I suppose I really am on a childhood favorites kick. My grandma used to bake me a carrot cake whenever I asked. I was not into the typical yellow sheet cake with chemical frosting for my birthday, either. I wanted carrot cake. I found my grandmother's recipe and it is actually quite similar to this recipe for Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. However, I wanted something a bit more simple and easy so this recipe is it.
I found this recipe in an old issue of Cook's Illustrated. While the cake bakes, it fills the house with all the warm smells - cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. And the cream cheese frosting is to die for. It's creamy and not too heavy atop the moist cake. If you have a food processor, it will make your life easier, especially while making this cake. I'll include both food processor and stand mixer methods below. Because I'm a warm spice freak-show, I always add more of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I also made 1-1/2 times the frosting, but found it to be too much, even for me. The original frosting recipe is below. I prefer my carrot cake sans nuts or raisins but the instructions are below if you're so inclined. Instead of baking the cake in two cake pans, you bake it in a 9 x 13 pan.
Oh, and did I mention how delicious the batter is? Yes, indeed. Spicy and buttery and sweet. I could have eaten the whole cake raw, but then what would I do with the frosting?
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
2-1/2 c. flour (12-1/2 oz.)
1-1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1-1/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg (freshly ground, please!)
1/8 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. table salt
1 lb. carrots (6-7), peeled
1-1/2 c. sugar (10-1/2 oz.)
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar (3-1/2 oz.)
1-1/2 c. vegetable oil
1-1/2 c. toasted chopped nuts (optional)
1 c. raisins (optional)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
5 T. butter, softened
1 T. sour cream
1/2 t. vanilla
1-1/4 c. powdered sugar (4-1/2 oz.)
Pre-heat oven to 350* and adjust oven rack to middle position. Spray 9 x 13 baking dish and line bottom with parchment paper, also sprayed.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in large bowl.
Food Processor Method: In a food processor fitted with shredding disk, shred carrots and add to flour mixture in bowl. Wipe out food processor and fit with blade. Process both sugars and eggs until frothy and combined, 20 seconds. With machine running, add oil through feed feed tube in stream. Mix until light in color and well combined, 20 seconds longer. Scrape into bowl with carrots and flour. Now would be the time to add the nuts and/or raisins if you're using them. Fold all that goodness together until no streaks of flour remain.
Mixer Method: Shred carrots using large holes on a box grater. Add to flour mixture in bowl. Using the paddle attachment on a standing mixer, beat both sugars and eggs on medium-high until well mixed, 45 seconds. Reduce speed to medium. Add oil in stream, then increase speed to high and mix until light in color and well mixed, 45-60 seconds more. Scrape into bowl with carrots and flour mixture. If you're all about nuts and raisins, all those now. Fold all together until no flour streaks remain.
Pour into dish and bake until toothpick comes out clean, 35-40 minutes, or 45-55 minutes if you added both nuts and raisins. Cool in pan on wire rack until room temp, about 2 hours.
Food Processor Method: When cake is cool, process cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla until combined. Add powdered sugar and process until smooth, 10 seconds.
Mixer Method: When cake is cool, using whisk attachment, mix cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla at medium-high speed about 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar and process until smooth, 1 minute.
Now you have two choices. You can either run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn out onto serving platter, removing the bottom parchment in the process, then frost. OR, you can frost the cake right there in the dish. Either way, this carrot cake is simple and delicious.
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated recipe