There was a time when I wasn’t too fond of carrot cake — that is, until I found this recipe in the May/June 2012 edition of Cook’s Illustrated. This recipe perfectly addresses my two primary gripes with other carrot cake recipes: their tendency to be one layer deep and cream cheese frosting that’s often overly sweet with no tang. Those folks in the Test Kitchen even went further (don’t they always???) and made it easy to make a layer cake by using one jelly roll pan — a trick I will be sure to use in the future. The only change I made was to eliminate the currants — mostly because I can rarely find them in my local grocery. So, if you have and like dried currents, simply stir in 2/3 cup when adding the carrots to the batter.
This recipe can also be used to make individual carrot cake trifles (my son’s idea!). This recipe will make 8 individual trifles using 16-ounce glasses. Simply cube the carrot cake and make two cake/icing/pecan layers in each glass. Chill and serve!
- 1 3/4 cups flour (8 3/4 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar (8 3/4 ounces)
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 2/3 cups grated carrots (10 ounces)
- 16 Tablespoons butter (2 sticks), softened
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar (12 ounces)
- 1/3 cup buttermilk powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 12 ounces cream cheese, chilled and cut into 12 pieces
- 2 cups pecans, (8 ounces), toasted and rough-chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease 18x13 jelly roll pan. Line with parchment, then grease parchment.
- Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves together in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together until smooth. Stir in carrots. Fold in flour mixture until just combined.
- Pour batter into baking sheet and spread evenly.
- Bake until center is firm to the touch, about 15 to 18 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the baking pan to loosen the cake. Invert onto wire rack lined with parchment. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
- With a hand or stand mixer beat butter, sugar, buttermilk powder, and vanilla together until smooth, scraping bowl as needed. Add cream cheese one piece at a time, blending until smooth before adding the next piece.
- Slide cake -- parchment side down -- onto counter. Cut in half crosswise and then lengthwise to make 4 equal rectangles.
- Remove parchment from 1 cake rectangle and place onto a 6x8 cake board or serving plate. Top this first layer with 2/3 cup of frosting, spreading evenly to the edges. Repeat with two more cake pieces, pressing down lightly on each new layer to ensure the cake remains level.
- Place the last rectangle of cake on top and frost the top with 1 cup of frosting. Use the remaining frosting for the sides. Don't worry about getting crumbs in the frosting on the sides of the cake; they will be covered with pecans. However, ensure that the top of the cake remains crumb-free.
- Using your hands, press pecans onto the sides of the cake. Chill 1 hour before serving.