So last week Pete and I were talking about the glory that is cream cheese frosting and it came up that I had first discovered my love of cream cheese frosting through carrot cake. At that point, we looked at each other and simultaneously said “oooh carrot cake”. I then knew that I had to make one and went searching for a recipe. I found what sounded like a pretty fantastic one on http://stickygooeycreamychewy.com/. As usual, I went about making a few subtle changes to the recipe but overall it is pretty similar to the original that can be seen here http://stickygooeycreamychewy.com/2011/01/07/the-best-carrot-cake-recipe-ever/. My version is a little healthier and a little lower in fat and calories though, because I substitute applesauce for the oil. You will notice that I do this in virtually every recipe. It can sometimes make the texture a little more chewy, but I find that this is rarely the case and even when it does happen, people rarely notice it unless you point it out. It also makes it much lighter and cuts the fat and calories significantly.
Without further ado, here is the recipe…
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
(Note: I used these spices because I happened to have them, but if you don’t have them and don’t want to buy them all separately pumpkin pie spice makes an excellent substitute. I use it all the time in recipes like this one and no one can tell the difference. In this case:, I would use 1 ½ -2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup buttermilk
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 pound + 2 carrots, grated
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted if you prefer (optional)
1 cup golden raisins
Cream Cheese Frosting
2- 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened (I use 1/3 less fat, again it makes me feel slightly less guilty)
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1 ½ teaspoon orange extract
3-5 cups confectioners’ sugar
(I use at least 4 cups confectioners sugar, more than the original recipe calls for because I prefer a thicker frosting, but that is my preference and is entirely up to you.)
Preheat oven to 350° F.
At the same time you are preheating the oven, you might as well take your butter and cream cheese out of the refridgerater because it takes forever to warm them up to the point that you can work with them.
This recipe calls for 2- 9” cake pans, lined with parchment paper and greased. However, the only cake pans that I currently have access to are 8”.
So, here is what I did…
I lined both 8” pans with parchment paper & greased them with butter.
I then filled both 8” pans about ¾ of the way full.
Then I put the leftover batter in a cupcake/muffin pan.
First line the muffin pan with cupcake liners and spray the liners with Pam or whatever cooking spray you use (this prevents the muffin/cupcake from sticking to the paper).
If you use 8 “ pans (like me) there will be enough leftover batter for about 6 cupcakes.
BE SURE that you put water (just about an inch) in the empty muffin pan cups. If you don’t you will burn, warp and ruin your pan!!!
If you do decide to make cupcakes, bake them at 350 for 20 minutes and they will come out perfect and trust me there is more than enough icing for them!
Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger,and nutmeg (or 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, I promise you, no one will ever know the difference) together in a bowl.
Mix the eggs, sugar,applesauce, buttermilk, brown sugar, vanilla, and pineapple together in a large bowl. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together.
Now comes the tedious and somewhat dangerous part of the recipe, the shredding of the carrots. The original recipe called for 1 lb, but when you consider the amount of carrot I wasted in peeling and shredding, I added at least 2 carrots to the total. At one time I had a hand protector, but I have no idea what happened to it, so in the interest of keeping my fingers intact, I am willing to buy a couple of extra carrots.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake on the center rack for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean (for me that was easily 35 min), but all ovens are different.
You are then supposed to cool the cakes for 30-45 minutes before transfering them to a wire rack. I disagree. Let them cool for 10-15 minutes and then get them out of those pans. The longer they sit in the pans the harder they are to get out. If all else fails you can always use a butter knife around the outside edges.
To make the frosting:
Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add the the vanilla and orange extract. Slowly add the confectioners sugar, one cup at a time. Keep the mixer on low speed because the confectioners suger will puff out everywhere and make a big mess. Continue adding confectioners sugar until you reach the consistency you like.
Scoop about 1 1/2 cups of the cream cheese icing onto the top of the bottom cake layer. Spread it out to the edges of that layer. Place the second layer on top of the first one. Add an additional 1 1/2 -2 cups creeam cheese frosting to the top layer and try to work it from the center toward the edges and then down the sides of the cake. I would be lying if I said that I am not terrible at all things cake decorating. Even basic icing is beyond me. So while this cake is delicious, it is not beautiful. Plus, I have notied it is very hard to cut this cake in pretty pieces becauses of all the chunks in it :( But luckilly it tastes fantastic!
Note: After having a second piece, I decided that in the future I will most likely omit the raisins. They don’t seem to add a whole lot and they alter the texture in a way that I don’t really care for.