We're at that time of year where celebrations are plenty. With September being the month of most birthdays around the world you're going to need a celebration cake, or two up your sleeve. Carrot cake is such a classic cake and it's perfect for a celebration. It's the one cake that pretty much everybody loves so you really can't go wrong here.
I have made many, many carrot cakes in my time, in all shapes and sizes. I've tried recipes with crushed pineapple, recipes with yogurt and recipes which say to grate your carrots super fine and then coat them in flour. Many hours have been spent in finding the perfect carrot cake recipe. I've been around the carrot cake block people, and this recipe is most definitely the best I've ever made.
There is only one trick ingredient in this recipe and that's the apple sauce. I'm a huge fan of using apple sauce in recipes because it adds moisture to the cake and gives it a soft texture, which is what you want. You won't get any apple flavour in the final product though. You also won't taste any carrot either, so if you're not a fan of carrots, don't worry you won't taste it. The main purpose of the carrots is to add sweetness and texture. If not for the vibrant colour of carrots you'd have no idea this cake is full of them.
Now let's talk about frosting. The classic frosting for carrot cake is cream cheese frosting and I'm totally on board with that. As you know from my previous cake recipes, I love me some salted caramel cream cheese frosting and I reckon it goes perfectly with this cake. Vanilla and orange cream cheese frosting would work well too. Of course you can use any cream cheese frosting you like. I'm not a fan of frosting that is loaded with icing sugar, and I experimented with a vanilla cream cheese frosting for the cake in the picture. I've yet to get the quantities spot on for that, so I won't share that with you just yet. For now, let's get baking...
Carrot Cake (Adapted from SBA)
For the Cake
1 & 1/2 cups (300g) brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 cup (240ml) vegetable oil
4 large eggs
3/4 cup (133g) smooth unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
2 & 1/2 cups (312g) standard flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 & 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 cups (260g) carrots, grated (about 4 carrots)
1 cup (125g) walnuts
For the frosting
500g cream cheese, block style, softened
2/3 cup salted caramel
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 Tbs whole milk, optional
For the cake -
Preheat oven to 180 C.
Spray and line 2 round tins. Any size from 8"-10" will do. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the brown sugar and caster sugar. Make sure you break up any lumps of brown sugar now or else you won't be able to do it once we add the next ingredients.
Add the oil, eggs, applesauce and vanilla. Whisk once more until the mixture is combined. Set aside.
In a separate large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and mix with a spatula. Use a folding motion to bring the mixture together. Lastly add the carrots and walnuts and fold once more until combined. Avoid over mixing the batter as it will affect the texture of your cake.
Pour the batter into your cake tins and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. To check if the cakes are cooked insert a skewer into the middle and it should come out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely in their tins.
For the frosting -
In a large bowl place your cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add half of your salted caramel and maple syrup. Beat until well combined. The frosting will thin out with the addition of the caramel and maple. Taste, and if required, add more of the salted caramel and maple until you get a slightly sweet and slightly salty frosting. Once the desired taste is reached, if the frosting is too stiff for your liking, add the milk, else it's ready to slather onto your cake.
Once cakes are cool, and the frosting is done, it's time to put it all together.
Place the bottom layer on your cake board/plate and top with some frosting. Place the second layer over this, and top with frosting. With the remaining frosting cover your cake as you see fit. This would make a really pretty naked cake too!
Decorate as you see fit. I used some chopped pistachios and orange zest for the cake in the picture above. You could also do some walnuts and a caramel sauce drizzle. Flowers would look great too. The options are endless really.
Once your cake is decorated, dig in and enjoy! The cake doesn't need to be refrigerated, unless you're living in the tropics in which case the frosting will melt. The cake will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container.