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Carrot Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot cakes are one of those cakes that can be made in a million different ways because of the number of mix-ins that people add.  In my opinion, the best carrot cakes are closer to spice cakes that have the deliciously sweet shredded carrot throughout.  If you are looking for a carrot cake with a ton of mix-ins (e.g., pineapple, coconut, raisins, etc.) then this carrot cake with spiced cream cheese frosting is not for you.  But, if you like a moist carrot cake that has a delicious combination of spices with a slight crunch from pecans and is topped with a light and creamy spiced cream cheese frosting, then you are in the right spot. 

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Ingredients for Carrot Cake:
Making the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the center of the oven.

Begin by sifting flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together into a medium bowlWhisk all dry ingredients together until combined and set the bowl off to the side. 

In the bowl of the stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed using the paddle attachment until well combined and lightened in color (approximately 2 minutes).  Decrease the speed to low and add the oil, melted butter, milk, vanilla extract, ginger, and orange zest until blended.  Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary, so that everything is fully incorporated.  Next, add the flour mixture in 3 additions (to avoid overmixing and getting flour all over your kitchen).  Mix flour into batter until just incorporated.  Lastly, mix in shredded carrots and pecans until blended. 

Baking the cake:

Pour the batter evenly into two prepared 9-inch cake pans4.  It should be approximately 877g of batter in each cake pan. Place the cake pans in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean).  Cool the cake in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes5 before inverting the cake pans onto the racks and removing the cake from the pans.  Allow the cake to cool completely (i.e., to room temperature). 

Ingredients for Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
Making the icing:

Start by sifting your powdered sugar in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  Do not skip the sifting.  Powdered sugar frequently has clumps.  If you do not sift it, your frosting will end up with sugar lumps that won’t work themselves out during beating. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if you are using a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese and butter at medium speed until smooth.  You might need to scrape down the bowl a few times to make sure the cream cheese gets evenly incorporated because cream cheese is really sticky.  Next, beat in the vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and salt.  Decrease the speed to low and add the sifted powdered sugar in three additions.  Beat until combined after each addition.  Increase the speed to high and beat until the frosting is light and creamy (approximately 2 minutes).

You can use the frosting immediately on a room-temperature cake or store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.  If using the frosting from the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature so it spreads more easily.

Now your carrot cake with spiced cream cheese frosting is done! I hope you enjoy this spicy carrot cake as much as I do. If you make the cake, leave me a comment below to let me know how it went. I would love to hear about your baking adventures.

Notes:
  1. I have had trouble finding crystallized ginger in the past.  I have purchased it at Whole Foods before, but if you can’t find it in the store, you can always buy it online. (Back to “Ingredients for Carrot Cake“)
  2. There are a number of different ways to get shredded carrots.  One low-tech option is to use a box grater and grate the carrots by hand.  If you have a food processor, it is much easier and takes SOOO much less time by using the shredding attachment.  The easiest method of all is to buy a bag of shredded carrots from the supermarket.  The only con for this last option, is that sometimes, the pre-packaged shredded carrots can be a bit on the dry side.  Look for bags with a little moisture so your cake stays moist. (Back to “Ingredients for Carrot Cake“)
  3. A lot of people like walnuts in their carrot cake, however, I don’t particularly like the flavor of walnuts. I used pecans instead.  You can substitute walnuts if you prefer. (Back to “Ingredients for Carrot Cake“)
  4. “Prepared” means the pans have been oiled on the bottom and sides of the pan (I like to use Crisco vegetable shortening although you can use butter or a non-stick spray), a 9-inch parchment circle is placed in the bottom of the pan (with a light layer of oil over it), and the whole pan is covered in a light dusting of flour.  Gently tap out any extra flour into the sink/garbage and your pans are ready to go.  I typically do this step before I start measuring out any of my ingredients so that I’m not tempted to skip it when my batter is done.  This technique will make it so that you never have a cake stick to your cake pan again. (Back to “Baking the Cake“)
  5. If you do not give the cakes enough time to cool in the pan before turning them out, the cakes will be too delicate and will likely break a little when removing them from the pan.  (Back to “Baking the Cake“)

Carrot Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

Carrot Cake

  • 2 cups (242g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (7.4g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5.1g) baking soda
  • ¾ tsp (4.5g) salt
  • tsp (2.8g) ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp (1g) ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp (1g) ground cloves
  • 4 large (228g) eggs
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • cups (271g) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (220ml) vegetable oil
  • ½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup (60ml) whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp (15g) vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp (20g) finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 Tbsp (6g) grated orange zest
  • 3 cups (300g) shredded carrots
  • 1 cup (100g) chopped pecans

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 18 oz (510g) cream cheese, softened
  • 9 Tbsp (126g) unsalted butter, softened
  • tsp (6g) vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp (1.2g) ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp (0.6g) ground ginger
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cups (345g) powdered sugar, sifted

Instructions

Making the Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the center of the oven.
  • Begin by sifting flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together into a medium bowl. Whisk all dry ingredients together until combined and set the bowl off to the side.
  • In the bowl of the stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed using the paddle attachment until well combined and lightened in color (approximately 2 minutes). Decrease the speed to low and add the oil, melted butter, milk, vanilla extract, ginger, and orange zest until blended. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary, so that everything is fully incorporated.
  • Next, add the flour mixture in 3 additions (to avoid overmixing and getting flour all over your kitchen). Mix flour into batter until just incorporated. Lastly, mix in shredded carrots and pecans until blended.

Baking the Cake

  • Pour the batter evenly into two prepared 9-inch cake pans. It should be approximately 877g of batter in each cake pan. Place the cake pans in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean). Cool the cake in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes before inverting the cake pans onto the racks and removing the cake from the pans. Allow the cake to cool completely (i.e., to room temperature).

Making the Frosting

  • Start by sifting your powdered sugar in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if you are using a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese and butter at medium speed until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the cream cheese.
  • Next, beat in the vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and salt. Decrease the speed to low and add the sifted powdered sugar in three additions. Beat until combined after each addition. Increase the speed to high and beat until the frosting is light and creamy (approximately 2 minutes).
  • Use the frosting immediately on a room-temperature cake or store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. If using the frosting from the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature so it spreads more easily.
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