If you read food blogs at all I’m sure you’ve come across Sally’s Baking Addiction. I’ve tried tons of her recipes and the girl is genius – this is no exception. My husband has been asking me to make a carrot cake for ages, but he’s not a fan of the traditional add-ins so I wanted to find a recipe that was good enough to be made naked (with no add-ins that is – but hey, if baking au naturale is your thing I won’t judge!). Feel free to make this the traditional way, go half and half, whatever floats your boat – but trust me when I say that the cake can easily stand alone. It’s spicy, thanks to the ginger, flavorful and moist. Now I have a confession to make…I accidentally baked them based on the requirements for the cake version (30 minutes!), DOUBLE the 15-18 minutes they actually need. Why I thought cupcakes would need to bake that long I’ll never know, but I’m just chalking it up to being blonde. That being said, they were still super moist and completely delicious. So good in fact, that by the time I remembered to take pictures, there were only 6 left! That should tell you #1 it’s an incredibly foolproof recipe and #2 they have to be infallibly moist to withstand that much over baking and still maintain a tender crumb. I should also explain I had no pastry bags left at this point, so I slapped on the rest of the frosting with a butter knife. I’m calling it the abstract look. Yeah, that’s what it is…abstract.
instructions (copied from Sally’s Baking Addiction “My Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe“):
3 cups (390g) Diamond of California chopped pecans or pecan pieces – (I omitted them, but added 1/2 cup chocolate chips)
1 and 1/2 cups (300g) packed light or dark brown sugar (I prefer dark) (I had light on hand)
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 cup (240ml) vegetable or canola oil – (I used melted coconut oil)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup (133g) smooth unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 and 1/2 cups (312g) 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 (260g) grated carrots (about 4 large)
cream cheese frosting:
16 ounces (450g) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar
2-3 Tablespoons (30-45ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300°F (149°C) degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spread the chopped pecans on the sheet and toast for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Turn the oven up to 350°F (177°C). Spray two 9-inch cake pans* with nonstick spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla together until combined and no brown sugar lumps remain. Set aside. In another large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold the ingredients together until just combined. Then, fold in the carrots and 1 cup of the toasted pecans. The rest of the pecans are used in step 6.
Pour/spoon the batter evenly into the two cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack.
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 speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tablespoons of cream. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1 more Tablespoon cream if needed to thin out. Beat on high for 2 full minutes. Taste the frosting and add a pinch of salt if it is too sweet.
Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, 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 and spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Decorate the sides of the cake with the remaining toasted pecans. Slice and serve.
Cover extras up tightly and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Unfrosted cake remains fresh covered tightly at room temperature for 3-4 days. Store frosted cake in the refrigerator for up to 7 days and allow to come to room temperature before serving.