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Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A pleasingly moist cake, this treat is the one I requested that my mom make each year for my birthday. It's dotted with sweet carrots and a hint of cinnamon. The fluffy buttery frosting is scrumptious with chopped walnuts stirred in. One piece of this homemade carrot cake is never enough—better than all the other carrot cakes recipes I've tried!—Kim Orr, West Grove, Pennsylvania
  • Total Time
    Prep: 30 min. Bake: 35 min. + cooling
  • Makes
    16 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • FROSTING:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons 2% milk
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • Orange and green food coloring, optional

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and oil. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; beat into egg mixture. Stir in carrots.
  • Pour into two greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • For frosting, in another large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. Add enough milk to achieve desired spreading consistency. Reserve 1/2 cup frosting for decorating if desired. If desired, stir walnuts into remaining frosting.
  • Spread frosting between layers and over top and sides of cake. If decorating the cake, tint 1/4 cup reserved frosting orange and 1/4 cup green. Cut a small hole in the corner of pastry or plastic bag; insert #7 round pastry tip. Fill the bag with orange frosting. Pipe twelve carrots on top of cake, so each slice will have a carrot. Using #67 leaf pastry tip and the green frosting, pipe a leaf at the top of each carrot.
  • Store cake in the refrigerator.

Carrot Cake Tips

What's the trick to a moist cake?

Cakes made with oil tend to retain more moisture than cakes made with butter or shortening. Ingredients such as sour cream or buttermilk are also key ingredients to a moist carrot cake because they contain acids that tenderize the developing gluten in the flour.

What is a good substitute for cream cheese frosting?

Instead of cream cheese frosting, use a traditional buttercream frosting or try your hand at Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.

What's the best oil for carrot cake?

Canola oil is best for this cake because it has a nice, neutral flavor which doesn’t interfere or clash with any of the other flavors going on in the cake. If you prefer a butter-based carrot cake, check out our recipe for three-layered carrot cake. To convert oil measurements to butter, the general rule is 1 cup butter to ¾ cup oil.

How do I make the frosting less sweet?

To keep the frosting from becoming too sweet, cut back on the confectioners’ sugar slightly (a few tablespoons may be enough to make a difference). As you prepare the frosting, add a little sugar at a time and taste as you go. Also, you could add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the frosting because the acidity in the juice counters the sweetness of the sugar. If the frosting still seems too sweet, simply decrease the amount you use on your cake.

How do I prevent my frosting from getting runny?

Because it is made in a mixer, cream cheese frosting can become runny if overmixed. Mix just until all of the confectioners’ sugar has been incorporated, and you have whipped in some air for stability. To thicken your frosting, pop the bowl in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes. This will allow the butter and cream cheese to firm up a bit more.
Nutrition Facts
1 slice: 531 calories, 28g fat (7g saturated fat), 67mg cholesterol, 203mg sodium, 68g carbohydrate (54g sugars, 1g fiber), 5g protein.