Yep. I made a gigantic layered cream cheese-frosted carrot cake. In the middle of summer.
Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut. My gut wanted carrot cake.
There’s walnuts and fresh ginger. Those are the kickers. Sweating like a crazy lady, I grated 1.3 pounds of carrots by hand. I called it my workout for the day.
I baked the cake in two 9-inch cake pans to make a two-layer cake. They baked off with nice, flat, even tops, so I did not have to trim the cakes before frosting. Hallelujah.
I’ve used bundt pan in the past. You could make your life easy and do it that way, too. Or you could join in me in the madness of layer cake making in the middle of summer.
Pro tip for ultra silky frosting: You MUST MAKE SURE YOUR BUTTER AND CREAM CHEESE ARE ROOM TEMPERATURE so that everything whips up nice and silky smooth. You may want to sift your powdered sugar to get rid of lumps.
When I frosted the cake, I used a combo of different techniques I learned from reading, watching videos, and working in restaurants. In the end, I did it in my own free-form sloppy way, but somehow it turned out looking pretty great.
Cake frosting is a bit complicated, there’s this thing called a crumb coat, then the cake gets refrigerated for about 30 minutes, and then I put on the final layer of frosting. You could read Joy’s tutorial to help you get started. Melissa Clark has a great video tutorial as well. I recommend using a small offset spatula. I don’t have a cake stand or cardboard cake rounds. I just used a flat plate and turned the plate as I frosted. Works fine.
Oh, and never frost a cake that is right out of the oven. Make sure it is completely cool. Meg Ray from Miette Bakery in San Francisco will vouch for this tip.
I hope I didn’t scare you. Maybe one day I will attempt to do a more in-depth cake frosting tutorial, but I’ve got to get a little more confident first. Just have fun. Good luck. Don’t forget to share.
Carrot Cake with Orange Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Martha Stewart
NOTE: The original recipe calls for 3 sticks of melted butter. I swapped canola oil for the butter to reduce the saturated fat content of the cake. I wanted to save up and use the butter in a rich cream cheese frosting instead.
Serves 10-12; store any leftovers it in the refrigerator (I actually think the cake tastes better a few days later cold from the fridge…)
* Unsalted butter, for pans
* 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
* 1 cup walnut halves
* 1 1/3 pound large carrots, peeled
* 3 large eggs, room temperature
* 1/3 cup buttermilk (I have used plain Greek yogurt in the past and it works just as well)
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 ½ cups canola oil
* 1 ½- 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger (depending on how spicy you like it)
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Cream Cheese Frosting (this makes a LOT of frosting, you will probably have some left over)
*3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
*3 bars (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
*3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
*1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
*2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
*Pinch of salt
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans (or a bundt pan). Dust pans with flour, and tap out any excess. Set pans aside. Spread nuts in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan, and toast in the oven until lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and let stand until completely cool. Reduce temperature to 300°F. Roughly chop the nuts, and set aside.
2. Peel the carrots and grate them to yield 1.3 pounds, or a little over 3 cups (you could also use a food processor).
3. Peel the ginger (I like to use a metal spoon) and use a microplane to grate the fresh ginger.
4. Place carrots, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, sugar, vegetable oil, and ginger in a large bowl; whisk until well combined.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until combined. Fold in the toasted nuts.
6. Divide the batter between the two cake pans (I weighed my pans to make sure they were even), and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middles comes out clean, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove pan from oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool, 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; let stand until completely cool.