Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Ultimate Carrot Cake

Carrot cake has to be one of my dad's top three favorite desserts in whole wide world. When it came to deciding what dessert to make for his big 5-0, I struggled a bit only because I knew the other two favorites in the back of my mind too. After much contemplation, I knew it had to be carrot cake. Not just any carrot cake though. It had to be the ultimate carrot cake. Carrot cake with homemade candied carrot curls and toasted pecans all on the outside. How to on making the candied carrot curls coming up this week!

This past Easter I made my first carrot cake - a two layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and nuts. Lots of nuts. Boy oh boy was it good, but I wanted to step it up a couple of notches for my dad's big day. I did some research online and was able to find the perfect recipe - a three layer carrot cake with raisins and pecans. Are you drooling yet? I sure am. In fact, I wish I would have saved a piece and kept it in the freezer for times like these. 

You might be thinking, three layers, that sounds tough. Honestly, it's really not that hard to make a mult-layer cake. In fact, I much prefer to make these than sheet cakes. They take a little bit more work, but just look so much prettier.  The most important thing about making multi-layer cakes is that you have to make sure you have the right tools - the right size pans and parchment paper. The first time I made a carrot cake I did not use parchment paper. Even though I sprayed non-stick spray like there was no tomorrow, some of the carrots stuck. Since it was two layers and there was a middle section, there was really nothing to worry about and you could just peel up the missing chunks and place them back where they belonged. But I am a perfectionist when it comes to my baking (especially for other people) and only want to produce the best products. So, I made a mental note that next time I would use parchment not only for easy clean up, but for easy cake removal. This time around, those cakes were practically hopping out the pan and they were so even and nice. If you do not have parchment in your pantry, please go get some. It's has so many uses and is a must in your kitchen!

This cake is super easy, super moist and best of all a real winner. The hardest part is trying not to eat the batter or the frosting (yes, I always sample prior to baking!). I guess if you had to choose a hard part, it would have to be grating those carrots. If you have a food processor or a kitchen aid attachment that grates like I do (thanks Kris!), this will definitely be your best friend here since you will need 3 cups of good 'ol carrot. You can always use a box grater too, it will just take longer and you might loose some knuckle skin. I've done that in the past. Ouch. Now for the best part - frosting! This cream cheese frosting is not too sweet and was the perfect way for me to use up the last of my massive Costco supply of cream cheese that I bought for all the baking I did for Ryan's graduation party. Finally, no more cream cheese in my fridge! You can use this frosting for almost any cake you'd like a cream cheese frosting for - red velvet or even a banana cake. Wow, banana and cream cheese frosting. I'm drooling again.

If you or someone you know loves carrot cake, you've got to try this one. If you don't like carrot cake (why would you not?!), this will change your mind about carrot cake. I promise!

Warning - there are a lot of photos here. I wanted to make sure to show you each step so that you can see just how easy making your own layered cakes can be!

cake ingredients. if it has carrots, it has to be healthy, right?

swirling pecans.

pans lined with parchment. tip- spray the bottom of the pan with non-stick spray and then put the parchment circle in. Then, spray some more. This will help with easy removal of the paper after baking.

cooling cakes. I put mine on foil sprayed with a little non-stick spray so that the cake doesn't adhere to the foil.

When you are ready to frost, put the first layer on the middle of the plate you are going to use. I always line mine with parchment strips to that you don't get frosting all over the plate. Just pull them out gently when you are done and you have a mess free plate!

see, I told you I had a huge block of cream cheese

add the powdered sugar gently otherwise you will end up being covered in it.

layers stacked and sandwiched with the frosting

fully frosted. If I were not covering the sides with nuts, I would have smoothed this out a bit more. If you want to go without the nuts, just use a butter knife and gently go around in one swoop to clean it all up so it's nice and even.


final cake without the 5-0 candles. excuse the cake mess behind it.

don't think anyone liked the cake, haha. this is after one night and one afternoon of cake eating!

See, I told you that was a lot of photos!

Triple-Layer Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (about 1/2 ounce)
1/2 cup raisins (regular or golden)
1 cup chopped pecans (for sides of cake) - optional

4 cups powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with waxed paper. Lightly grease waxed paper. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots, chopped pecans and raisins. Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.) 

For frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy. Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with another cake layer. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Using icing spatula, spread remaining frosting in decorative swirls over sides and top of cake. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome or plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Serve cake cold or at room temperature. 

Recipe from

My #1 question with carrot cake is raisins or no raisins? It seems like 50% of people say yay and the other half says no way. I love raisins, so I say the more the merrier. Do you like raisins in your carrot cake?

1 comment:

  1. My FAVORITE cake to make. Love licking the frosting bowl clean! :D