The best carrot cakes surprise you. Moist as all get out, redolent of cinnamon and nutmeg, and slathered with a silky cream cheese frosting, this is the recipe you need this Easter. We love that crushed pineapple is folded into the batter for an extra-velvety texture and a what-on-earth-is-that-delicious-flavor vibe. We love that three whole cups of carrots are in there. (Is it a cake or a salad?!) And that frosting? We perfected it over time; it’s got cream cheese, heavy cream, vanilla extract and just the right amount of butter. (Translation: a goodly amount.)
There’s a reason this cake made a cameo in our Williams Sonoma Favorite Cakes cookbook. Try it out and report back in the comments section; we think you’re gonna love it.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Perfect for spring celebrations—or really any time of year—this moist cake is topped by a rich cream cheese frosting that pairs perfectly with the mildly sweet flavor of grated carrots and warm spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. The carrot tops “planted” in the frosting add a whimsical touch.
For the cake:
3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) canola oil, plus more for greasing
2 1/4 cups (111/2 oz./360 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. kosher salt
5 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cups (18 oz./560 g) sugar
3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 oz. (185 g) crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups (15 oz./470 g) grated peeled carrots
3 carrots, with tops attached
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) chopped toasted walnuts
For the frosting:
16 Tbs. (8 oz./250 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups (12 oz./375 g) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. (500 g) cold cream cheese
2 Tbs. heavy cream
- To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease three 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pans, line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, then grease the parchment. Dust with flour, then tap out any excess.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk and vanilla on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Add the pineapple and grated carrots and beat until just incorporated.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake until the tops of the cakes are browned and shiny and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto the racks and let cool completely.
- To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the salt and vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high. Add the cream cheese about 1 tablespoon at a time until combined and no bits of cream cheese remain, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high, add the cream and beat until combined, 30 to 45 seconds.
- To assemble the cake, place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread one-third of the cream cheese frosting evenly over the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake layers, including the top layer. Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting on all sides of the cake to create a “naked” cake effect. Carefully peel the carrots, keeping the tops intact. Gently press the carrots onto the top of the cake in varying heights. Scatter the walnuts around the carrots and serve. Serves 16.
Recipe adapted from Favorite Cakes: Showstopping Recipes for Every Occasion (Weldon Owen, 2017)