Carrot cake is one of my all-time favorite cakes. It probably has a lot to do with the frosting. Cream cheese frosting is one of the only instances where I’ll want more cake just so I can have more frosting. Most of the time I’d rather just eat the cake on its own but man, you put cream cheese frosting on a cake and watch out!
For the longest time I had no desire whatsoever to even attempt making my own carrot cake. I really hate cutting up vegetables and the thought of having to finely grate a bunch of carrots was so unappealing I was ready to forever banish it from my recipe arsenal. We knew where to get the best carrot cake in town, and that was enough for me.
Over time though, vegetables and I have come to an understanding and I have grown to not hating to chop them up as much. More importantly, I realized my food processor has a grater attachment on it. 😛 Now that Easter is just around the corner, home made carrot cake was calling my name. It took several attempts to get it just the way I like it, but this is my version of a perfect carrot cake recipe.
I always find it funny how polarizing so many things in the baking world can be. Should a carrot cake recipe have raisins or not? Should it have pecans, walnuts or no nuts? Brown sugar vs. granulated sugar? How many carrots should be in the recipe? Should it have all sorts of spices or should it just stick with the standard vanilla extract? What about other mix-ins like pineapple, or coconut? So many things to consider!
Here are my thoughts on everything above: I love raisins in my carrot cake so my recipe has raisins in it. You can leave them out entirely with no ill effect to the cake. 8 out of the 9 guests we served this cake to preferred it with raisins but the one who didn’t want raisins was ADAMANT that carrot cake shouldn’t have raisins. Like I said, polarizing. 1/2 cup of raisins really isn’t much though so they were very easy to pick out. I still stand by my pro-raisin choice. 😉
Should it have nuts? I tested it out with pecans and absolutely hated it, both because of the taste and the texture. The texture could have been altered by chopping them much smaller or even grinding them up but I did not enjoy the flavor they added to the cake anyway so there was no point in attempting that. I know I have had carrot cake with nuts in it before and enjoyed it but I really love this cake without. If you’re a die hard nut-in-your-carrot-cake fan, you can add 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter along with the carrots and raisins.
Brown sugar vs. granulated sugar? I really thought I’d prefer the added depth of brown sugar but all it ended up doing was darkening the cake and giving it a molasses flavor. Not nice at all. I much prefer mostly granulated sugar with a smaller portion of brown sugar so you still get a bit of that depth of flavor but not so much that it overpowers the other flavors in the cake.
How many carrots should be in the recipe? I’ve seen recipes that have as little as 2 cups worth of grated carrots, all the way up to a pound’s worth. The way I see it, it’s a carrot cake. It should be packed with carrots. I go for a full pound and don’t think twice about it.
Spiced or standard? I always thought of carrot cakes as basically being a spiced cake with added carrots so I absolutely think it should have spices in it. There is a point, however, when the spices can get out of hand. I have this really great banana ginger bread recipe (I’ll have to post that on here sometime) that I absolutely adore. I LOVE ginger so this bread is right up my alley and is super moist. The first time I made this cake though, I kind of went over the stop with the spices and all I could think about what my banana ginger bread as I ate it. I wanted the spices in it but I didn’t want it to taste like ginger bread so I dialed back the ginger, nutmeg and cloves but kept the cinnamon and it was perfect.
Mix-ins? This is similar to the spices situation. When you start adding things like pineapple and coconut, you’re crossing into Hummingbird Cake territory. Not to mention that adding pineapple makes it hard to not cross the line from moist to mushy. I do add a bit of unsweetened applesauce to kick the moisture up a level or two without going over the top, but that’s it. I could go crazy and add all sorts of things to it and I bet it would be delicious but it wouldn’t really be carrot cake anymore so I’ll save the add-ins for another crazy cake recipe down the road.
Those are my thoughts on the hot carrot cake debate topics. ;P I ended up making this cake four times in 5 days. You’d think I’d be sick of it at this point but I feel like I could taste test cream cheese frosting every day for weeks on end and still love every bite. Give it a try!
A few things I found helpful for this recipe:
What are your carrot cake preferences? Raisins or no raisins? Spiced or carrot purist? Comment below!