The Best Carrot Cake
A favorite cake for many celebrations, carrot cake is a fairly basic cake with a cream cheese frosting. For some reason it intimidates people and they don’t want to try and bake one themselves. That’s a shame because a homemade carrot cake with a rice, creamy frosting is one of life’s little pleasures.
I really like this recipe. I found it in a magazine (I think it was Bon Apetit) a long time ago and have made it many times. Two of my children pick this cake as their birthday cake and I make it for big events. It’s easy to get creative with the frosting and I am a showboat!
This recipe calls for rum, which I think gives the cake a richer taste. You can omit the rum if you want (it’s only 3 tablespoons) and substitute 1 tablespoon of milk. The raisins are also optional but they add moisture and a nice flavor.
I use my stand mixer for both the batter and the frosting. You can whisk by hand but it will be a bit of a challenge. A hand mixer will do the job but I like the consistency that is achieved with a stand mixer.
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- ½ cup golden raisins (optional)
- 3 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 pound carrots, peeled, coarsely grated
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Generous pinch of kosher salt
- 4 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat two 9″-diameter cake pans with nonstick spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds; lightly coat rounds with nonstick spray. If using raisins and rum, heat together in a small saucepan over low just until warm, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit until liquid is absorbed and raisins are plump, 15–20 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes; let cool. Combine carrots and buttermilk in a medium bowl.
Whisk flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until pale and thick, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually stream in oil. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with carrot mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; mix until smooth. Fold in raisins, if using, and walnuts with a rubber spatula. Scrape batter into prepared pans.
Bake cakes, rotating pans halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35–45 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cakes cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around sides of cakes and invert onto wire rack; remove parchment. Let cool completely.
Frosting and Assembly
Using an electric stand or hand mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla extract and salt. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in powdered sugar. Increase speed to high and beat frosting until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Place 1 cake, domed side down, on a platter. Spread ¾ cup frosting evenly over top. Place remaining cake, domed side down, on top. Spread top and sides with 1¼ cups frosting and chill 30 minutes to let frosting set. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides, swirling decoratively.