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Classic Carrot Cake with toasted pecans
A deliciously moist layer cake filled with carrots and covered with a silky smooth cream cheese frosting.
It’s really pretty funny. I’ve somehow convinced myself that if I put vegetables in desserts like this Carrot Cake recipe, it’s okay to have a second piece, slice or helping. Yes? Yes. Thanks – just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page.
When you want a delicious, moist and tangy well spiced showstopper, look no further! This amazing recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, is the BEST carrot cake I’ve ever had.
It’s easy to make and comes together like a dream. This cake is perfect year round but we especially love to serve it at Easter dinner.
The tangy frosting is made with all the traditional ingredients like butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and cream cheese. However it also includes a brilliant ingredient to help stabilize the frosting; buttermilk powder. If you’ve never use buttermilk powder before, you’re in for a treat.
Overview of ingredients:
For the Carrot Cake:
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
- baking soda
- cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves
- light brown sugar
- vegetable oil
- large eggs
- vanilla extract
- fresh grated carrots
- dried currants or raisins
For the cream cheese frosting:
- unsalted butter at room temperature
- powdered or confectioners’ sugar
- buttermilk powder
- vanilla extract
- cold cream cheese
- toasted chopped pecans or walnuts
You probably thought I was kidding about getting a serving of vegetables in each slice. This recipe boasts 2 and 2/3 cups of shredded carrots, and plenty of currants; naturally sweet, healthy currants. Oh there are eggs too! There’s lots of protein in eggs.
Overview: how to make this Carrot Cake recipe from scratch
1. First prep the baking pan and cardboard cut-out
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 17×12-inch rimmed baking sheet. Line the pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper. Set aside. Cut a 6×8-inch cardboard rectangle and set aside. I use a cardboard cake circle and cut to fit. The cake will be assembled on the cardboard making it easier to hold and press the pecans onto the sides.
2. Next make the carrot cake batter
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cloves. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the sugar with the wet ingredients: oil, eggs and vanilla. Fold in the carrots and currants with a rubber spatula. Add the flour mixture and fold together just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth evenly. Bake for 15 minutes then cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool.
3. Prepare the cream cheese frosting
Combine the butter, sugar, buttermilk powder, vanilla and salt. Increase the speed and add the cream cheese 1 ounce at a time. Beat until smooth.
4. Assemble the cake
Cut the cake into 4 equal rectangles, 6×8-inches each. Place one layer on the cardboard. Spread frosting over the top of the layer, then repeat with 3 additional layers. Frost the top and sides of the cake.
Hold the cake in one hand and gently press the nuts onto the sides with your other hand. Pipe frosting on top using a large star tip. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
This is a super simple Carrot Cake recipe with no mixer required.
While this recipe does include a few steps, none are difficult or too hard for a novice baker. Whisk the dry ingredients together, then whisk the wet. Combine, bake and adding frosting!
If cutting the cake into layers scares you off, simply bake the cake in a 13×9-inch baking pan. Add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time and make half the frosting recipe. You’re good to go!
This incredibly moist Carrot Cake recipe is loaded with warm spices
While the cake is baking you won’t be able to miss the amazing aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. This flavor trio combines beautifully with the grated carrots and sweet, chewy currants.
Each bite of this moist and delicious cake is an absolute treat. This is the perfect recipe to make for those on the fence about whether or not they love carrot cake. I’m crazy about this cake and bet you will be too!
What is buttermilk powder and do you have to use it?
Buttermilk powder is just like powdered milk. It’s available at most grocery stores and has been around for ages. Look for it in the baking aisle of your local grocery store near the powdered milk. It’s not expensive and lasts a very long time.
We like the Saco brand buttermilk powder and often find it at Wal-Mart for $4.50 per 12 ounce container. If you don’t want to buy something special, no worries. Just omit the buttermilk powder and make the frosting as written.
Why we love buttermilk powder in cream cheese frosting
One of the things I really love about this recipe is how the buttermilk powder helps stabilize the cream cheese frosting.
Sometimes cream cheese frosting can thin once it warms to room temperature. This frosting stays consistently perfect and the buttermilk powder gives it just the right amount of tang.
This is especially important when sticking loads of pecans on the sides of the cake. The weight of the pecans may make it hard to stay in place if the frosting softens too much.
But no worries, this cream cheese frosting recipe is so good and worth the extra purchase to ensure perfection.
How to store carrot cake
Carrot cake should be refrigerated at least an hour before serving. Once cut, leftovers can also be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
You can also freeze individual slices of carrot cake in airtight container for up to 2 months. Simply thaw overnight in the refrigerator then leave out at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.
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For the cake:
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (226g)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 ¼ cups light brown sugar lightly packed (282g)
- ¾ cup vegetable oil (6oz)
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ⅔ cups shredded carrots about 5 large (use the large holes of a box grater to shred)
- ⅔ cups dried currants
For the frosting:
- 20 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature (282g or 1 ¼ cups)
- ½ cup buttermilk powder found with regular powdered milk in the grocery store
- 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 16 ounces cream cheese chilled and cut into 16 equal pieces
- 3 ¾ cups powdered sugar (430g)
- 2 ½ cups chopped pecans toasted
To prepare the cake batter:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 17×12 inch rimmed baking sheet. Line the pan with parchment paper and grease the parchment lightly. Set aside.
- Cut a 6 by 8-inch rectangle out of a cardboard cake round and set aside.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cloves until blended. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl whisk the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together. Be sure to break up any clumps of brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Fold in the carrots and currants with a spatula. Add the flour mixture and fold together just until combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan and smooth with an off-set spatula until even. Bake for 15-16 minutes or until the center of the cake is firm to the touch. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then invert onto a wire rack (do not remove the parchment paper) and then invert again on another wire rack so the parchment side is down and the cake is up. Cool completely.
To prepare the frosting:
- Combine butter, sugar, buttermilk powder, vanilla and salt on low speed of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend about 2 minutes scraping down the sides and bottom as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and add the cream cheese 1 piece at a time. This can be done by adding a piece every 15 seconds or so until all cream cheese is incorporated. Beat another two minutes until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and blend until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and blend again.
To assemble the cake:
- Place the cake on a large cutting board (parchment side down) and cut the cake in half crosswise and then in half lengthwise to make 4 equal rectangles, each 6 by 8 inches. Place one cake rectangle, parchment side up, on the cardboard. Remove the parchment paper. Spread a heaping ⅔ cup of frosting on the first cake layer. Repeat with two more layers, frosting each with a heaping ⅔ cup of frosting. Press gently on each layer to keep the cake level. Place the last layer on top and spread a thin layer of frosting or 1 heaping cup if you choose not to pipe additional frosting on top. Frost the sides of the cake. Hold the cake in one hand and gently press the chopped pecans onto the sides with your other hand. Pipe frosting on top using a large star tip.
- Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
A delicious, moist and well spiced perfect Carrot Cake Recipe!
This cake is great for events as it serves at least a dozen. It’s easy to mike up and no mixer is required. The combination of pecans, carrots, loads of warm spices and chewy currants make this an exceptional dessert.