Monday, October 24, 2011

Carrot Cake: a family favorite on a Fall day

I created this moist and flavorful carrot cake by adapting a family recipe from my mother-in-law. Shredded carrots, chopped pecans, and orange zest create a pleasing texture and balanced sweetness. I used a traditional cream cheese frosting sprinkled with pecans and dried cherries. This cake can either be made in two 9" round pans or baked in a 9"x13" glass baking dish. For layer cakes, scale up the frosting ingredients by 50%.

Cake Ingredients

1 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
zest and juice of one orange
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 cups freshly grated carrots (approx 4 medium carrots)

Frosting Ingredients

3 1/2 - 5 cups powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
pecans and dried cherries for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and lightly flour either 9"x13" baking dish or (2) 9" diameter cake pans.

2. Combine melted butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and eggs in a large bowl, beating on medium speed until creamy. Scrape the bowl a few times to fully mix all ingredients. 

3. Add the orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla to the egg mixture. Beat until well-mixed.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt) and stir well.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat on low speed until completely mixed.

6. Add the chopped pecans and shredded carrot to the mixture, stirring by hand with a wooden spoon to incorporate.  

7. Pour the batter into the prepared cake dish or pans. 

8. Bake for 40-50 mins until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting the cake.

9. To create the frosting: In a separate bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, vanilla, and butter, and beat on low speed. (Note: it is best to use a stand mixer for this step if you have one.)

10. Add the confectioner's sugar to the mixture half a cup at a time, mixing on low speed to incorporate. At about 3-4 cups of sugar, start paying attention to the taste and texture of the frosting. It should be sweet but not overly so, and thick enough to spread well on the cake. 

11. Frost the cooled cake. Tip: If creating a layer cake, slice off the rounded top of each layer using a bread or cake knife. This makes it much easier to stack and frost the layers.

12. Use pecans and/or dried cherries for garnish.


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