BAKES/ FALL/ HOLIDAY/ SPRING/ SUMMER/ SWEETS/ WINTER

A Carrot Cake for All Seasons

Hello and Welcome! Is there any time of year when a Carrot Cake isn’t welcome? Its warm spice is as perfectly at home in the fall and winter as it is in the spring, when we all have Easter on our minds. When I lived in Alaska, every birthday party I went to had a Carrot Cake. Why was this cake so ubiquitous? Is it because somehow if it has a vegetable in it, it feels like less of an indulgence? It’s still cake y’all! Frosting, sugar…still cake. Anywho, it’s Alex’s favorite cake and he doesn’t like pie, so if you’re in that camp too, why not make a Carrot Cake for Thanksgiving dessert? Let’s do it!

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting topped with toasted pecans

I think my favorite part about Carrot Cake is the combination of tangy cream cheese frosting and the mellow sweetness of the cake itself. We also have toasted pecans, which make a nice, rustic decoration on top and give the cake a good variety of texture. I found this recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction; it’s a very moist cake with great flavor.

Let’s start with toasting those pecans. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. This is another great use for my pizza cutting blade. The back and forth rocking action of the curved blade makes chopping nuts a breeze. You want one cup of nuts for the batter and depending on how much you want for decorating the cake, anywhere from 1/4 to 1 cup to go on the frosted cake.

Spread the chopped pecans in a single layer on the sheet and toast them for about 8 minutes. Pull them from the oven and let them cool, turn the oven up to 350 degrees. Grate four large carrots on a box grater, or with the grater blade in a food processor. You want two cups of grated carrots. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray, and line each pan with a circle of parchment paper, then spray the parchment paper. Now, let’s make the batter.

Carrot Cake Batter

In a batter bowl or 8-cup measuring cup, mix the sugars and the wet ingredients. We have vanilla, eggs, dark brown sugar, vegetable oil, white sugar and unsweetened apple sauce. Mix these with a whisk until very smooth, without any lumps of sugar.

Onto the dry ingredients. In a larger, separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. We have flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger nutmeg, and cloves. Whisk together the dry ingredients until the spices are well distributed.

Now, pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix with a silicone spatula until it just comes together.

Now, fold in the grated carrots and then 1 cup of the toasted, chopped pecans.

carrot cake batter

Pour the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. You can use a scale to weigh the pours if you’re worried about distributing the batter unevenly. I just eyeballed it and hoped for the best.

Bake the Cakes!

unbaked carrot cakes

For baking, I like to place the cakes on a large sheet tray, it’s just easier for me to maneuver them together on one surface. Slide the sheet tray into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Until the cakes are golden, risen and a wooden skewer comes out clean.

baked carrot cakes

Set the pans on a wire rack to cool completely. I like to make cakes a day ahead of frosting them, so I let them sit out for four or five hours, until I almost forgot about them. Then, I turn them out on a two sheets of plastic wrap arranged in a cross, fold the sides up and over the cake to tightly wrap each cake. Then I put them fridge until the next day.

But then, actually two days passed.

Cream Cheese Frosting!

cream cheese frosting ingredients

Easy cream cheese frosting is just cream cheese, butter, vanilla, a pinch of Kosher salt and a whole lot of powdered sugar. Let the butter and cream cheese sit on the counter for an hour or two until it’s very soft. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer) beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium-high until it’s smooth. Then add the powdered sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat on low for about 30 seconds, then switch to high and beat for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is smooth.

The frosting should be silky smooth and soft; not runny, but also spreadable. If it seems too thin, add more powdered sugar, if it feels too thick add a little milk.

Assemble and Frost the Cake

On a cake stand or large plate, place one of the cakes upside down, so the bottom (flat side) is on top. Spread frosting on the first cake in an even layer. I made my middle layer of frosting pretty thick, so I put the whole thing in the fridge for 20 minutes so that the next layer of cake wouldn’t squish out too much of the frosting.

If your kitchen is pretty warm like mine, it’s totally fine to take your time and refrigerate the cake between applications of frosting so that the cake and frosting holds its shape.

Lay the second cake upside down on top of the frosted bottom cake. Spoon a generous amount of frosting on top and spread it outwards from the center.

Let the frosting spread over the top and down the sides, this will make frosting the sides easier as you will have frosting already making its way downward. Use an offset spatula to smooth the frosting around the sides.

