This easy-to-make basic carrot cake is the perfect no-frills dessert.
- 4 medium carrots (about 2 cups, grated)
- 1 ounce walnuts (1/4 cup per 1 oz., finely chopped, optional)
- 3/4 cup canola oil
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar (150g per 3/4 cup, packed)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150g per 3/4 cup)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (125g per 1/2 cup)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or a blend of cinnamon, ginger powder, nutmeg, allspice and ground cloves)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 5/8 teaspoon salt (divided)
- 1/4 cup raisins (optional)
- 12 ounces cream cheese (1 1/2 blocks, softened)
- 4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick, softened)
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Grate the carrots and finely chop the walnuts.
- Place the canola oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. Whisk vigorously until smooth and combined.
- Add the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and a scant 1/2 tsp. salt to the bowl. Continue whisking until the mixture is just combined. Do not over-mix.
- Pro tip: Don't have pumpkin pie spice? Blend your own with a mixture of 9 parts cinnamon, 2 parts ginger powder, 2 parts nutmeg, 1 part allspice, and 1 part ground cloves.
- Fold in the grated carrots, raisins, and nuts.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.
- Bake the cakes for 29-33 minutes on the middle rack of oven, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.
- Check to see that cakes are done. Remove from oven or add time as needed.
- Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15-20 minutes. While the cakes cool, make the frosting.
- Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the powdered sugar in two additions, beating on low speed after each until the sugar is fully incorporated into the cream cheese mixture. Add the vanilla extract and 1/8 tsp. salt to the bowl. Continue beating on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, until the frosting is light and fluffy.
- Pro tip: Adjust quantity of powdered sugar as needed to achieve desired consistency and sweetness of the frosting.
- To release the cake, run a butter knife between the edge of the cake and the pan. Turn each cake onto a cooling rack. Allow the cakes to cool fully for 1-2 hours before frosting. Store frosting in the refrigerator while cakes cool.
- Frost the cakes as desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Refrigerate leftovers in a container for up to 1 week.
- Pro tip: Place a bit of parchment paper underneath the sides of the cake while frosting, then remove after frosting to keep the cake stand clean.