Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Best Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

You know that you've found a great recipe when the cookbook you are perusing has a page or so with obvious wear and spills from repeated use. I borrowed Maida Heatter's Great Book of American Desserts from a soon-to-be neighbor of mine and she raved about his cake and I could see by the well-worn pages that she'd made this recipe numerous times. I've been searching for that one best carrot cake recipe and had to try this one.

Well, I'm so glad I did...

This is the cake I served at Ellen's Confirmation and Annie's First Communion party. It was hands down the best carrot cake I've ever had. And with a healthy dose of carrots, raisins, and walnuts, one could argue that it could be eaten in place of a meal (like I did for lunch today!). And it's a great make-ahead cake as it stays moist and delicious for at least three days and probably longer. In fact, it might be even better after one or two days than it is the day it's made. The cream cheese icing is delicious, but not too sweet - a perfect complement to the perfect carrot cake.

Carrot Cake
from Maida Heatter's Great Book of American Desserts

5 ounces (1 cup) dark raisins
1 pound carrots to make 4 cups shredded, firmly packed
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large or extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
5 1/2 ounces walnuts, cut into medium-small pieces
Cream Cheese Icing, recipe follows
a handful of pecan halves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray, line the bottoms with parchment, and spray the parchment.

Place the raisins in a vegetable steamer over shallow water in a saucepan and steam for 10 minutes. Uncover and set aside.

Grate the carrots using a food processor (I used the disc with largest holes, but you can grate them more finely if desired) or a standing metal grater. Measure and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa, and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs. Add the vanilla, both sugars, and oil, and mix until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed only until combined. Stir in the carrots, raisins, and nuts.

Divide the batter evenly among the three pans and use a spatula to even out the batter. Bake the pans for 35 to 40 minutes or until the tops just spring back when gently pressed with a fingertip and the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and let stand 2-3 minutes in the pans on a cooling rack. Run a small knife around the perimeter of the cake and invert the cakes onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. It is not necessary to remove the parchment from the bottoms of the cakes at this time.

Brush any stray crumbs from the sides of the cakes and transfer the cakes to the freezer, unwrapped, for at least an hour, or until cakes are firm enough to handle. If you wish to freeze the cakes longer, wrap the frozen layers in plastic wrap and return to the freezer until you are ready to frost the cake. Do not thaw the layers before icing.

When ready to ice the cake, prepare a large, flat cake plate by lining it with four strips of wax paper to make a square. This wax paper will catch any crumbs and icing while frosting the cake. Remove the parchment paper from the bottoms of the cakes. Place one cold and firm cake layer upside down on the plate. Spread a thin layer (2/3 cup) of the icing evenly over the cake. Cover with the second layer, also upside down. Spread another 2/3 cup icing over the second layer. Place the third layer on top, also upside down and spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake. Remove the wax paper strips carefully. Garnish the cake with pecan halves. Refrigerate the cake for a few hours or for a day or two. Serve cold right from the refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Icing
from Maida Heatter's Great Book of American Desserts

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cheese and butter until soft and smooth. On low speed beat in the vanilla and sugar, and then on high speed beat for a few moments until smooth.


  1. I counted the raisins and nuts as healthy, the carrots as a vegetable, and the cream cheese as dairy! It's packed with goodness! Um, and it's delicious too!

  2. Great picture! This sounds absolutely incredible! I love raisins in my carrot cake. It's a shame so many people leave them out!

  3. I think we should have a carrot cake duel! I just posted my mom's carrot cake recipe, which I think is the best, yesterday. We could bake both cakes, eat it all and, see which one of us can still walk:)

  4. This does sound like a totally delicious carrot cake!

  5. Bobbi - seeing as I was replacing entire meals with carrot cake, it's probably best if I don't make another one for a while. But I'm sure your mom's cake is delicious too! I'm going now to check out your recipe!

