Carrot cake is a classic. You mess with carrot cake, you go to jail.
Woahhhh Nelly, hold your horses! (neigghhhh...!) Hate to break it to ya but you're wrong! You CAN mess, but you gotta do it legitly. Every legit carrot cake needs to have real carrots, walnuts or pecans (we used both because we couldn't decide), cream cheese frosting, and those cheesy little carrots piped around the top. Whether or not you throw in crushed pineapple, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, buttermilk, chopped ginger or raisins is up to you, and will allow you to determine who your real friends are.
We adapted this beauty from Sam's famous carrot cake on Allrecipes, and paired it with mascarpone cream cheese frosting. The mascarpone balances the tang of the cream cheese and adds a nutty sweetness. We don't like tooth-achingly sweet frosting. Paula once put SIX cups of powdered sugar to one stick of butter and one 8-oz brick of cream cheese. Don't know about y'all, but we ain't wearin' dentures/have Deen Family Sugar Tolerance. So we reduced the sugar in both the cake and the frosting, and it's still plenty sweet and scrumptious.
Sam told us to use 8 oz of crushed pineapple with juice, but we think that the juice made the cake a little too sticky; we wanted a fluffier, lighter cake, so we suggest draining the pineapple of excess juice. Also, we substituted some of the white sugar for brown sugar, but this may have also made the cake slightly denser and moister (akin to a sticky toffee date pudding, which some may prefer); maybe all white sugar is the way to go. Also, let the cake cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap to prevent condensation. We think raisins don't go with carrot cake as well as crystallized ginger does - ginger just fits so well in the cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg clique. But if you're not a ginger fan, fret not, we're sure you'll find other friends. In the meantime, make this cake!
Revised and Tested Recipe - the World's Best Carrot Cake
THIS CARROT CAKE IS DELICIOUSLY FRAGRANT AND MOIST thanks to the combination fo buttermilk, flaked coconut, and crushed pineapple. It is also not too sweet because we reduced the sugar from 2 cups to 1 ¼ cup and swapped out raisins for crystalized ginger, which perfectly matches the spiced cake. It contains less oil than most carrot cake recipes, allowing the delicate flavor of the carrots to shine and results in a cake that isn’t too greasy. The mascarpone adds a natural sweetness and lends complexity to an otherwise traditional cream cheese buttercream that is essential to carrot cake.
For the cake:
2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour (270 g)
1 ¾ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1/8 tsp allspice (optional)
3 large eggs (room temp)
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk (room temp)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups white sugar (reduced from 2 cups)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups shredded carrots, about 4-5 large (370 g)
¾ cup unsweetened flaked coconut (75 g, optional)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
140 g crushed pineapple, drained well
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
For the mascarpone frosting:
19 Tbsp butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
16 oz cream cheese, cool
8 oz mascarpone cheese, cool
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line with parchment circles two 8-inch round cake pans. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture and mix well. In a medium bowl, combine shredded carrots, coconut, nuts, pineapple and candied ginger. Using a large wooden spoon or a very heavy whisk, add carrot mixture to batter and fold in well. Pour into prepared pans, and bake at 350 F (175 C) for 50 minutes. Press lightly in the center to check for spring and do the toothpick check (few crumbs cling to toothpick inserted in center). Cool cakes 15 minutes in the pans, remove and cool on wire rack for 5 hours until no longer warm. Wrap with plastic wrap and store at room temp overnight or in the fridge or freezer until ready to frost.
* we shredded 75% of the carrots by hand to produce an interesting texture and visible carrot pieces in the cake. We then processed the remaining unshreddable ends in the food processer until pretty finely ground, and added them to the cake to make 2 ½ cups total (370 g).
For mascarpone frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar on lowest speed until all of the sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to high and beat 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese 8oz at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition or until smooth and fluffy. Add mascarpone cheese and beat 1 more minute or until smooth, satiny, and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to taste or if your frosting is too stiff. Remove some frosting and add food coloring to make carrots.