The history of Carrot Cake is long and storied, with roots back in the middle ages and a revival in popularity in World War II due to rationing. Its incredible flavor is also long and storied: made extra moist with the carrot, the spice cake is tender and filled with crunchy toasted pecans. Topped with a luscious and creamy cream cheese frosting, Carrot Cake is perfect for spring teatime parties or autumn get-togethers. This cake will become a legendary addition to your baking menu!
IngredientsFor the cake: • 2 cups pecans, chopped, divided • 1 1/2 cups light or dark brown sugar, packed • 1/2 cup granulated sugar • 1 cup vegetable oil or canola oil • 4 large eggs • 3/4 cup applesauce, smooth and unsweetened • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled • 2 teaspoons baking powder • 1 teaspoon baking soda • 1/2 teaspoon salt • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon • 1 teaspoon ground ginger • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves • 2 cups carrots, grated For the cream cheese frosting: • 16 ounces cream cheese, full-fat and warmed to room temperature • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature • 4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar • 1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract • salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Spread the chopped pecans on the sheet.
Toast the pecans for 7-8 minutes.
Transfer the nuts from the oven and let them cool for 10-15 minutes.
Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Grease two or three 9-inch cake pans, then line them with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. The parchment paper will help the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
Whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla together in a large bowl until fully incorporated, and no brown sugar lumps remain.
In another large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold the ingredients together until just combined, careful not to overmix.
Fold in the carrots and 1 cup of the toasted pecans.
Pour or spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. If you are using three cake pans, bake for about 20-24 minutes. If using two pans, bake for about 30-35 minutes. Make sure to not overbake the cakes.
Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack or on the counter.
Add the cream cheese and the butter together in a large bowl. If you have a stand mixer, mix on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. If you are mixing by hand with a whisk, mix the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.
Add the confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream or milk, the remaining vanilla extract, and the salt.
Beat the frosting mixture at low speed for 30 seconds.
Increase the mixer to high speed and beat for 3 minutes, or whisk by hand until the mixture is completely combined and creamy. If the frosting is too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar. If the frosting is too thick, add more milk. If the frosting is too sweet, add an extra pinch of salt. The frosting should be soft, but not runny.
Adjust the frosting recipe as needed to the number of cakes you decide to cook.
Using a large serrated knife or cake leveler, carefully cut off a thin layer of the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface.
Place the first cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate.
Cover the top evenly with the frosting.
Place the second layer of cake on top of the first or base layer, add more frosting until all of the cake is covered.
Top with the third layer, if you used three layers.
Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides.
Decorate the top and sides of the cake with the remaining toasted pecans.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing. This will help the cake hold its shape when cutting.
Slice then serve!