Best Carrot Cake

I’ve been converted.  I used to shy away from baking carrot cake. It seemed labor intensive and also tricky to make it just right. How did I end up baking this beauty, you may ask?

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I was commissioned volunteered to bake for my sister’s birthday last week, and she requested a carrot cake. I was so glad that I had bookmarked this recipe. I had known about the James Beard-winning chef Dorie Greenspan and was confident that her cake recipe would be fantastic.This cake did not let me down.

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The cake is a stunner. The frosting alone is something to write home about.It’s a standard-issue cream cheese frosting with a one-to-one ratio of cream cheese to butter which is ideal, so that the frosting tastes like cream cheese but not straight cream cheese. The recipe calls for lemon juice instead of the usual vanilla extract-I was hesitant but couldn’t taste the difference. And the cake itself is luscious and rich with a great flavor-I love the bits of raisins and the overlay of coconut-both are a great complement to the carrot.

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The cake is pretty easy to make too. I had asked my boyfriend/sous chef to grate the carrots and even bought him a bagel with lox to power him through the grating, but he was sleeping when I wanted to prepare the cake, so I grated the carrots myself. Easy peasy. It’s best to use the fattest whole carrots that you can find. To plump up the raisins, you can cover them in boiling water and let steep for 10-15 minutes before draining. I omitted the nuts to suit the birthday lady’s taste. Greenspan calls for baking this cake in three layers, but I read reviews and since the three layers are thin, I decided to bake it in two layers.

This is a great celebration cake–you can celebrate a special occasion or just celebrate that you can enjoy such an impressive creation without too much effort 🙂

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Dorie Greenspan’s Carrot Cake

Adapted from The New York Times

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots (you can grate the carrots in a food processor fitted with a shredding blade)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened* I recommend sweetened 
  • ½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola or safflower oil
  • 4 large eggs

FOR THE FROSTING:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound (3 3/4 cups) confectioners
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • ½ cup shredded coconut, optional
  • Toasted finely chopped nuts and/or toasted coconut, for topping, optional

PREPARATION

  1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round, 2-inch deep cake pans (I used cooking spray) and line with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts (if using), coconut and raisins.
  3. Working in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a whisk, beat the sugar and oil together until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. If you are working in a mixer, reduce the speed to low, if you’re working by hand switch to a large rubber spatula, and gently stir in the flour mixture — mix only until the dry ingredients disappear. Just as gently, stir in the chunky ingredients.
  4. Divide the batter among the baking pans and slide the pans into the oven. Bake the cakes for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back at the midway point.*Be sure not to overcook. The cakes are properly baked when a knife inserted into the centers of the cakes comes out clean; the cakes will just start to come away from the edges. Transfer the pans to cooling racks, cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool to room temperature. (At this point, the cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; thaw before frosting.)
  5. For the frosting: Working in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.
  6. If you’d like to have coconut in the filling, scoop out about 1/2 of the frosting and stir the coconut into this portion.
  7. To frost the cake, place one layer of the cake, right-side up, on a cardboard round or a cake plate. If you’ve added coconut to the frosting, use half of coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer. Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer and use the plain frosting to cover the top and the sides of the cake. Finish the top layer with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle on these ingredients now, while the frosting is soft. Slide the cake into the refrigerator for 15 minutes, just to set the frosting.
  8. Serving: The cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper, overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and, while it’s good plain, it’s better with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or even some lemon curd with a little whipped cream folded in.
  9. Storing: Covered the cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen, uncovered, and then, when it is firmed, wrapped airtight and kept in the freezer for up to 2 months; defrost, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight.
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