Carrot Cake

Yesterday was my birthday and we celebrated  like we do every January 1st, with pork and sauerkraut for good luck and a favorite dessert! This year my cake was super special. No one else in my family enjoys baking as much as I do, so I typically make all of the desserts for big holiday dinners and birthdays. This year, just like all the rest I was planning on making my own birthday cake. I decided on making a carrot cake since it is one of my favorite cakes and I haven’t yet shared it with everyone on Sweet Pea’s Kitchen. As I was making the grocery list for New Year’s day, Andrew texted me from work and told me that he would make my birthday cake this year. Now, I have been with this man for 10 years and I have never seen him bake! Cook, yes, but bake?! Come on! Not that I didn’t think he could do it, but if he saw the cake that I had planned I was certain he was going to back out. So I went to the store and gathered all the ingredients I needed and left this carrot cake recipe on the kitchen counter. When he got home, sure enough he started in on the cake with no complaints! 🙂 I stayed close by in case he had a question on how to use this, what is that, and so on. I was super impressed with his baking and decorating skills. He took his time slicing the layers and frosting the cake. Don’t let those pecans on the side of the cake fool you, he wasn’t trying to cover up a sloppy layer cake. Each layer was meticulously cut, placed, and frosted. And get this ladies…he even did the dishes when he was done! Now that I know what he is capable of doing I think that he should bake me a cake every year for my birthday! 😉

One Year Ago: New York Style Cheesecake 

Carrot Cake 

Printer Friendly Version

For the Cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 pound medium carrots (6 to 7 carrots), peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, safflower oil, or canola oil

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter softened, but still cool
  • 2 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cup pecans, chopped finely and toasted
For the Decorative Carrots:
  • 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar1 tablespoons milk


  1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round baking pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottoms of pan with parchment and spray parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and salt in large bowl; set aside.
  3. Using the large holes of box grater shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); transfer carrots to bowl and set aside.
  4. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat granulated and brown sugars and eggs on medium-high until thoroughly combined, about 45 seconds. Reduce speed to medium; with mixer running, add oil in slow, steady stream, being careful to pour oil against inside of bowl (if oil begins to splatter, reduce speed to low until oil is incorporated, then resume adding oil). Increase speed to high and mix until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 45 seconds to 1 minute longer. Turn off mixer and stir in carrots and dry ingredients by hand until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pans. 
  5. Bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time. Cool cakes to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours.
  6. When the cake is cool, make the cream cheese frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,  mix cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla at medium high speed until well combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix until very fluffy, about 1 minute.
  7. To assemble the cake: cut layers in half horizontally using a long serrated knife so each cake forms 2 layers. Put a dab of icing on a cardboard round cut just larger than the cake and center one cake layer on the round. Place a large blob of icing in the center of the layer and spread it to the edges with an icing spatula. Repeat with remaining cake layers. Ice the sides and top of the cake. 
  8. Press the pecans into the sides of the cake.
  9. To make the icing for the carrots: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Divide icing into two bowls and tint one orange and one green to desired shade. Keep bowls covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
  10. Fit a decorating bag with Round Decorating Tip 12 and fill 1/2 full with orange icing. Hold the decorating bag at slightly less than 90° angle. Position tip slightly above surface of the cake. Using heavy pressure, begin squeezing at top of carrot. Lift tip slightly, letting the icing fan out generously. Gradually relax pressure to taper shape as you pull back. When carrot is desired length, relax pressure and pull tip back without lifting it off the surface to pull end to a point. (you can also pipe them onto parchment paper and transfer them to the cake as Andrew is doing below).
  11. Fit a decorating bag with Multi-Opening Decorating Tip 233 and fill 1/2 full with green icing. Trim the carrots with pull-out string tops.

Yields: 1 layer cake
Prep Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes (includes cooling)
Bake Time: 40 Minutes

Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Don’t forget to check out Sweet Pea’s Kitchen Top 10 of 2011

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49 Responses to Carrot Cake

  1. Judy says:

    Happy Birthday! I too love carrot cake, though this year I am planning a limoncello tiramisu 🙂 What a beautiful cake he made for you ~ very special, indeed.

  2. Lora says:

    I love a good cake! Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to try this recipe.

  3. Happy Birthday, Christina! What a great birthday present to have your husband make such a beautiful cake. The greatest gift is the love that went into it! And we all got the added bonus of having you “hands free” to take the great accompanying photos. I haven’t tried the CI recipe yet, but I’ve never been disappointed with any of their recipes so I’m sure it was as delicious as it looks. I recently posted a wonderful carrot cake recipe myself that is a little different with dates and currants in it. It’s not as pretty as yours, but it is exceptionally delicious: Happy 2012!

  4. Michael Ann says:

    I am blown away by your husband! That is amazing and what a wonderful, loving thing to do. The cake looks beautiful and delicious. Happy Birthday!

  5. beth says:

    checked out this recipe, and it looks amazing!! Will need to make this one real soon.