Once I had the sides covered, I popped it back in the fridge for 30 minutes. If I was doing a fancy cake, frosting the sides is usually a thin layer called a crumb coat, which just seals in the crumbs so the final layer of frosting isn’t mottled with crumbs.

After 30 minutes in the fridge, I just ran my offset spatula around the sides to smooth out the frosting. The beauty of a carrot cake is that it can be as rustic as you want. Maybe you want to leave the sides naked. Totally fine. Or maybe you want to only frost a crumb-coat layer on the sides, also totally fine.

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Top the cake with the remaining toasted, chopped pecans in whatever design you like. I went for a half moon-kind of decoration. Or leave the nuts off altogether. Baker’s choice.

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting topped with toasted pecans

Even if you are not refrigerating the cake between frosting applications like I did, place it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before slicing into it. Use a sharp knife (I used my utility knife) to make smooth cuts all the way through the cake; slide a pie or cake spatula under the wedge to pull the slice out.

Moist cake flecked with bright strands of carrot, and toasted chopped pecans. Spiced with cloves and ginger, soft and smooth vanilla cream cheese frosting. A Carrot Cake really is a cake for all seasons!

Thank you for stopping by today for this sweet treat. Cake might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Thanksgiving desserts. But if you or someone in your family is not a fan of pie, having a cake that feels right at home with all the Fall flavors is great. Last year we did the Rebel Thanksgiving Cheesecake, so if Carrot Cake isn’t your thing, try that! Remember, you can follow me on Instagram to see stories and posts from life at Djalali Cooks! Take care and be well, xo Kelly

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Dessert American
By Original Recipe by Sally's Baking Addiction Serves: 10-12
Prep Time: 25 Minutes Cooking Time: 30 Minutes Total Time: ~4 Hours, with cake cooling time

Moist cake flecked with bright carrot, and toasted chopped pecans. Spiced with cloves and ginger. Frosted with vanilla cream cheese frosting. A Carrot Cake really is a cake for all seasons!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Chopped Pecans (1 cup for cake, 1/4-1 cup for garnish. Optional )
  • 1.5 cups Packed Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 3/4 cup Smooth Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Bean Paste
  • 2.5 cups All-Purpose Flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1.2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Cloves
  • 2 cups Grated Carrots (about 4 large)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 16 oz. Full-fat Block Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1.5 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Bean Paste
  • Pinch of Kosher salt, to taste

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 300°F.

2

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the chopped pecans on the sheet and toast for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.

3

Turn the oven up to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray, line with a circle of parchment paper, then spray the parchment paper.

4

Whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla together in a large bowl until combined and no sugar lumps remain.

5

In another large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together.

6

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, using a rubber spatula, fold the ingredients together until just combined.

7

Fold in the carrots and 1 cup of the toasted pecans.

8

Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Test the center with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cakes are done. If not, continue to bake until cooked through.

9

Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling. Optionally, you can let the cakes cool completely, turn out of cake pans and tightly wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.

Cream Cheese Frosting

10

In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

11

Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.

12

Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until completely combined and creamy.

13

Frosting should be soft, but not runny. You can add more powdered sugar if the frosting is too runny, or a little milk if it's too thick.

Assemble and Frost

14

On a cake stand or large plate, place one of the cakes upside down, so the bottom (flat side) is on top. Spread frosting on the first layer in an even layer.

15

Lay the second cake upside down on top of the frosted bottom cake. Spoon a generous amount of frosting on top and spread it outwards from the center.

16

Let the frosting spread over the top and down the sides. Use an offset spatula to smooth the frosting around the sides.

17

Top the cake with the remaining toasted, chopped pecans in whatever design you like.

18

Place the cake in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing into it.

Notes

If your kitchen is pretty warm like mine, it's totally fine to take your time and refrigerate the cake between applications of frosting so that the cake and frosting holds its shape.

