When my kids were babies, I started a small baking business specializing in cakes and cupcakes, mostly for children’s birthday parties. Before I opened, I spent weeks testing recipes for all of the classic cake flavors, trying to find the best, most reliable recipes. This is the carrot cake that won me over (for the others, check out my Vanilla Birthday Cake, Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes, Chocolate Cupcakes, and Red Velvet Cupcakes). Unlike most carrot cakes, which are heavy and dense, this one is light with a fine texture. The secret, which I learned from Fine Cooking Magazine, is finely chopping the carrots in a food processor to the consistency of couscous rather than grating them.
Before we get to the recipe, and since Easter is upon us, I just had to share this photo of the Holland Lop that we’ve been bunnysitting for a friend these past few months. Yes, he’s real! His name is Snowman and my daughter is totally smitten with him. Isn’t he cute?! (He’s also a pain in the you know what!)
Anyway, here’s what you’ll need for the cake.
And here’s what you’ll need for the frosting.
Begin by soaking the currants in hot water.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
And whisk to blend.
Add a bit of the flour mixture to the drained currants and nuts.
Toss well; coating the currants and nuts with flour will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.
Next, add the carrots to a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Process until finely chopped to the consistency of couscous.
Transfer the carrots to a bowl and wipe the processor bowl clean. Add the eggs, granulated sugar and brown sugar.
And mix until smooth. With the machine running, slowly pour in the oil.
Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture.
And stir to combine.
Mix in the carrots, currants and nuts.
The batter will look orange.
Bake the cake for about 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
While the cake cools, make the cream cheese frosting. Simply beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until creamy, then gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth.
Use an offset spatula to frost the cake.
And sprinkle nuts on top, if desired. I usually make this recipe as a half sheet cake — it’s casual and easy that way — but you can also make it as a 9-inch layer cake. Enjoy!
My Recipe Videos
Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Cake
- Baking spray with flour, such as Baker's Joy or Pam with Flour (or softened butter and flour), for the pan
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2-1/4 cups all purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with knife
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 4 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1-1/4 cups vegetable oil
For the Frosting
- 12 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 cups confectioners' sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
For the Cake
- Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9x13-inch heavy-duty metal cake pan (or, skip the butter and flour and spray the pan with a nonstick cooking spray with flour, like Baker's Joy or Pam with Flour).
- Soak the currants in 1/2 cup hot tap water for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Transfer 1/4 cup of this mixture to a small bowl and add the drained currants and the chopped nuts; toss to combine.
- In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the carrots until very finely chopped, to about the consistency of couscous. Transfer to a small bowl, then rinse out the food processor bowl (you’ll use it again).
- In the bowl of the food processor (again, fitted with the steel blade), mix the eggs and sugars until blended. With the machine running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream until combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the mixture into the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until well combined, then stir in the carrots and the currant-nut mixture.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool on a rack to room temperature before inverting the pan to remove the cake. Let cool completely before frosting.
For the Frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl if using a hand mixer), combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and add 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar; mix on low to combine. Mix in the remaining sugar in two additions, keeping the speed on low. Once all of the sugar is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Scrape about three-quarters of the frosting onto the center of the cake. With a narrow metal offset spatula, push the frosting from the center out to and just over the cake’s edges. Spread with as few strokes as possible to prevent crumbs from catching in the frosting. Cover the top of the cake first. Leave it as is (I like that look) or use the remaining frosting to cover the sides. Sprinkle the nuts on top of the cake, if using.
- Note: This cake can also be made as a 9-inch layer cake. You'll have enough frosting for the middle and top of the cake; just leave the sides bare -- it's pretty that way.
- Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cake can be frozen (without the icing) for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, double-wrap it securely with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place it in heavy-duty freezer bag. Thaw on the countertop the night before you plan to eat it. Ice the cake prior to serving.
- Per serving (20 servings)
- Calories: 535
- Fat: 32g
- Saturated fat: 9g
- Carbohydrates: 60g
- Sugar: 46g
- Fiber: 2g
- Protein: 5g
- Sodium: 352mg
- Cholesterol: 74mg
This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.