraping the sides every minute) for 5 minutes to get it light and fluffy. It should be a pale color. This is a super important step, if it's not pale and fluffy looking, keep going
Sift the powdered sugar! No lumps.
Only frost a cool cake, if it's too warm it will melt
Since a carrot cake is a spice cake, that's exactly how I treat it. My carrot cake has cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in it. It's so full of flavor, paired with the walnuts then the dreamy silky cream cheese frosting. I hope you'll enjoy this cake as much as my family does!
1 1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c walnuts, chopped
3 c carrots, finely grated (this is about 5 regular sized carrots and about 8-10oz)
cream cheese frosting
1 c butter
1 stick of cream cheese (8 oz)
4 c powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla
splash of heavy cream
Preheat oven to 325
In a stand mixer combine the sugar, oil and buttermilk. Mix on low/med speed for 3 minutes
Add in the eggs one by one
Add in the vanilla
In a separate bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and baking powder
Add the dry ingredients to the wet, all at once and mix on low speed (this helps me from overmixing)
Add in the walnuts and carrots
Mix until just combined, still on low speed
Rub butter all over the inside of your *cake pans, drop in some flour and shake it all around to cover the butter
Turn the pan upside down and give it a bang to get all the excess flour out
Take your wet cloths or cake strips and wrap them around the pans
Fill each pan an even amount
While holding each pan, turn it about in a swirling motion, to get any collected batter from the center to the outside a bit (also helps from getting the big dome in the middle)
Bake for 1 hour up to an extra 20 minutes. Depending on your oven. This can vary greatly. Starting using the toothpick test after 45 minutes. Again, i used 6"x3" round pans, these take longer to bake than a standard 9x2 round
Remove from the oven when a toothpick comes out clean from the middle, cool on a wire rack. After the pan is cool to the touch flip it over and gently catch the cake. Continue cooling until no longer warm
To frost the cake put a big dollop of cream cheese on one half, spread it around, place the other half of the cake on top of this. Add another big dollop of cream cheese on top of that one. Using an offset spatula add the rest of the frosting to the sides.
If you want to get even fancier you can pipe on some rosettes, stars or flowers on top!