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  • Mari
    October 28, 2021 at 9:58 am

    That cake is just beautiful, and I will make that at least once during the holidays, most likely twice. I prefer cake to pie, but I don’t eat much cake either. My oldest son doesn’t like cake, but he loves pie, and has had a birthday pie every year since he was seven. That’s a lot of pies. If it isn’t a birthday or holiday, I don’t do much baking, unless I see a good recipe here. We were all spoiled by my darling mother in-law who was famous for her pies. They were so good because of the crust, and every year my sister-in-law’s husband asked for a dozen pie crusts, which he put in the freezer until his wife was making a pie! While her pies were legendary, and I had a slice or two back in the day, My husband could also make a good pie, but we didn’t have that gene in my family. Over the years I learned to make a decent crust, but with only two people in the house, most desserts are not eaten quickly enough and they get stale. I always freeze a cake layer for another time, since one does it for us. I prefer cakes, and specifically spice cake or carrot cake. This one sounds especially good because there is a generous amount of spices in it. Way to kill two cravings at once! I have a jar of applesauce that has been moping around my cupboard for a couple of months, and now I have something to do with him. Are you sure you don’t have spies in my kitchen reporting back on things I need to use? Thanks for a gorgeous recipe that will grace my table on Thanksgiving, and probably on Christmas too. Happy Thursday Kelly, Alex, Terry and blog lovers everywhere.

    • Kelly Djalali
      October 28, 2021 at 12:08 pm

      Hi Mari, When I took half of this cake up to my neighbor and her husband, she told me that she freezes one layer, then cuts the other layer in half to make half a frosted layer cake. I can’t believe it never occurred to me to do that before! But I suppose it makes more sense to make the whole cake for the blog…although, maybe a good post would be to do just like my neighbor Sue does to show folks how to scale back a cake for two! Thanks for writing in today, we have a rainy day here in Athens, so my day today is all about cleaning my ovens and oven vent! Fun stuff ? Take care, xo Kelly

      • Mari
        October 28, 2021 at 4:08 pm

        That’s how I do it too. I just started doing it that way so nothing gets wasted. I really wish someone made a half cake saver for those of us who only do half a cake. I bet it would actually sell very well. I would buy one. Maybe two. I have a beautiful glass one but it’s way too big.

  • Terry
    October 28, 2021 at 10:05 am

    Yummm nothing like a good carrot cake. It’s also Gages favorite cake. I have made this one before minus the pecans (not a fan of nuts in my desserts) but the dusting on top looks really pretty. Have a great Thursday go braves ???Mom

    • Kelly Djalali
      October 28, 2021 at 12:10 pm

      I didn’t know it was Gage’s favorite too! He will really like this cake, it’s a perfect carrot cake. The nuts on top adds a decorative touch without any effort! Talk soon, Mom. xo Kelly

  • Marion
    October 28, 2021 at 10:53 am

    Thanks for another great recipe Kelly. Could I add raisins to the batter ?

    • Kelly Djalali
      October 28, 2021 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Marion, Of course you can add raisins. I would add about 1 cup of raisins and reduce the nuts to 1/2 cup, or vice-versa. Let me know how it works out for you! xo Kelly

  • Pat
    October 28, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    My favorite. This one looks especially good?. Love fall, puts me back into cooking. Aromas in the kitchen?.

    • Kelly Djalali
      October 28, 2021 at 12:14 pm

      I know! The aroma of a spiced bake in the oven is so perfect for Fall. I wish the Fall candles could capture the scent, but they always seem like they’re too over-the-top, to me. Thanks for tuning in today, pat! xo Kelly

  • Sally Burke
    October 28, 2021 at 7:30 pm

    Good morning from Oz, Carrot cake would be my favourite, always moist and I just love the cream cheese frosting. Like you I don’t makes cakes very often, mainly due to there only being the two of us and I do try and watch my weight. One thing I do make relatively regularly and particularly for our grown up children and grandchildren is Yo Yo’s. Have you ever made them? I have the best recipe which I have used for many years, let me know if you would like me to send it to you. Hope you managed to get your oven clean, one of my least favourite things to do, although we have a product here called Oven Power which works a treat.
    Enjoy your day/evening
    Sally ?‍??

    • Kelly Djalali
      October 28, 2021 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Sally, oven and hood are clean and polished. What a chore! I have never heard of Yo Yo’s, is this an Australian sweet treat? I would 1000% love to have your recipe – I want to make them! Please do send me your recipe and tell me more about the provenance of Yo Yo’s.
      Regarding the Carrot Cake, I think the half-cake method is something I will feature because a lot of us would like to make a cake and enjoy it without worrying over the leftovers. Have a wonderful Friday and a great weekend, xo Kelly