Recipe - Best Ever Carrot Cake & Cream Cheese Frosting

carrot cake cream cheese frosting recipe

Of the many cakes, cookies and other baked goods that I hand out to friends and colleagues (in a half-hearted attempt to get them safely out of my own line of sight), this carrot cake gets the most compliments, hands down. Admittedly, that’s not saying much – even week-old cupcakes get compliments in a busy office around 11am – but trust me on this one.

It’s super soft, moist, and warmly spiced without being overly sweet (worry not – the frosting more than makes up for any lack of sweetness in the sponge!). And if you can be bothered trying to frost and assemble an enormous four-layered cake, it’s also beautiful.

This carrot cake recipe is technically quite easy, but it takes a little while to prepare, particularly if you’re grating the carrots by hand (grating is my least favourite job in the kitchen, full stop). It’s important to let the cake cool down completely before frosting – if you add the cream cheese frosting to warm cake, instead of sitting on top it will melt into the cake, making it claggy and dense and too sweet (not to mention ugly – nobody can decorate a cake neatly with warm icing).

Anyway, let’s get cooking.

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Carrot cake seen from above, sliced

Carrot cake & cream cheese frosting

Ingredients

Carrot cake ingredients

  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 200 g dark muscovado sugar
  • 4 eggs organic, free-range
  • 200 ml sunflour oil or any other neutral-flavoured vegetable oil
  • 100 ml smooth apple sauce if you can’t be bothered with this, you can substitute it for extra oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 250 g all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • 10 g baking powder
  • 10 g baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 320 g grated carrots I finely grate the carrots – you can use the coarse setting if you’d like to see the carrot strands in the finished cake

Cream cheese frosting ingredients

  • 480 g full-fat Philadelphia cheese at room temperature
  • 120 g unsalted butter melted and cooled
  • 400-600 g icing sugar sieved
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste you can use essence, too

Instructions

Carrot cake method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (fan). Grease and flour two sandwich sponge tins.
  2. To start making your carrot cake, use a large bowl to combine your eggs with the sugar, and give them a good whisk (if you’ve got an electric mixer, that’s even better). Add in the oil, and keep beating vigorously until you’ve got a lighter, foamy mixture. If using, mix in the apple sauce at this stage. Also add in the vanilla paste.
  3. Mix in the sieved dry ingredients: the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Don’t over-beat – just mix them in gently.
  4. Add in the grated carrots, and fold until you’ve got an even batter.
  5. Pour into the two prepared tins, and bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Leave to cool COMPLETELY!

     

Cream cheese frosting method

  1. Make a start on your cream cheese frosting: drain the water from the cream cheese packet, and place the cheese in the middle of a clean tea towel or muslin cloth.
  2. Gather up the tea towel and wring, so that the cheese is in a tight ball.
  3. Hold it over a bowl or the sink (I like using a bowl so that I can see how much liquid has come out ) and apply pressure – the tea towel will get wet, and liquid will start dripping off.
  4. Repeat this process a few times until no more liquid is coming out. Leave the cream cheese out until it’s at room temperature.
  5. Heat the butter until just melted, and leave to cool until it’s just become solid again. The butter and cheese will have a similar consistency, which prevents lumps in the frosting.
  6. Whisk the butter and cheese together vigorously, until creamy and homogeneous.
  7. Whisk in the vanilla paste.
  8. When you’ve sieved the icing sugar (this is crucial, icing sugar ALWAYS has lumps), use a wooden spoon to mix it into the butter and cheese mixture – 100g at a time.
  9. Your cream cheese frosting will go through a gloopy stage, but stick with it, and it will get to a lovely piping consistency – leave it to cool in the fridge for 30 minutes and it will become even stiffer.

  10. Slice each carrot cake sponge in half, if you'd like a 4-layered cake, or just use as two. Frost with the cream cheese frosting and decorate to taste (I think nuts always work well, they're a perfect pairing with carrot cake).


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