For years I’ve been on a quest for the perfect carrot cake recipe.
It needed to have a rich ginger bread brown color to it. No blonde, anemic, sad carrot cakes will do.
Next, it needed to be moist without being wet. Tricky business since carrot cake recipes typically call for oil instead of butter, which can you with soggy cake.
It needed to have a healthy, proper amount of shredded carrots. A pound, to be exact. Also, it needed to have all the add-ins to be drool worthy. All the walnuts, all the pineapple and all the raisins.
I have a lot of needs.
It also needed to have depth. Balanced sweetness, dense cake, sweetened by three different sugars (white, brown and honey), moistened in three different ways (sour cream, oil, carrots), and finished with cinnamon-spiced perfection.
And also, it needed to bake up evenly. I once baked a carrot cake that was insanely delicious. It used butter instead of oil and lots of brown sugar but it sunk horribly in the middle when baked. This is fine if you are just hanging at home but sometimes you need a cake to be presentable. This cake is every bit as good but stands up, literally, to the task of baking.
I made this for my husbands birthday party last night at E3, a local steakhouse in town. They were kind enough to let us bring our own dessert, then cut and serve it to us.
Cake is not Jeremy’s first choice. He’d rather a pecan pie or bread pudding any day, but as far as cakes go, carrot is the exception.
As you look over the recipe, don’t let the ingredient list scare you. All carrot cakes call for a high number of ingredients (it’s the three spices and add-ins that make it look so lengthy), and your measuring work will be rewarded by the best damn carrot cake you’ve ever had.
My sister (who has a cake company for crying out loud) took a bite of this last night and said, “This is probably the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten. It’s even better than mine!” And, bonus: no one could believe it was gluten free. You couldn’t tell at all in taste or texture.
I think carrot cake is more charming when rustic, which is why I prefer to bake in a 13 x 9 pan and serve it in giant squares. It’s homey and delicious that way, and actually perfect, since carrot cake is not precious. It’s humble and I like its integrity to be reflected.
I take cake too seriously.
Just trust me. This is the best cake you’ll find. I even suggest you make it gluten-free even if you don’t need to. No one can tell. I’ve done my homework. You can’t go wrong.
makes 1 sheet pan or 2 9” round
In a large bowl combine:
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 1/4 cups Cup 4 Cup GF flour (or regular flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment combine:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons vegetable oil (can also use canola oil or avocado oil)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Mix wet ingredients on low until combined. Add dry ingredients to the wet in three separate batches and mix on low after each addition until combined.
Mix into the batter:
1 pound finely grated fresh carrots (you can also roughly chop carrots and add to a food processor and pulse until in fine pieces)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
This batter will be quite thick, but loose. It’s the GF flour that makes it wonky. I use my hands to knead in these ingredients almost like bread.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease a 13×9 baking pan (or two 9” round pans- if using round pans, flour the greased pans as well to ensure you can remove the cakes later)
Pour batter into the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. If using 9’ rounds bake for 30 minutes.
Let cake cool (if using round pans, cool for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge before turing the cake over onto a cooling rack to finish cooling) then spread cream cheese icing over the top in a thick layer.
Cream Cheese Icing:
2 packages of cream cheese, at room temp
2 sticks fo butter, at room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup
4-5 cups of powdered sugar
Mix the cream cheese, maple syrup, vanilla, and butter together with the paddle attachment, in the the bowl of a mixer, until smooth. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time and mix on low to combine after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until smooth.