Where I live, there are beautiful carrots at the farmers’ market year round, and I am always trying to find ways to cook and bake with them. When I was a child, I called carrot cake “healthy cake.” I remember not really liking the lumps of nuts and all of the different textures in the cake, but I loved the sweet, rich flavor. This is my rendition of a carrot cake with all the flavors without the interruption of so many different textures and crunches. It’s a light, fluffy cake that’s also rich and moist. I love the crunch and flavor of nuts, so instead of mixing them into the batter, I put them on the outside of the frosted cake. Carrot cakes can look rather drab, all brown and white. I love to decorate the top of this cake with a few edible orange flowers and a few green sprigs from the carrot tops to add some brightness to this delicious cake.
Four Layer Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe makes 8 to 10 servings. Total time 3 hour and 15 minutes (includes cooling). Active time 45 minutes.
TIP: If you overbeat the cream cheese, the frosting may melt or run, because the moisture in the cream cheese will liquefy the sugar. A carrot cake can be very brown and white, so decorating with a few bright-orange edible flowers and green carrot fronds or edible leaves gives the cake a bright, cheerful look.
Special Equipment: Two 8-inch round cake pans
- 1 pound peeled and shredded carrots
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 room temperature eggs
- ¼ cup pineapple juice
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
For the pan:
- 2 tablespoons shortening for greasing
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour for dusting pans
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 24 ounces softened cream cheese
- 1 cup softened, unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- 1½ tablespoons maple syrup
- 12 ounces of crushed candied pecans to cover the sides of the cake
- To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans with shortening and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper and dust the pans with flour.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs well, then add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and continue to beat until fully combined. Slowly add the oil, then the pineapple juice, mixing on medium speed for 1 minute.
- Add one third of the carrots to the egg mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Add one third of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until everything is mixed together and none of the dry ingredients are visible in the batter.
- Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Tap each pan on a flat surface to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake the cakes on the center rack of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans after the first 15 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pans about 2 hours, to room temperature.
- When the cakes are fully cooled, turn them out of the pans. Use a sharp bread knife to cut each cake in half horizontally.
- To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 30 seconds at high speed. Add the butter and beat for an additional 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, making sure the mixture is blended. Add the powdered sugar and mix until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the maple syrup and beat for another 10 seconds to combine.
- To frost the cake, place a dollop of frosting on a cake plate, then put down the first layer. Frost the top with a generous layer of frosting, then add the next layer. Repeat until all layers are stacked and frosted. Cover the sides and top of the cake with the rest of the frosting. Cover the sides of the cake with the pecans.
Recipe first featured on Ranch To Table Season 3 Episode 3: Farm Fresh on the Magnolia Network.