Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
The rich, slightly tangy cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement to the cake’s spicy sweetness.
Flavor and nostalgia are important. When I asked Husband which cake he’d like for his birthday, his eyes went soft and he sighed, “Carrot cake.” There seemed to be a heavy element of childhood memories in that sigh.
I said, “With cream cheese frosting?” And Husband gave me a brilliant smile. Yes.
So The Little One and I got together in the kitchen. That is, she put me in charge of baking the cake, and took over the frosting side of things. The rich, slightly tangy cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement to the cake’s rough texture and spicy sweetness. It’s pretty good all by itself, as a matter of fact. Every time I moved to that side of the counter, I’d stick a surreptitious finger into that cool white, creamy frosting and lick it off.
I have happy carrot cake memories myself. My mom used to bake one occasionally. It was always good; moist, dense, spicy, just carroty enough. Mom would add walnuts to the batter and decorate the outside rim of the cake with walnut halves. But Husband prefers without nuts, so that’s how I made the cake. Feel easy adding walnuts or pecans – they’re included in the recipe – but the cake was very good without them, too.
Another note: My oven isn’t wide enough to accept two layer pans, so I baked the cake in one 9″ round cake pan. The Little One cut through the cooled cake to make two layers – uneven layers, as you see, but we decided that uneven is cute – endearingly awkward. And instead of nuts, she studded the rim of the cake with chocolate chips. Husband adored the cake, which made everyone happy. And it was as good as Mom’s.
- 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup oil
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups sifted white flour
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups grated carrots
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 cup cream cheese
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 3 teaspoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup halved walnuts or pecans, or chocolate chips, to decorate
For the frosting
Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).
Line a 9″ cake pan with baking parchment, or grease it well and flour it. You may also use two 8″ layer pans.
Beat brown sugar, oil and eggs until blended.
Add flour, spices, baking soda, vanilla and salt. Beat again.
Add carrots and nuts, lifting batter from the bottom of the bowl as you stir to distribute everything evenly.
Bake the cake for 45 minutes if using a single 9″ pan; 30-35 minutes for the smaller layer pans. When a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake emerges clean, it’s done.
Cool cake on a rack.
Using an electric beater, beat cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar, a cup at a time. Beat again until everything is smooth.
Frost the single cake or spread frosting thickly on a layer cake. Top with more frosting. Decorate with nuts or chocolate chips.
Keep the cake, covered, in the refrigerator. It stays good for 4 days, if it lasts that long.