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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Source: Basic Baking
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Active Time:  40 Minutes
Total Time:  1 Hour 40 Minutes
  Makes: one 9 by 13-inch cake; 18 servings
Years ago, when one could afford to go to Nantucket without selling off family valuables, we rented a ramshackle cottage down the road from Fred Rogers. My boys were four and six at the time. They were delirious at the idea of having Mr. Rogers for a neighbor. The other great thing about Nantucket that summer was our proximity to a farm stand that sold--in addition to native peaches, tomatoes, and sweet corn that was so perfect it never needed butter--squares of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting that looked like plump, white-topped, orange-bottomed pillows in their tight plastic wrapping. You had to get there before the pieces of cake were either poked to death by children trying to find the biggest ones, or the frosting had melted and stuck to the plastic. We'd eat them on our way to the beach, wiping our mouths with the backs of our hands, hoping we'd run into Mr. Rogers also eating a piece of that cake. That would truly have been a wonderful day in the neighborhood.
For Preparing the Pan
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter or solid vegetable shortening, softened
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups grated peeled carrots (about 3 large carrots)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup golden or dark raisins
For the Frosting (Makes: 3 generous cups)
1 pound cream cheese (not the whipped or reduced-fat variety) at room temperature
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (if sugar is lumpy, sift first, then measure)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 F. with a rack in the center of the oven. Cut a 9 by 13-inch rectangle of parchment paper. Coat the sides and bottoms of the pan with some of the butter or solid vegetable shortening, then place the parchment paper liner in the pan and apply butter or shortening to the liner, too. Place the flour in the pan, shake to coat the pan with flour, then knock out the excess. Set aside.

Place a mesh sieve over a medium mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Shake the contents into the bowl and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a measuring cup with a spout, stir lightly, and set aside. Place the oil, dark brown and granulated sugar, and the vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Use the mixer on medium speed to beat the ingredients together until the sugars have dissolved and the mixture is smooth except for some small lumps of dark brown sugar that might remain, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula several times while mixing. Add the eggs to the mixture and beat on medium speed until they are incorporated, about 2 minutes more. Scrape the sides of the bowl well.

Turn the mixer to lowest speed and add the flour mixture. You win have to use a rubber spatula to mix the flour into the wet ingredients. Beat until the mixture is smooth and no traces of flour are apparent, occasionally scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the carrots, nuts, and raisins, and stir with a rubber spatula until they are just combined, about 1 minute. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and dry, about 40 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool it in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn it out carefully onto a wire rack, remove the parchment paper liner, and allow the cake to cool completely. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

The baked and cooled unfrosted cake, out of its pan, can be refrigerated, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days. It may also be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap the cake securely in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer-strength recloseable jumbo-size plastic bag. Label the bag with a waterproof marker. Defrost the cake in its wrapping in the refrigerator or at room temperature, and then frost it.

Lora Says: The dark brown sugar in this cake contributes not only to its moistness, but adds a deeper, mellow taste associated with homey desserts like this one.

Lora Says: Be sure to use nice, fresh, firm, bright-colored carrots for this cake. They taste sweeter and are moister than carrots that have sat around awhile.

For the Frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. With the mixer set on medium high, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce mixer speed to low, add the confectioners' sugar, and continue to beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla until it is thoroughly incorporated.

To frost the cake, use a flexible metal spatula to spread a thin layer of frosting on the four sides of the cake, then apply the remainder to the top. Use the spatula to distribute the frosting evenly and to create a swirled effect, if desired.

The frosted cake can be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To avoid having the plastic wrap come in direct contact with the frosting, push about 10 toothpicks halfway into the cake at even intervals around the top. Drape a sheet of Plastic wrap over the toothpicks and loosely down the sides of the cake.

Lora Says: If you are going to transport this cake to a picnic or other informal affair, it would make sense to frost the cake in the pan after it has cooled. Cool the baked cake out of its pan on a wire rack. Rinse out the baking pan, dry it well, and invert it over the cooled cake on its cooling rack so that the pan encloses the cake. Hold the cake pan and rack together and flip the whole thing over so that the cake is back inside the pan. Use a flexible spatula to spread the top of the cake with frosting. Unless you are pretty heavy-handed with the frosting, there will be some left over, since you aren't frosting the sides of the cake.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Harper Collins. All rights reserved.
Date Added: 01/01/2008
Nutrition Facts per Serving
Yield:   Makes: one 9 by 13-inch cake; 18 servings
Calories: 425
Fat. Total: 24g
Fiber: 2g
Carbohydrates, Total: 47g
Sodium: 248mg
% Cal. from Fat: 51%
Cholesterol: 95mg
Protein: 7g
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