I overheard some moms talking about carrot cake today. I’m not sure what I love more about carrot cake – the smell of sweetly spiced crumbs steaming up the kitchen or the sumptuous, indulgent, buttery cream cheese frosting that holds it all together.
I like my carrot cake naked. No raisins. No nuts. Not necessary.
Growing up, my mother always baked our birthday cakes. I have known nothing else. Here is my brother on his first birthday 39 years ago.
I wish I could show you a picture of my first birthday cake but I was the second child and my baby book was DIY.
Many of the traditions in my family involve food. Hungry genes, I suppose. And with nary a second thought, this tradition lives on now that I have children. Baking birthday cakes is part of the joy – love poured into a pan, baked and served.
I baked a carrot cake for Emmeline’s first birthday.
She loved it.
Everyone loved it. And I believe this is the perfect cake for a first birthday. It’s soft, moist, fluffy and not too sweet.
My favorite, most successful version of the carrot cake comes from the May & June 2012 edition of Cook’s Illustrated. For a foodie, this is the ultimate food periodical. My grandmother has been gifting me a subscription for years.
I’ve edited the recipe for the toothless set to exclude nuts, currants and buttermilk powder, which, by the way, is not an everyday item on the everyday grocery store shelf. I also edited the size and shape of the cake.
I hope you enjoy this luxurious delight as much as we do.
Is there a recipe you love that brings back memories or that you carry forward from your childhood? Will you share it?
Carrot Layer Cake
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups shredded carrots (4-6 carrots, depending on size)
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces cream cheese, chilled and cut into 12 equal pieces
1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two, 9-inch round baking pans (I just use Pam baking spray). Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves together in large bowl.
2. Whisk sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together until mixture is smooth. Stir in carrots. Add flour mixture SLOWLY and fold with rubber spatula until mixture is just combined.
3. Transfer batter to prepared baking pans and smooth surface with spatula. (It’s OK if one pan has a little more batter than the other. Just eyeball it.) Bake until center of cake is firm to touch, 15-18 minutes. (I bake both pans at the same time and just keep a close eye on them.) Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire rack and then re-invert ONE of the cakes onto a round serving plate, dome-side down so that you’re frosting a flat surface. You will layer the second cake on top, (flat side on top of flat side) so that the top of your cake will have a slightly rounded shape. Cool cake completely, about 30 minutes.
4. FOR THE FROSTING: Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt on low until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low; add cream cheese, one piece at a time; and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, a hand mixer works just fine.)
5. Using a spatula, spread a portion of the frosting evenly over cake layer. Be generous. It makes more sense to have more frosting between layers than on the outer layer. Repeat with with the second layer of cake, frosting evenly and pressing gently to level. Use remaining frosting to coat sides of cake.
6. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
Tip: If you like the texture I created in Emmeline’s cake, just lightly flick your cake all over with a spatula to create the peaks.