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A slice of carrot cake on a blue plate with a candied carrot peel.
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Carrot Cake

When it's made right, Carrot Cake is one of the best desserts in the world. This easy, two-bowl recipe relies on toasted pecans and the perfect amount of spice in an amazingly moist cake that's even more magnificent the next day. And for a festive finishing touch, the whole thing is topped with bouncy candied carrot curls.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 16 slices
Calories 677kcal

Ingredients

For the carrot cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil (see note 1)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups carrots peeled and grated (about 5 to 6, see note 2)
  • 1 cup raisins (see note 3)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans coarsely chopped

For the cream cheese frosting:

Instructions

To make the Carrot Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottom with parchment paper, then coat the top of the paper with nonstick spray (we call this "spray-paper-spray"). 
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a standing mixer fit with the paddle attachment, or in a medium bowl by hand, beat together oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Add the flour mixture in batches, about 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in carrots, raisins, and pecans. By hand, scrape the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
  • Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans. Bake until the tops of the cake layers are springy when touched and when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  • Cool cakes in pans for 15 minutes then turn out onto cooling racks, peel off parchment paper and cool completely.

To make the cream cheese frosting:

  • In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, or using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla.
  • Reduce speed to low and beat in the powdered sugar, a 1 cup at a time, until fluffy. Chill covered until ready to frost cake.
  • When the cake layers are completely cool, use a serrated knife to slice the dome off the top of each cake to make the layer completely flat.
  • To a serving platter, add one cake layer. Cover completely with a thick layer (about 1 1/2 cups) frosting. Add second layer and frost the top (another 1 1/2 cups) and outside of cake (about 2 cups). Decorate with toasted pecans and candied carrot curls, if desired.

Notes

  1. Vegetable oil: Choose a good neutral oil. Canola oil, vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, or even a very light-flavored olive oil works. 
  2. Carrots: For this recipe, I grate the carrots by hand. This may seem like a lot of work, but trust me: juicy, freshly grated carrots make all the difference. Pre-packaged bags of shredded carrots are too dry and just won't taste as good.
  3. Raisins and pecans: Substitute 1 1/2 cups of any of your preferred mix-ins such as golden raisins, currants, extra carrot, orange zest, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, walnuts, or toasted cashews.
  4. Cream cheese: The foil-wrapped blocks make a better frosting than the whipped cream cheese in the tub.
  5. Candied carrot curls: A crispy, sweet carrot garnish that looks great on top of the frosting. Make these a day ahead and store them in an airtight container at room temperature to keep them crunchy.
  6. Spray-paper-spray: Prevent your baked goods from sticking to the pan with these 3 steps. Spray the insides of the pans with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick spray.
  7. Make ahead: This cake only gets better with a little time. By better, I mean moister, richer, and more flavorful. Personally I love to refrigerate the frosted cake overnight and eat it cold. It's the best!
  8. Storing: Technically, you should refrigerate any cake with cream cheese frosting. If making ahead, take it out of the refrigerator an hour or two before serving so the frosting has time to warm to room temperature and the cake loses its chill.
  9. Freezing: I like to freeze unfrosted carrot cake layers for last minute birthday cakes--all I have to do is whip up the cream cheese frosting. Wrap the cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and freezer bags and freeze for 2 to 3 months. Thaw completely overnight in the refrigerator before assembling and frosting.

Nutrition

Calories: 677kcal | Carbohydrates: 99g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 441mg | Potassium: 266mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 77g | Vitamin A: 6016IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg