The Easter Bunny came and went, but we are remembering him fondly today with this outstanding carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and chopped walnuts. I get mad at carrot cakes that are jam packed full of raisins, nuts and pineapples, those are all good things that have no place in my cake! I am a carrot cake purist, I want a full rich cake with strong carrot flavor and texture, and a hearty portion of slightly tart cream cheese frosting to set it all off. What’s most magical about this cake is how the carrots start to caramelize in places and you get little crunchy, chewy sweet bits of carrot with a perfectly seasoned cake keeping it all together for a truly unforgettable cake experience. I love it with fresh chopped walnuts on top of the frosting, for some reason they taste way better to me on top of the cake than they do in the cake. My Mom usually makes this in a 9×13 pyrex, in which case you bake it for about 50-55 minutes. I made it into an layer cake for dramatic effect, but suit yourself, it’s incredibly delicious either way!
For the Cake:
1 1/4 vegetable oil or coconut oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 generous cups finely grated carrots
For the Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese (two 8 oz bars) room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup butter (2 sticks) room temperature
2 pounds powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 cup walnuts (more or less as you desire)
- Preheat oven to 350 and grease (I also parchment line) two 9 inch round cake pans. If you haven’t yet get out your butter and cream cheese to get them to room temperature for the frosting.
- Blend oil and sugars until really well combined. Beat in eggs two at a time until totally incorporated. Whisk together your dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Sift in dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add carrots and give is a good mix so they are evenly distributed but don’t over-mix.
- Pour into your pans trying to keep them as even as possible. Bake for 28-35 minutes rotating once. Pay attention to doneness more than bake times. Cakes should be raised, pulling slightly from the sides and a toothpick in the middle should come out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 or so minutes before turning out on to a rack to cool completely.
- For the frosting, beat your room temp cream cheese and butter until nicely combined. Add vanilla, then start to add your powdered sugar scraping down completely a few times to make sure your frosting doesn’t have any dry spots. I found I like the consistency better with a tablespoon or so of milk, but that’s optional. Use as much sugar or milk as is needed to reach a nice sturdy frosting that can hold up in a layer cake – thick, but still spreadable.
- Put first cake layer down on your cake board or plate then spread a generous layer of frosting on the top. Try to only touch your frosting tool to the frosting and never to the cake to avoid pulling up crumbs. Another tip is to use more frosting than you think you need – really pile it on, you can always take it off as you frost your cake, but if you’re needing to add more it isn’t as easy to work with. Once you have a solid 1/2 inch plus layer on your bottom cake put your next cake on top and pile frosting high then work it over the top and sides with a knife or frosting tool. I love this offset frosting spatula from Ateco. Turn your cake as you frost to evenly distribute your frosting, you will probably have some left over for your next batch of cupcakes or to decorate cookies with.
- Chop walnuts and carefully press them into the top of your cake. Keep at room temperature and enjoy!