Classic Carrot Cake

Monday, February 23, 2009

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“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Do you categorize your food by season? I do. It makes sense to cook with ingredients that are at their peak of freshness. Certain foods, by their nature are also more suited to particular times of the year. For example, to me, it just doesn’t feel right to eat butternut squash in the middle of July. Likewise, I feel somewhat out of place serving peach dishes in December.

I also tend to categorize desserts by season. I enjoy lighter, fruity desserts in warmer weather, and denser, richer ones in the Fall and Winter. One of my favorite cool weather treats is a moist, rich and spice-laced carrot cake, preferably with lots of little chunks of fruits and nuts inside. Oh yeah, and it’s gotta have a ton of rich, tangy, silky and fluffy cream cheese frosting slathered all over it too!


When I saw this Classic Carrot Cake with Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting in the January, 2009 issue of Food & Wine Magazine, I knew I had hit carrot cake pay dirt! The recipe comes courtesy of pastry chef Jodi Elliot from the Urban Farmer in Portland, Oregon.

This cake is called classic for a reason. It is moist, dense and flavorful, without being overly sweet. The cream cheese frosting creamy and fluffy, just as advertised. A very satisfying and comforting combination! The recipe is straightforward and uncomplicated. What you see, is what you get. And, in these uncertain times, that is a very good thing!


Classic Carrot Cake with Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting (Print Recipe)
adapted from Food & Wine Magazine, January, 2009


For the cake:

1 cup pecans (4 ounces)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded

For the frosting:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar


Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter two 9-inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment. Butter the paper and flour the pans.

Make the cake: Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes, until fragrant. Cool and finely chop the pecans.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, buttermilk and vanilla. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, 5 minutes. Beat in the liquid ingredients. Beat in the dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in the carrots and pecans. Divide the batter between the pans and bake the cakes for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until springy and golden. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then unmold the cakes and let cool completely.

Make the frosting: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese at high speed until light, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the confectioners’ sugar; beat at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Peel off the parchment paper and invert one cake layer onto a plate. Spread with a slightly rounded cup of the frosting. Top with the second cake layer, right side up. Spread the top and sides with the remaining frosting and refrigerate the cake until chilled, about 1 hour.

Slice and serve.


45 responses to Classic Carrot Cake

  1. On February 23, 2009 at 7:05am, Nina Timm said...

    That is my favorite quotes from the Bible…. Lovely, moist and chunky fruit carrot cake…and yes, bring on loads of frosting!!!

  2. On February 23, 2009 at 7:16am, Amy said...

    YUMMY! Today ismy birthday, and I think I am going to bake this today for my cake!!!! Thanks for sharing it!

  3. On February 23, 2009 at 7:37am, Engineer Baker said...

    You’re right – that cake looks absolutely perfect. I absolutely love carrot cake, especially with raisins and pecans and cream cheese frosting… Dangit, I need to put carrots on my grocery list now :)

  4. On February 23, 2009 at 7:49am, Bellini Valli said...

    I have always been a huge fan or carrot cake:D

  5. On February 23, 2009 at 7:56am, Tangled Noodle said...

    I adore carrot cake on so many levels – the cream cheese frosting, the moist density, the crunch of nuts and last but not least, the health halo of carrots! 😎

  6. On February 23, 2009 at 8:36am, Mike of Mike's Table said...

    I was never much of a carrot cake person, but I’m also thinking I’ve never had a good carrot cake…and I was young at the time, so carrot anything was not to be trusted, lol. This really looks tempting though and it sounds like I need to give carrot cake another shot.

  7. On February 23, 2009 at 8:46am, Meg said...

    I love carrot cake! This looks delicious!

  8. On February 23, 2009 at 8:54am, Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

    What a beautiful tall cake! It looks really scrumptious… Tempting!



  9. On February 23, 2009 at 9:33am, 5 Star Foodie said...

    Gorgeous! I love the fluffy frosting! Yum!

  10. On February 23, 2009 at 9:45am, Gera @ SweetsFoods said...

    Hi Susan!

    I think also foods have seasons more appropriated to time of the year.
    Speaking about perfect cake…I’m seeing a fluffy creamy delicious one here!


  11. On February 23, 2009 at 10:09am, Glimmer said...

    wow! looks so delicate! I’m definately gonna make it!

  12. On February 23, 2009 at 10:25am, pigpigscorner said...

    Looks so moist and delicious!

  13. On February 23, 2009 at 11:11am, Bret's Table said...

    I absolutely adore Carrot Cake and I’m always looking for another one to devour. Thanks so much for sharing this one.

  14. On February 23, 2009 at 11:26am, Grace said...

    yes, carrot cake is good. but what appeals to me most of all is the thick, luscious layers of cream cheese frosting. your cake is absolutely decadent.
    and hey–great verse. :)

  15. On February 23, 2009 at 11:34am, squawmama said...

    Oh Susan How I love Carrot Cake… It is heaven! I copied this recipe as fast as my little hands could do it… I will be making it for my group when we go on an outing next week… Thanks


  16. On February 23, 2009 at 11:45am, Elyse said...

    Wow, your carrot cake looks delicious. I love the thick layers of frosting between the moist looking cake. HEAVENLY!

  17. On February 23, 2009 at 11:52am, Cindy Ruth said...

    The carrot cake looks SO good! I haven’t made a carrot cake in a couple of years-I think it’s time again.

