Last weekend we celebrated my friend’s birthday with a day trip in the redwoods of Memorial Park, hiking and enjoying a meal cooked outdoors (previous post). We had a wonderful day, but in my opinion, no birthday celebration could be complete without a birthday cake. After considering the logistics of bringing a double layer cake with frosting (made with cream cheese that would require refrigeration), I decided it best if I bring along two layers of carrot cake individually wrapped and some cream cheese frosting in a compact tupperware. I could then assemble the cake at our lunch site. Everything traveled nicely through the windy roads and the assembly was pretty quick thanks to the easily spreadable frosting. When you are “roughing it” 😉 outdoors, everyone is just happy and grateful that you actually brought a cake along. It doesn’t have to look pretty, you can basically just slap on some frosting, make it look somewhat presentable and call it “rustic.” When you present the cake outdoors it looks like you made it look “rustic” on purpose.
I wanted to share this carrot cake recipe by Mels Kitchen Cafe because it has finally ended my search for the ultimate carrot cake recipe. I love carrot cake, but finding my go-to carrot cake recipe has been a challenge for me. I think I’ve tried over 20 different carrot cake recipes (throughout the years) before I found this one. Some cakes were too dense, others were too oily, and still others just weren’t very tasty. I had a number of “almost there” carrot cake recipes, but just not memorable enough for me to keep the recipes. I’m glad I didn’t give up because this recipe is IT. This recipe makes a delicious double layer cake with just the right amount of moistness and flavor. I “shredded” the carrots in a food processor and I love that you can see the tiny flecks of carrots throughout this cake. I haven’t felt the need to tinker around with this recipe, but sometimes I add a little less sugar depending on who I’m serving it to and I omit the ground cloves (for my picky little eater). For the frosting I added some more powdered sugar to get the consistency and sweetness we like. Adding the powdered sugar 1/2 – 1 cup at a time, mixing and then tasting each time will help make the frosting just the way you like it.
This carrot cake is wonderfully moist and flavorful, and the cream cheese frosting can be easily adapted to get the sweetness and consistency that you want.
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups of carrots, shredded in a food processor
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups canola oil
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 5 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 1/4 to 3 cups powdered sugar (adjust amount to taste)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Grease two 9-inch round pans
- Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt).
- Beat the sugars (granulated and brown) together with the eggs on medium-high speed until thoroughly combined.
- Reduce speed to medium, and with the mixer going add the oil in a slow steady stream down the side of the bowl (to reduce splattering). After adding all of the oil, increase speed to high and continue mixing until mixture is light in color and well emulsified about 45 seconds.
- Stir in carrots and dry ingredients (by hand) until just incorporated and no clumps or streaks of flour is visible.
- Pour into greased pans and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let cakes cool completely before wrapping them in saran wrap. (If you are not serving this within a day, put the wrapped cakes in the freezer, thaw to room temperature when ready to serve).
- For the cream cheese frosting: Mix cream cheese, butter, vanilla until smooth. Make sure the cream cheese and butter are softened to room temperature. Add powdered sugar to desired sweetness. The original recipe adds 1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar, I ended up needing 3 cups to get the desired consistency and sweetness. It may be a good idea to add the powdered sugar 1/2 – 1 cup at a time and tasting after the addition of each amount until it is just right for you. This frosting recipe was enough to frost a double layer 9-inch cake (when 3 cups of powdered sugar was added).
Carrot Cake was my friend’s choice for a birthday cake, what would be YOUR choice?