Fall hasn’t really begun until you have a slice of this Carrot Cake.
There are some who say that vegetables and desserts do not mix—I have even said it. I think that’s because it’s easy to have bad carrot cake. Dense, raisin bran-esque, heavily frosted carrot cake. This recipe is just the opposite. Super moist, with a nice crunch from the walnuts, and plenty of fall spices. Maybe I’m biased, but it’s the best carrot cake I’ve ever had.
Now if you’ll indulge me as I combine my love for baking with my love of useless facts and bring you a little carrot cake trivia. Obligatory, pastry nerd alert! The origins of carrot cake are in Medieval Times, when sugar was a luxury item. Back then, they used carrots as a sugar substitue to create pudding for special banquets. You can put carrot pudding down as Reason #382 to be thankful you don’t live in Medieval Times.
Carrot cake gets its big break during WWII, when the Allies propagated that the Vitamin A in carrots would enhance your night vision, when really it was just a cover for their use of new radar technology to track German planes. Kind of genius, no? With a sugar ration and government campaigns encouraging people to eat carrots in any way possible, carrot cake’s place in the dessert hall of fame was sealed.
Back to present day. Cream cheese frosting is the traditional pairing for carrot cake, but it has a lot of haters. I myself don’t like a ton of cream cheese icing, which is why I used a light hand when decorating my cake and went for the ever-so pretty “naked” look. If you’re pro-CCF and want people to know it, I’d times the frosting recipe by 1.5. Now I’m not sure on the history of how carrort cake met it’s soul mate in cream cheese frosting, butI promise you’ll be the first to know when I do.
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ tsp. orange zest
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
- 7 oz. carrots, shredded
- 2 ¼ cups flour
- 1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- 2 oz. walnuts, toasted and finely chopped plus more for decoration
- 2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. cinnamon, optional
- 2 ¼ cups powdered sugar, sifted
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat three* 8-inch pans with non-stick spray. Sprinkle pans generously with flour. Shake until flour evenly coats pans. Tap out excess flour and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, mix together sugar and orange zest. Add eggs one at a time until combined.
- Slowly pour in oil. Add dry ingredients in two additions. Finally fold in carrots and walnuts. Don’t over mix!
- Distribute batter evenly into prepared pans and bake for 17-20 minutes. Cake layers are ready when they are starting to brown, spring back when touched, and pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow to rest in pans for 5 minutes before flipping them out to cool completely.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached, cream together butter and cream cheese on low speed. Scrape well and mix until smooth.
- Add vanilla extract, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. Beat on medium-low until smooth
- Fill and decorate the cake layers with your newly made cream cheese frosting and enjoy!
- *This recipe either makes a three-layer cake with thin layers or a two-layer cake with slightly thick layers. I like the look of a three-layer cake, but thinner layers are more difficult to work with. Choose your own adventure!