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Recipe: BA’s Best Carrot Cake

Carrot cake may be one hotly contested dessert, but we can all agree that the best carrot cake recipes turn out moist layers that are warmly (but not overly) spiced

By Bon Appetit US | April 27, 2022 | Recipes

Ideally, those layers should be studded with a few choice ingredients to keep the texture interesting; and they must be hidden under a layer of cream cheese frosting so thick someone might mistake the dessert for a cheesecake.

To achieve our dream carrot cake, we stripped the dessert of all nonessential ingredients. Crushed pineapple? Gone. Coconut? No more. The two add-ins we left in the mixing bowl: golden raisins and toasted walnuts. Plumped with rum, the raisins add pops of juicy sweet flavor throughout the layer cake. Strongly anti-raisin? Leave them out if you must. We found the walnuts key, however, for the texture they add to the tender crumb (pecans make a worthy substitute).

We streamlined the spices, too, but turned up the volume on each for maximum impact without muddied flavors. Cinnamon and ground ginger take the lead (2 teaspoons each), while a whisper of nutmeg (just ½ teaspoon) adds woodsy, floral balance that beautifully complements the earthy sweet carrots. When selecting your carrots, opt for medium-size ones (larger carrots can be starchy and bland) and shred them on the small holes of a box grater or with the grating disc of a food processor—large shreds of grated carrot may not soften adequately in the time it takes the layers to bake.

Editor’s note: This recipe was originally published in the May 2016 issue.

Ingredients

CAKE

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

½ cup golden raisins (optional)

3 tablespoons dark rum (optional)

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 pound carrots, peeled, coarsely grated

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

2½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

¾ teaspoon baking soda

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¾ cup vegetable oil

FROSTING AND ASSEMBLY

12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Generous pinch of kosher salt

4 cups powdered sugar

Candied Carrot Coins (optional)

Preparation

CAKE

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat two 9"-diameter cake pans with nonstick spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds; lightly coat rounds with nonstick spray. If using raisins and rum, heat together in a small saucepan over low just until warm, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit until liquid is absorbed and raisins are plump, 15–20 minutes.

Step 2

Meanwhile, toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes; let cool. Combine carrots and buttermilk in a medium bowl.

Step 3

Whisk flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until pale and thick, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually stream in oil. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with carrot mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; mix until smooth. Fold in raisins, if using, and walnuts with a rubber spatula. Scrape batter into prepared pans.

Step 4

Bake cakes, rotating pans halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35–45 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cakes cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around sides of cakes and invert onto wire rack; remove parchment. Let cool completely.

FROSTING AND ASSEMBLY

Step 5

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla extract and salt. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in powdered sugar. Increase speed to high and beat frosting until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Step 6

Place 1 cake, domed side down, on a platter. Spread ¾ cup frosting evenly over top. Place remaining cake, domed side down, on top. Spread top and sides with 1¼ cups frosting and chill 30 minutes to let frosting set. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides, swirling decoratively. Top with Candied Carrot Coins, if desired.

Nutrition Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 810 Fat (g) 44 Saturated Fat (g) 16 Cholesterol (mg) 125 Carbohydrates (g) 100 Dietary Fiber (g) 3 Total Sugars (g) 75 Protein (g) 9 Sodium (mg) 600

By Claire Saffitz

This recipe originally appeared on Bon Appetit