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classic carrot cake

classic carrot cake

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  • Author: Sepideh Esmaili Campos
  • Yield: serves 8-10 1x



Carrot cake: 

  • Baking spray for the pans (I use coconut oil spray)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon grand marnier (or whisky, rum, or water)
  • 1 ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil 
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature 
  • 3 cups grated carrots* 
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (or use “halves and pieces” from the grocery store)
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Cream cheese frosting: 

  • 12 ounces cream cheese (1 ½ packages), at room temperature
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), at room temperature
  • Zest of 1 fresh lemon, grated (about 1 teaspoon zest)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar


Bake the cakes:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the center of the oven. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 
  3. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. 
  4. Spray the pans and the paper with baking spray, set aside. 
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside. 
  6. Combine the raisins and grand marnier in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Microwave for 20 seconds to plump the raisins, set aside. 
  7. In another large mixing bowl, whisk together the canola oil and sugar until combined. 
  8. Add the eggs to the oil and sugar, one at a time, whisking between each addition. 
  9. Once the oil, sugar, and eggs are fully combined and the mixture looks syrupy, add the flour mixture and fold to combine using a large rubber spatula. 
  10. Mix just until there are no more visible pieces of flour left. 
  11. Tip the soaked raisins (and their juices), shredded carrots, walnuts, and coconut into the batter. 
  12. Fold gently with the rubber spatula to just combine. 
  13. Divide the batter evenly among the two prepared cake pans and place on the center rack of the oven, side by side. 
  14. Bake until the cakes are dark brown, spring back when touched, are starting to pull away from the sides, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes**. Be sure to check the cakes halfway through baking and rotate the pans and swap their positions on the rack. 
  15. Once the cakes are baked, remove them from the oven and let them cool at room temperature on a wire cooling rack. 
  16. After 30 minutes of cooling, run a small sharp knife around the edges of the cakes to release them from the pan. 
  17. Turn the cakes out onto the baking racks, remove the pans, and let the cakes cool completely before frosting. 

Make the frosting: 

  1. While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. 
  2. Place the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer. 
  3. With the paddle attachment in place, whip the butter and cheese together on medium speed until fully combined, 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula a couple times during the mixing process. 
  4. Add the lemon zest, juice, and salt to the butter mixture and mix on medium speed to combine. 
  5. Stop the mixer after a couple minutes and remove the bowl from its stand. 
  6. Place a large sieve over the cream cheese and butter bowl and sift the powdered sugar into the bowl. 
  7. Place the bowl back into the stand mixer. 
  8. Turn the mixer on at low speed to prevent a powdered sugar cloud. Run the mixer until the sugar is starting to combine, 60 seconds. 
  9. Increase the speed to medium and whip until the frosting is fully combined and smooth. 

Frost the cakes:

  1. Transfer one of the cool cakes onto a cake stand, right side up. 
  2. Use an offset spatula to spread ⅓ of the frosting generously over the top of the cake. Let some of the frosting creep over the edge of the cake to help you frost the sides later. 
  3. Place the second cooled cake, right side up, on top of the frosting layer. 
  4. Spread half of the remaining frosting evenly over the top of the cake, letting the sides creep over the edge a bit. 
  5. Use the remaining frosting to frost the sides of the cake, sweeping off any excess with your offset spatula. 
  6. If extra frosting remains, transfer it to a piping back and decorate the cake as desired or pipe little mounds of frosting to place the marzipan carrots on (if using). 
  7. Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set the frosting. 
  8. Serve the cake at room temperature and store covered leftovers in the refrigerator.


*You can use pre-shredded carrots from the grocery store, just pulse them in the food processor a few times to break down any very long pieces.

**Baking times can vary based on your oven. Check the cakes often after the 40minute mark so you don’t over cook them. You can also do the sound test: hold the pan up to your ear (using oven mitts since the pans will be hot). If you hear a lot of sizzling, the cake is still wet inside and needs to bake longer. If the cake is mostly quiet, you can remove it from the oven.