Carrot Cake is a well loved, classic cake that is adapted in a variety of ways. While some opt for canned pineapple, walnuts, and more, I settled on this straightforward recipe that results in the Best Carrot Cake you will ever eat. This Carrot Cake has it all! Grating rather than shredding the carrots gives this cake a smooth texture and an ultra moist result with a welcome helping of vegetables for dessert. Fresh ginger gives it a flash of bold heat while that indulgent cream cheese frosting cools it all down. Toasted pecans gives both a nuttiness and a welcome texture in every bite. And let’s not forget the use of warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to play off that refreshing frosting. Since Carrot Cake has every element you can think of, it is the king of cakes!
We all have our favorite flavor of cake. My father-in-law loves Easter and Carrot Cake, so this was the perfect post for the upcoming Easter holiday. Carrot cake even has some similarities to Dennis. They’re both sweet, reliable, cool, warm, well-loved, and the king of the rest! The Best Carrot Cake was definitely inspired by the best father-in-law!
Toasted pecans are a must! Just the simple toasting method brings out a blast of nuttiness and warmth that makes the pecans radiate with flavor. If you start with pecan pieces lower your bake time so they don’t burn.
If you use whole pieces like I did just chop them up after they have toasted and cooled. You choose the size. I used a bit larger of pieces so they were really present in the bites. Equally important, for anyone who would rather use the toasted pecans as a topping, that works too! This will still be the best carrot cake! Furthermore, if you want to substitute the pecans then try walnuts.
The Star Of The Show
Meanwhile, you will move your attention to the star of this cake. Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables! They are so crisp, refreshing, and can be used in anything from soup to sautes to of course, carrot cake! To begin, wash and peel your carrots. Then you will grate up a full 2 1/2 cups of carrots.
With the busy little hands in our house I put all of the sharp kitchen tools in high hiding places. I hid what I needed so well that I spent about 30 minutes doing this by hand with a tiny spice grater! My arm is still burning as I type this, so I would suggest using the Cuisinart Fine Grater Disc for your food processor, or using an awesome box grater like this one – Box Grater.
When baking with grated and shredded vegetables that hold moisture like carrots and zucchini, I grate right into a mess strainer to release all of that extra water before adding it to the cake batter. You will see the vegetable-forward similarities in this carrot cake and my popular Zucchini Ginger Spice Cake.
The Cake Batter
Next you will cream up your butter and sugars. I use a combination of dark brown and granulated sugar. As you may know, brown sugar brings out the warmth in and rounds out spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg so well, so the best carrot cake definitely needs a mix of both brown and white sugar.
Next, you will add in eggs, vanilla, and unsweetened applesauce. The applesauce will add moisture and a tad bit of natural sweetness. This is my preference over pineapple in carrot cake.
I didn’t follow the rules and added them all at once. Carrot cake brings out the rebel in me! The best carrot cake knows how to hold its own!
From there, get your dry ingredients whisked up. Look at all that spice!
Fold the dry ingredients into the cake batter. Then, being careful not to overmix the batter, you will add in your grated carrots and grate in some ginger while you’re at it. Take note that if you opt for ground ginger the measurement will be different.
The batter will be dotted with all of the carrots, spices infusing every single bite. This is going to be something!
To make a layer cake, evenly distribute the batter into 3 well buttered cake pans. A word of caution, do not cut layers! This cake is super moist and has nuts that will tear chunks out of your perfect knife work! So it is best to bake it in as many thinner layers as you plan on using.
Then bake it!
Then the hard part, waiting for the cake to cool completely before frosting. It will smell amazing. You will want to dive right in. But you can’t!
From there you will whip up your indulgent cream cheese frosting! See how luscious, thick, creamy, cool, and amazing this frosting is? You will definitely be closing your eyes during your first bite. And you will most definitely agree that this is the best carrot cake in the world! Ready for an added bonus? Like the champ that it is, this carrot cake is even better the next day! Hooray!
Who wants a bite??
Best Carrot Cake
- 1 cup salted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups grated carrots
- 1/2 tablespoon grated ginger (if using ground, lower to 3/4 teaspoon)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
- For Frosting:
- 2 8 oz. bricks of full fat cream cheese, softened
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 3 8 inch cake pans for a layer cake.
- Spread 1 cup of toasted pecans on a baking sheet. Toast for 5 minutes. When cool, chop.
- Meanwhile, get your carrots prepped. With a box grater or the grating disc of your food processor, grate carrots until you have filled 2.5 cups. Then set aside to drain, if needed.
- In your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until creamy.
- Add in eggs, beating after each addition and scraping the bowl. Add in vanilla and applesauce.
- Mix in buttermilk
- In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder. If using ground dried ginger, add in here.
- Fold dry ingredients into batter.
- Gently fold in carrots and grate in fresh ginger, if using fresh. Add pecans.
- Spread batter evenly among cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and edges have begun to brown. 20-25 minutes
- Let cool completely.
- For 3 step cream cheese frosting: First, Using whisk attachment of your stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter. Second, Add in powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Third, Frosting will be thick. Add buttermilk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Frost cake when cooled.
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