  18. On February 23, 2009 at 12:05pm, Karen said...

    Looks very moist and yummy :)

  19. On February 23, 2009 at 12:46pm, Maria said...

    Lovely cake!! I will have to make this for my father, he adores carrot cake!

  20. On February 23, 2009 at 12:49pm, Ingrid said...

    I like carrot cake but plain nothing in it except carrots, weird, huh?

  21. On February 23, 2009 at 1:16pm, Debbie said...

    Susan that just looks delicious. Mon youngest loves carrot cake and I will have to make this for him!

  22. On February 23, 2009 at 1:27pm, PaniniKathy said...

    You did a wonderful job on this one! That forkful definitely has my name on it. Heck, I’ll take the whole slice :-)

  23. On February 23, 2009 at 2:36pm, duodishes said...

    Carrot cake is one of the baked good gifts to the world!

  24. On February 23, 2009 at 4:03pm, pinkstripes said...

    Oh man, what a gorgeous looking cake. I’m sure it was delicious. YUM!

  25. On February 23, 2009 at 4:15pm, Dana Treat said...

    Lovely cake, beautiful photos. Nice job!

  26. On February 23, 2009 at 5:23pm, Foodess said...

    Gorgeous cake! The frosting looks perfect. There’s no better way to eat a carrot.

  27. On February 23, 2009 at 6:33pm, Bria said...

    I love carrot cake but it’s one of those things I’ve never baked. Will have to make it a goal for 2009. Yours looks perfect.

  28. On February 23, 2009 at 7:12pm, Sandy Smith said...

    This is beautiful. I love a good carrot cake, and your fantastic pictures have set off the most intense craving now! MMMMM!

  29. On February 23, 2009 at 7:23pm, The Italian Dish said...

    Classic. Perfect. You rock.

  30. On February 23, 2009 at 9:18pm, Claire said...

    Yum!!! Carrot cake is good and this looks great. I do assign seasons to foods…just can’t quite help it!

  31. On February 23, 2009 at 10:21pm, Brilynn said...

    I think carrot cake is one of my favourites, the cream cheese frosting lures me in every time!

  32. On February 23, 2009 at 10:46pm, Proud Italian Cook said...

    Susan, This is irresistable! I would dive into this right now!!

  33. On February 25, 2009 at 3:55am, joanne at frutto della passione said...

    Susan, I have always loved carrot cake. I got my first taste of it at a school bake sale (do they still have those?) when I was about 6 or 7. I have never made for myself though – something that will change right now. Thanks for sharing the recipe – I’ll have to use walnuts instead of pecans because they’re impossible to find here, but other than that I should be okay!

  34. On February 25, 2009 at 12:17pm, noble pig said...

    I try every carrot cake recipe because it's my hubby's favorite. I saw this in F & W and need to make it.

    Beautiful as always.

  35. On February 25, 2009 at 5:30pm, Peter M said...

    Susan, this is sheer awesomeness! I can still remember my 1st carrot cake…complete with Philly cream cheese icing!

    It’s been a sin that I haven’t had it in awhile.

  36. On February 25, 2009 at 8:37pm, haleysuzanne said...

    This is just delicious. I love it. I think I need it….now….

  37. On February 28, 2009 at 3:55am, Cakelaw said...

    This looks fabulous – there’s nothing like a good carrot cake.

  38. On March 01, 2009 at 11:06pm, AmyRuth said...

    Your cake photos look beautiful. I am making a carrot cake in the morning. Can’t wait! I love the combination of the nuts, fruits and spices too.

  39. On March 05, 2009 at 3:43pm, Erin said...

    This looks beautiful! I love carrot cake- it’s one of my favorites!

  40. On February 16, 2010 at 1:00pm, Megan Franko said...

    This recipe has become my standby for carrot cake. I love it! I also have used it for carrot cake cupcakes. Keep the great recipes coming!

  41. On April 03, 2010 at 11:18am, Anel said...

    Not fond of baking cakes. Only baked 2 cakes in my life to date and on both occasions I used THIS carrot cake recipe. A winning recipe! Thanks to this recipe my “baking a cake” history is flawless!

  42. On August 11, 2010 at 5:45pm, Connie said...

    I just found your website because I was bored and googled “carrot cake”. I’m pleased to say that I will be using your recipe next weekend when my friend and I hang out. I definitely plan on visiting your site on a daily basis :) Keep cooking! <3

  43. On October 27, 2011 at 10:38pm, Anne said...

    I found this recipe while looking for a good carrot cake recipe that used shredded carrots. The photos grabbed me, and while there were quite a few steps (and enough 5-minute mixing to make me long for a standing mixer), the payoff was worth it. I tweaked the icing, using 2 tsp of lemon extract (Penzey’s) and 1 tsp of vanilla…it gave the icing a nice tang…I wanted the cake to be a little denser than it was, so I think I’ll only bake for 45-50 minutes next time…this has now become my go-to carrot cake recipe!

  44. On December 08, 2011 at 10:16pm, Janet said...

    I just made this cake today. It is fantastic! I did substitute 1 cup melted butter for the oil. (I do that on a lot of cake recipes) It was soooo good! The frosting is very light and delicious. This will be the recipe that goes in my book to make again. Thanks so much!

  45. On October 25, 2013 at 6:09pm, New Mom said...

    I made this cake last night and it turned out AMAZING!!!!! Super moist! I’m new at baking and this was my first time ever making a cake and I’m glad I found this recipe! Definitely gave me a boost in confidence to make more yummy cakes!!! I high recommend this recipe!!!!

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kiss the cook!

Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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