Near the end of last year, I started making carrot cake in every way imaginable. I made it a springform pan, with egg whites folded in at the end; with three or four cups of carrots, grated both long and then fine; with white sugar only; with white and brown; with walnuts both toasted and non; I used a loaf pan and the traditional 9-inch rounds.
Some were too flat. Others were too dry. One was so wet it looked like it was crying by day three. I wanted to. I just didn’t feel like I was getting near what I wanted – a carrot cake that was moist but not wet, with lots of carrots and enough spices to set it apart from the rest. And with a ton of cream cheese icing.
After nearly a dozen tries, I struck pay dirt. Carrot cake heaven. This one’s the one. The one that I love more than all of the rest, and that I will love forever.
It is cherry-picked and adapted and otherwise inspired from so many different recipes I don’t even know where I started. The brown and white sugar combo works. The toasting of walnuts is unnecessary. The egg whites folded in business I tossed out early on, even though I love the idea. What I’ve got now is a go-to recipe that’ll work every time.
It goes without saying that more is better when it comes to cream cheese icing, and as you can see, I like to pile this on thick. Cream cheese icing equals love in my book, and I see no reason to hold back on either.
Makes 1 layer cake
- 2 cups/240 grams of flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- ½ teaspoon of sea salt
- 2 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon of cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1 ¼ cups/300 ml of vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil in France)
- 1 cup/215 grams of sugar
- 1 cup/220 grams of brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 cups/390 grams of grated carrots
- 1 cup/100 grams of walnuts, roughly chopped
- ½ cup/1 stick/125 grams of butter, softened
- 3 cups of powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 16 ounces/450 grams of Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup of walnuts, toasted then roughly chopped (optional, for putting on the sides of the finished cake)
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F/190°C and line two 9-inch/23 cm pans with parchment paper and generously grease the sides with butter.
2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Set this aside.
3. Now you’re ready to make your cake. In your stand mixer or in a bowl, mix the oil, sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs and beat for a couple of minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. While the motor’s running on low, add your flour mixture, carrots, and walnuts, and mix just until it comes together — don’t overmix.
4. Pour into your pans, and bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans.
5. Make the icing: Mix the butter with the powdered sugar slowly — add a few spoonfuls of powdered sugar at a time, frequently scrape down the sides. Add and mix in the vanilla. Once the butter, sugar, and vanilla are well combined, add all of the cream cheese and mix just until this comes together. Don’t overbeat this or you’ll end up with watery icing. When you’re icing is ready, go ahead and frost your cake. If you want to decorate the sides with walnuts, gently press the walnuts against the icing with your hand. After you frost your cake, you’ll probably want to let it rest for an hour or so, so the icing will firm up a little bit.
Advance Planning: Make the cake a day ahead and simply wrap the layers in plastic and refrigerate until you’re ready to frost them.