Since my mom is the baker, my dad thought it would be a nice treat for him to give her an anniversary cake. While he is a kick ass chocolate chip cookie baker, he hasn't really ever baked any other desserts, so he gave me a call and asked for help. We quickly decided on carrot cake, and I set out looking for recipes.
My dad told me "nothing fancy", but I did decide to make a layer cake. I had never made one before and really wanted to try it out. I was very happy with the results. I used a simple cream cheese frosting to layer and frost the cakes. I wanted the *perfect* carrot cake recipe, and judging from my parents' reactions (and licking the batter from the spoon), this is it.
I did sub out some of the oil for applesauce. I feel its an easy way to add a healthier aspect to recipes and helps make cakes/muffins/etc really moist and tasty.
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes one two-layer cake
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil (I used 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce and 1/2 cup vegetable oil)
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots (about 4-5 carrots) [I grated them in my food processor and used about 3 1/4 cups]
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter two 9inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with wax paper (parchment paper worked fine for me) and butter the paper. Lightly flour the bottom of each pan, and tap out the excess.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger until blended. Whisk sugar and oil together in a separate large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs into the sugar and oil mixture, one at a time.
Pour the sugar/egg/oil mixure into the dry ingredients and mix until blended (I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer). Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among the two cake pans. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (I cooked mine for 40 min and they came out pretty dark, but were still incredibly moist and felt springy.)
Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. (I cooled them in their pans overnight, as I didn't want to frost them until the next day.)
Peel off waxed paper; cool cakes completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
2 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (make sure you butter is room temp, so it gets fully incorporated into the cream cheese
Combine all ingredients together in a stand mixer and beat until thoroughly mixed together. Once ingredients are mixed, I like to switch from the paddle beater to the whisk attachment, and beat for another 1-2 minutes to incorporate more air into the mixture, making a light, fluffy frosting.
To assemble & frost layer cake:
Turn out one cake onto a cake board (I bought a 10 pack at Michaels for about $5.50). Don't forget to peel off the wax paper before setting on the board.
Using a leveler, spatula, or butter knife, spread a generous layer of frosting over the top of the cake. Place the second cake on top of this layer of frosting.
Spread the frosting on the top layer of the cake and smooth. Begin frosting the sides of the cake, turning the cake board as you go. Fill the in any space left between the two cakes. Using your knife/spatula/leveler, smooth the frosting around the sides and on the top, taking care to cover any remaining exposed cake.