Incredibly moist and flavorful carrot cake layered with a thick and rich cream cheese frosting! My favorite carrot cake recipe to date!
Ok guys, so I know we’re in the dead of winter and it’s not quite carrot cake season yet, but when you have a craving, it’s just best to give in. For everyone else’s sake, right? In my opinion, carrot cake is spectacular ANY time of year. The same goes for anything pumpkin.
Seriously, what is it about carrot cake that makes it so crave-worthy?? Is it the rich and creamy, addictively sweet cream cheese frosting?
Or, does it have to do with how incredibly moist and dense it is?
Or maybe it’s all of the flavors and textures you get in one single bite. Freshly shredded carrots, sweet and citrusy pineapple, toasty pecans, plump raisins, warm cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg…
Whatever it is, I’m sure many can agree that carrot cake is one of the most unique cakes around. Ironically, it’s also one of the unhealthiest cakes around. Not that it really matters to me.
Luckily, for those of you who have managed to hold onto those healthy new year’s resolutions for an entire week (impressive), my classic cake won’t derail your efforts as much as you might think. Allow me to make my case…
For starters, there’s a hefty (and I mean HEFTY) dose of carrots in this cake–ONE POUND to be exact. Hey, if you’re going to make a carrot cake, it’s gotta have carrots–Lots of carrots! FRESHLY-GRATED. No if’s, and’s, or butt’s about it! Not only do the fresh carrots provide most of the moisture in the cake, but they flavor the cake with that pure, natural sweetness.
For more of that natural sweetness and moisture, I added an entire 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple. Instead of simply tossing the juice drained from the pineapple, I soaked and boiled the raisins in it to infuse some more of that citrusy sweetness in the cake as well as to plump the raisins up. You should end up with about 1 cup of crushed pineapple and 1 and 1/4 cups of pineapple juice.
Then we get to the oil, which is one of the main reasons why carrot cake is infamously unhealthy. Never fear, my health nut resolutioners, because not only is there only HALF a cup of oil in the whole cake, but I also used coconut oil as well. Now, I’m not an expert on coconut oil (or healthy-eating, for that matter), but I do know that it’s much healthier than canola oil which is traditionally added to carrot cakes by the cupfuls. Since I reduced a lot of the oil in this cake, I also added a little sour cream to maintain that moist crumb.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves round out the wonderfully warm flavors of this soft, yet dense cake. Just enough spice to bring out the natural flavors of the freshly-grated carrots, the golden sweet pineapple, and those plump little raisins.
Even health nuts will agree, a carrot cake is not complete without its decadently rich and tangy partner in crime–cream cheese frosting. It’s an absolute must on carrot cakes, and those who would even dare dressing a carrot cake in anything but are clinically insane.
Classic Carrot Cake
Yields: 10-12 servings
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted to liquid
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound carrots, peeled and grated (about 3 cups)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup pecans, toasted (optional)
1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted (optional)
Make the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 9×13-inch cake pan with parchment paper, then spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Thoroughly drain the crushed pineapple by pouring into a strainer set over a large glass measuring cup and using the back of the spoon to squeeze out as much juice as possible. You should end up with about 1 and 1/4 cup of juice. Place drained pineapple in a separate bowl; set aside. Add raisins to the drained pineapple liquid, microwave for 1 minute, remove and stir, then return to microwave for another minute. Remove and allow raisins to continue to soak while you make the batter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt until combined; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together on medium speed until the mixture becomes thick and creamy, 1-3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly stream in the oil until thoroughly combined. Beat in sour cream and vanilla until smooth.
Remove bowl from mixer and use a spatula to gently fold in half of the flour mixture. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture until most of the lumps are gone–do not overmix.
Drain the raisins, then gently fold into the batter along with the grated carrots and crushed pineapple. Pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few moist crumbs attached. Cool the cake completely in the pan.
Make the Frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla together on medium-high speed until smooth, 2-4 minutes. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and continue beating until creamy.
Run a knife around the edges of the completely cooled cake, then flip the cake out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, then flip the cake right side up onto a cutting board. Cut the cake horizontally so that you end up with three even rectangles that are roughly 9×4 inches each.
Place one cake layer onto the serving platter, then frost/pipe with a third of the frosting. Repeat this step with the remaining cake layers and frosting, then garnish with toasted pecans and coconut, if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
*Cake can be stored covered in the refrigerator. For the perfect texture and flavor experience, I like to allow the cake to warm up to room temperature before serving, about 2 hours.