Although the origins of carrot cake are often disputed, the recipe has been traced back to carrot puddings eaten by Europeans in the Middle Ages, when sugar and sweeteners were too expensive to purchase. These carrot puddings included many elements common to the modern dessert, like cream, eggs, spices, and of course, carrot. As the years went on, variations of the carrot pudding evolved, becoming one of the most beloved varieties of cake that we still enjoy today – especially during Easter!
• 2 cups chopped pecans
• 1 and 1/2 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
• 4 large eggs
• 3/4 cup smooth unsweetened applesauce
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2 cups grated carrots, about 4 large
Cream Cheese Frosting
• 16 ounces full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
• 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk
• 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• pinch of salt, to taste
1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spread the chopped pecans on the sheet and toast for 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
2. Turn the oven up to 350 degrees F. Grease two or three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
3. Whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla together in a large bowl until combined and no brown sugar lumps remain. In another large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold the ingredients together until just combined. Fold in the carrots and 1 cup of the toasted pecans and leave the remaining cup for garnish.
4. Pour or spoon the batter evenly into the cake pans. If using three cake pans, bake for 20-24 minutes. If using two cake pans, bake for 30-35 minutes. Test the center with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cakes are done. If not, continue to bake until cooked through. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack before frosting and assembling.
5. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, cream or milk, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until combined and creamy.
6. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife or cake leveler, layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer, more frosting, and then top with the 3rd layer. Spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Decorate the sides and top of the cake with the remaining toasted pecans. Refrigerate the cake for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing. Cover leftover frosted cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
On the hunt for a new favorite recipe to add to your list of staples? The team at The Heights at La Salle Apartments in Durham, North Carolina encourages you to try your hand at this delicious option.