The secret to fabulous carrot cake, I have learned, is grating the carrots moments before mixing them into the batter and popping the cake into the oven. You capture all of their moisture that way. They should look startlingly orange:
Have the batter prepared, the oven preheated, the pans lined and greased. Then, and only then, do you quickly scrub (but not peel) the carrots, chop off the ends, and whirl them through the food processor with the grating disk attached. Stir them in, split the batter into two pans, and get those bad boys into the oven.
Andrea’s Everybody Raves About My Carrot Cake
3 c. flour
2 1/2 c. sugar
1 TBS. cinnamon
1 TBS. baking soda
1 1/2 c. canola oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. chopped walnuts
1 small can crushed pineapple, in water (not syrup), half-drained
~2 c. carrots, grated (about 4-5 carrots)
Preheat the oven to 350. Line two 9″ round pans with parchment and spritz with Baker’s Joy. (Or grease and flour according to your own preference – I do highly recommend parchment no matter which grease/flour method you pick.)
Whisk together the dry ingredients. You can use wheat flour, you can go gluten free, you can pretty much use any flour you like, but it comes out best (well, best if you tolerate gluten) with all-purpose flour.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the oil, eggs, and vanilla. Stir just until the flour mixture is moistened and you don’t see huge streaks of dryness.
Stir in the walnuts, pineapple, and carrots. Don’t over-mix. Split the batter between the two pans, smack them once on the counter to distribute it and knock out any air bubbles, and pop’em in the oven.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until a tester stick or knife comes out clean. Watch carefully near the end, as you can char the edges pretty easily with this cake.
Cool in the pan for a bit, then the rest of the way on racks.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick of butter (1/2 c.)
1 8 oz. brick of Philly cream cheese
Squeeze of 1/4th of a lemon
1 tsp. or so of either vanilla or almond extract
About a box/pound of powdered sugar
Have the butter at room temperature. If you take it out of the fridge when you start making the cake, and set it somewhere near the oven, you’ll get the right temp. The cream cheese can stay in the fridge until you need it.
Beat the butter and cream cheese until combined. Squeeze the lemon (watch for seeds!) and add the extract. Pour or sift (but why bother) about 1/2 of the powdered sugar into the bowl, then mix. Add a bit more, then mix, then taste.
The trick here is to get enough powdered sugar to get the consistency you want without knocking yourself out with the sweetness of it. You may use the whole box – it really is a taste thing. Just be sure to start with not as much and add, because once it is in, you obviously can’t take it out.
I’ve always used vanilla extract, but was cooling an angel food cake on my vanilla bottle when I made this on Sunday, so went with almond. I think I like it better with almond, but I’ve always loved it with vanilla. Never, however, has the frosting gotten as many compliments as the cake, so I suspect others like the almond as well.