  6. This is the best carrot cake I've ever seen!!

  7. I've always been looking for the best carrot cake recipe. Maybe this is it?

  8. It was A.MAZ.ING.......thanks so much for sharing...but I do have to say I don't know if I can trust myself with a whole one!!

  9. This really was a great carrot cake, the raisins were plump and the whole cake was moist. And the icing...

  10. It sure looks impressive! I'm searching that perfect carrot cake too, maybe this is it?

  11. I love the pecans on the top. Great addition. This definitely looks like one of the best carrot cake recipes I have ever seen, and you did a fab job of making it. I also really like this one:

    It's one of my faves.
    Thanks for sharing!

  12. This is the most beautiful carrot cake I've ever seen. Light, fluffy and gorgeous!

  13. thanks for sharing this recipe :) - my aunt's birthday is this weekend and I have actually never made a carrot (that's her favorite) cake... I hope she likes it!

    Thanks again!

  14. Hi, Deanna - Blog looks more & more gorgeous & yummy every time I check in! Wanted to see how the house situation was going...sorry my friend never followed up, but they came to the conclusion that they needed a ranch. Hope it's all going well...When I get MY paper-crafting blog back up & running, I hope you'll visit!

  15. I just made this and it is quite possibly the best carrot cake I've ever made. I may thicken the frosting a bit more next time though. So so good though!

  16. Thanks for sharing this recipe. It is absolutely the best carrot cake I've made as well.

  17. Hi...thank you soooo much for this recipe! Made this for a big family dinner last night, and half of it was gone before I even knew it :) Beautiful blog and wonderful pictures x

  18. It make me so happy to hear that you tried this and loved it! Thanks for sharing your success!

  19. My daughter sent this link to me asking if it is the cake I used to make. I've had "Great Book of American Desserts" since it was first released and have made this cake numerous times. I can verify absolutely that it is truly the best carrot cake best I've made and holds it's own against any restaurant cake!

  20. Made this today for my mums birthday and it was utterly wonderful thank you :) baked it in 3 8inch tins (or rather one tin in 3 batches, took me all bladdy day!) and the cake is to die for, chucked in a bit of fresh nutmeg and a little shredded coconut (bout half a cup) just as it was on hand but apart from that followed word for word and will DEFINITELY make this again

    It was my first time making cream cheese frosting and it was very liquidy..dont think it went quite right and not sure how it should be! but my mum isnt complaining and loves the cake too so thats all that matters!

    If anyone is thinking of making this, please do, it is a beautifully moist cake with wonderful flavour and will impress you im sure :)

    Thanks again!

    Sasha x

  21. Sasha,

    Thank you for sharing your love for this cake! Frostings can be tricky - sometime being more soft than at other times. I have held a bowl of ice water under my mixing bowl while mixing buttercream to correct an icing that was too soft. This cream cheese icing should be soft but not run down the cake when you ice it. It would not be a stiff enough icing for any intricate piping decorations but I have colored it and piped little carrots on top. The addition of coconut sounds wonderful - I'll have to try it next time.

    Happy baking!

  22. I made this cake last weekend for my husband. It is by far the best carrot cake I have EVER made or had! So wonderful I am making again this weekend but in a 9x13 so I can share with a few more friends!! Thank you, thank you - this is now the ONLY carrot cake I will make.

    jennifer of Intel Xeon Westmere

  23. I made this cake,it was Fabulous!!!! My whole family enjoyed very much after eating it. Thanks for this amazing recipe……
    Same cakes, I get from the site :

    Awesome Birthday Cakes
    Beautiful Anniversary Cakes

  24. I made this cake in the 90's and it was wonderful. I am so happy to rediscover the recipe again. Thank you!

  25. This is such a lovely cake - not a quick make, but so worth it! This time I don't have the same pans available. Has anyone baked it as a whole deep cake instead of in 3 sections? I'm worried it will stay soggy in the middle or be dry on the outside.



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