  6. Mary says:

    Happy Birthday from a new follower of yours. The cake looks fantastic. I like the recipe, finally one without pineapple.

  7. Curt says:

    Happy birthday! And yes, I think he should bake your birthday cake every year too! He did an excellent job.

    That’s my favorite cake too. I’ve never had it with all the nuts on the side like that. Much better than what I’ve always eaten.

  8. Happy Birthday to you! We share a birthday, mine was yesterday as well 🙂
    Love that he made you a cake, and what an amazing job he did!

  9. Asmita says:

    Wow, this is awesome! Looks so good and I would love this for my birthday.

  10. Hooray for men who cook! Seriously, that cake looks awesome. Happy belated birthday!

  11. Geet says:

    Happy birthday to you !

  12. ChgoJohn says:

    Happy Birthday, Christina! I’ve seen store-bought cakes that look far worse than this beauty, right down to the carrots on top. Good job!

  13. raquel says:

    sigh…I wish my man could bake like Andrew, what a man you have there he is so sweet…I like man who knows how to cook too … this is my first step on your blog though i am on your circle on google plus for now on I will be your new fan. Happy Birthday =)

  14. ¡Cumpleaños Feliz! Now that is love, love, love!! You lucky girl. I adore carrot cake but have never made one this fabulous looking … it´s my birthday in a few weeks. I don´t think Big Man would bake me the cake, but I could always do it for myself 🙂

  15. Sharon says:

    Happy Birthday! Tell your husband Im impressed! I love your blog!!

  16. Happy birthday!!! What a wonderful treat that he made this beautiful cake for you!

  17. Happy Birthday, what an awesome and yummy looking cake you had for your birthday! Lucky you! 🙂

  18. this is so cute! i love the action shots! and your kitchen is gorgeous!

  19. felisrecipes says:

    Happy birthday !!!
    Wow the cake looks AMAZING !!!
    He did an excellent job. Congrats !!!

  20. I loved your Top 10 post by the way…yum!

    And carrot cake is one of my all time faves and so is cream cheese frosting and your pics are gorgeous!

  21. adorable!! what a guy!! it looks delicious 🙂

  22. Are you sure your husband has never baked a cake before because this one looks like its been made by an expert! Happy belated birthday!

  23. christina says:

    Carrot cake is my FAVORITE, and this recipe looks about perfect–plain and simple, delicious carrot cake without soggy walnuts or squishy pineapple. Thank you! (Oh, and reading about how sweet your husband was made me smile.)

  24. Happy New Year Christina. This carrot cake looks beautiful. I especially love the way the carrots were placed perfectly over the cake. My frosting skills suck. 🙂

  25. Hey there – He did a great job! I agree as well that he has earned a job to make you a cake every year. My only complaint is the hat that he was wearing in the pictures. Other than that it all looks great! 🙂

  26. Happy Birthday!!! Your husband is definitely a keeper! He did a great job decorating a cake, especially with not much experience. He must have someone who’s a great cook in the house! 🙂

  27. That man is a keeper! Happy (belated) birthday!

  28. Erin says:

    Happy belated birthday! Those icing carrots on top are too cute.

  29. What a great guy! Happy Birthday! Carrot cake is one of my faves too and this version looks perfect!

  30. Shumaila says:

    Belated Birthday wishes! I love carrot cake and in fact it was one of the first cakes I baked for my husband. He was never a sweet person and still is not- but carrot cake changed his outlook towards cake. This looks absolutely great and bet it must have been a very special treat for you!

  31. kat says:

    So beautifully decorated!!!

  32. Baker Street says:

    Happy Birthday! My family loves carrot cake. This one looks stunning. 🙂

  33. Geet says:

    Made this wonderful carrot cake today for friends. Tasted really good. The only thing is that it’s not as smooth as yours. Mine looked a bit chunky everywhere when sliced. Probably because I added some chopped pineapple 🙂
    Thank you for this delicious recipe..

  34. spicegirlfla says:

    Very impressive!! I love carrot cake and have made my version for years – also too for my own birthday cake!! How sweet and adorable that he made this for you!! Happy Birthday!

  35. Happy belated birthday! It seems short of miraculous that your husband could do this, having never baked a cake in the last 10 years. Maybe he needs a new career. Looks wonderful!

  36. Mmmm I love carrot cake but still haven’t gotten around to making one yet.

  37. Karista says:

    What a sweetheart of a guy you have! 🙂 The cake looked beautiful and delicious.

  38. that is one gorgeous carrot cake….yumm !

  39. Jen Roque says:

    Beautifully done carrot cake! Especially having the helper! 🙂

  40. This sounds like it’s good and spicy, which is how I like my cake to be. Does it really use a whole tablespoon of cardamom?

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  43. Evan says:

    It’s a really good delicious cake! I did tone down on the spices though using only 1 tsp cinnamon and threw in 1 cup of walnuts. Excellent recipe. Glad you posted it.

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