Some people might consider carrot cake a bit of an oxymoron – vegetables and cake together? Not okay, and not actually dessert. I admit to being a little weirded out by carrot cake when I was younger, but my discovery of this carrot cake recipe a few years ago converted me to a carrot cake lover. However, that love is definitely conditional – not all carrot cake is created equal. Dry carrot cake with overly sweet cream cheese frosting from the grocery store isn’t quite up to par when it comes to what real carrot cake should be. This Grand Central recipe (Yes, I know I’m a little obsessed) definitely measures up and I have had wonderful results and rave reviews with it every time. The cake is studded with shredded carrots, chopped walnuts, and sweetened coconut flakes, making for a unique combination of textures and flavors. The frosting is a nice balance between tangy and sweet, and the perfect match for its cake counterpart. This cake is perfect for birthdays, dinner parties, or special occasions like a visit from your best friend Billy Koch!
Carrot Cake (from the Grand Central Baking Book)
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar (Do not use organic sugar! It will not combine correctly with the oil and other ingredients!)
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 eggs, at room temperature (Yes, this seems picky and inconvenient, but it is very important to all your ingredients combining properly)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 and 1/4 cups grated carrots, about 4 big carrots (Do not hand grate them yourself unless you are asking for a long painful death! Please please please just use a food processor and save your hands and soul)
1 cup sweetened flake coconut
6 oz fresh or canned pineapple, drained and coarsely chopped (I don’t include the pineapple because I don’t really enjoy or believe in canned pineapple, but you are welcome to include it!)
3/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped (To toast the nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and throw them in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 300 until they are nicely golden brown. You can coarsely chop them yourself, or save time again by using a food processor)
Frosting Ingredients (This is about enough frosting to fill and top the cake, but if you want to frost the outside of the cake as well, I suggest doubling this recipe)
5 oz cream cheese, at room temperature (Once again, very important to be at room temperature)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups (6 oz) confectioners’ sugar (Also known as powdered or icing sugar)
Prepare to bake – Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and lightly flour two 6-inch round cake pans and line them with rounds of parchment paper.
Combine dry ingredients – Measure the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a bowl and whisk to combine
Mix the sugar and oil – Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and oil on medium speed until well blended and slightly lighter in color, about 4 minutes. The mixture will have a slightly sandy texture and won’t appear particularly smooth.
Add the eggs and vanilla – Crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup and add the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the eggs, letting them fall in one at a time and incorporating each egg completely before adding the next. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl once or twice during the process.
Finish the batter – With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients slowly and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the carrots, coconut, pineapple, and walnuts by hand using a sturdy spatula.
Bake – Divide the batter between the pans. Bake for about 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. The cakes are ready when they pull away from the edges of the pans slightly and spring back when pressed lightly in the center. Let the cakes cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing them from the pans, then wait until they’re completely cool before filling and frosting the layers.
Make the frosting – Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth and well combined, with no visible lumps, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed until well incorporated, smooth, and spreadable, about 2 minutes.
Fill and frost the cake – Level out the bottom layer with a serrated knife so that the top layer will sit flat on it. Apply a thin crumb coat to the top of the bottom layer and then spread a decent amount of frosting on top of that. Add the top cake layer and spread the remaining frosting evenly on top. If you are going all out, frost the sides and enjoy!