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Feb 27, 2014

Classic Carrot Cake

In addition to banana pudding, I also made some carrot cake this past weekend for my friend Carolyn's birthday. Yes, it was a double birthday weekend with double birthday desserts! Though I've made carrot cake for Carolyn the past few years, until now I haven't really had a go-to recipe. I think this one, from America's Test Kitchen, is the quintessential carrot cake. The cream cheese frosting is fantastic as well.

Any fruit or vegetable-based cake is great for beginners or people who are for whatever reason intimidated by the idea of making a cake from scratch. The shredded carrot supplies a lot of moisture, so its basically impossible to end up with a dry cake.

Classic Carrot Sheet Cake (from America's Test Kitchen)
serves 15 to 18


For the Carrot Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 pound medium carrots (6 to 7 carrots), peeled and grated
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil or safflower, or canola oil

For the Cream Cheese Frosting: (makes 5 cups of frosting)
2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
2 tablespoon sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a medium size bowl; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars together until the sugars are mostly dissolved and the mixture is frothy. Continue to whisk,  while slowly drizzling in the oil, until thoroughly combined and emulsified. Whisk in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the carrots.

3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Cool cake to room temperature in pan, about 2 hours.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Process cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium until smooth, 2 to 4 minutes. Reduce speed and slowly add confectioners' sugar, beating until smooth, about 4 to 6 minutes. Continue beating until frosting is light and fluffy, 4 to 6 minutes more.

Using an icing spatula, spread frosting evenly over surface of cake. Cut into squares and serve.

Another great thing about this cake is that it is very flexible. The base recipe just includes carrot, but you can also try adding nuts (1 1/2 cups toasted) and/or raisins (1 cup) when you add the carrots. Or for a ginger-orange variation, reduce cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon and add 1/12 teaspoons of ground ginger to the flour mixture in step one. Then add 1 tbsp of fresh orange zest to the egg and sugar mixture in step 2. Finally, stir 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger into the batter with the carrots.

If you'd rather have cupcakes, this recipe makes 24. Just decrease the baking time by about 10 minutes.

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