Classic Carrot Cake

My carrot cake recipe (from the Hummingbird Cafe cookbook) is a bit famous. It’s a perennial favorite and is always requested for friends’ and colleagues’ birthdays. It’s gotten to the point where I lobby – hard – for other cakes just because I get bored making carrot cake all the time.

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(Photo credit: Sabrina)

For my school birthday party, where I had committed to bringing baked goods for all of my students (in honor of my birthday and the last class period before exams), I thought I’d try another carrot cake recipe. One of my students is deathly allergic to peanuts – and avoids all nuts just to be sure – and this recipe calls for walnuts (easy enough to leave out) and coconut, which I thought would add a little something that might go missing if I left out the walnuts.

The cake was very easy to make, very moist and delicious. I liked it because you make it in a 9×13 (instead of 3 8-inch round layers). Easier to make, easier to transport, easier to feed the hordes. The students also liked it a lot (the student with a peanut allergy is also allergic to coconut, so he didn’t try it). But one student came up to say that she hates carrot cake and never eats it but she really liked mine.

I did not like the way the frosting looked. It was very tasty, but adding a whole tablespoon of vanilla extract to frosting made it a light brown gooey color, not the pretty whipped white look the picture in the cookbook led me to believe I’d achieve. So in the future I might make my other cream cheese frosting recipe and just add some cinnamon.

Classic Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

fromĀ Baked Elements

Yield: One 9-inch, single-layer cake


For the Classic Carrot Cake

1 cup shredded or flaked sweetened coconut

1 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks

1 cup vegetable oil (preferably canola)

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)

For the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt


Make the Classic Carrot Cake: Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch light colored metal baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper so that the paper overhands the pan on two sides. Butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.

Spread the coconut in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes (use a spatula to flip the coconut after 3 minutes). Allow the baking sheet to cool for a few minutes, then spread the walnuts over the coconut and toss them together with your hands.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat both sugars, the eggs, and the egg yolks on medium speed until the mixture comes together and is pale in color. Add the oil and butter and continue beating on medium speed until the mixture emulsifies. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the vanilla, and beat again for 15 seconds.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just incorporated. Scatter the coconut mixture and the carrots over the batter and gently fold them in until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely.

Make the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until no lumps remain.

Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and beat until smooth (be careful not to overbeat the frosting or it will lose its structure). The frosting can be made a day ahead; after mixing, cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate; let the frosting soften at room temperature before using.

Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly across the top of the cake.

Lift the cake out of the pan using the parchment paper overhang and cut into serving-size pieces.

The cake can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with a cake dome or in a cake saver, for up to 3 days. Bring the cake to almost room temperature before serving.

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