I tend to be really particular about desserts; I don't really like overly sweet or rich desserts, especially after a large meal. To me, a super-sugary dessert ruins a good meal, and usually leaves me feeling uncomfortably full. I actually prefer a sweet bread such as date nut or banana nut to a heavy chocolate cake (I still will never decline a piece of GOOD cheesecake, though!). Carrot cake has always been at the top of my list when it comes to cake flavors and can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
This carrot cake recipe comes from Ina Garten, and includes only a few small changes. I used canned crushed pineapple instead of fresh, and, because I have a ton of local pecans, I substituted them for the walnuts. This cake is moist, full of flavor, and not overly sweet; most of the sweetness comes from the airy, whipped cream cheese frosting on top.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Ina Garten
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups canola or vegetable oil
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
1 lb carrots, peeled & grated
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 8oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tsp milk
1 lb powdered/confectioner's sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 8" round cake pans. Line with parchment paper if desired. The original recipe calls for two cake pans, but the layers end up very thick. I prefer to use 3 pans for thinner layers.
Combine the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in a mixing bowl; mix on medium speed for 2 minutes or until light yellow.
In a separate bowl, combine the 2 1/2 cups of flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt; whisk to combine.
Add the flour mixture to the egg & oil mixture and mix on low speed until just incorporated - the batter will be thick. In a small bowl, toss the raisins and pecans with the remaining 1 Tbsp of flour. With a wooden spoon, fold the raisins, pecans, grated carrots and crushed pineapple into the batter until combined.
If you have a food processor with a shredding disc, use it. I used a box grater, which took forever and also removed a large portion of my knuckle when I accidentally slipped :(
Divide batter among the three pans; bake for 30 minutes in the center of the oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and 3 Tbsp of milk; mix on low to incorporate.
Slowly add the powdered sugar while still mixing on low speed until fully incorporated. Increase the speed to medium/medium-high and whip the frosting for 2-3 minutes, adding an additional Tbsp of milk if necessary to reach the desired consistency.
I finally got to use my new mixer, and it's AWESOME (Thanks, Mom & Dad!)
Frost the cake once the cake layers have completely cooled. I like to cut strips of wax paper and place them on the cake platter, underneath the bottom layer. Once the cake is frosting, the wax paper strips can be easily pulled out from underneath the cake, leaving a clean platter.
Spread 1/4 of the frosting atop the first cake layer and spread evenly. Top with the second layer and repeat with another 1/4 of the frosting. Place the 3rd layer atop the cake and then frost the sides and top of the cake. If the frosting becomes difficult to work with, simply chill the cake and frosting for a few minutes, then try again. Garnish with chopped pecans if desired.
Store any leftover cake covered in the refrigerator. Serve cold or allow to come to room temperature.