Warning: Everything But The Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake is NOT for purists!

The Great Carrot Cake Debate rages on… and on… an on…

At least it does here in the King Arthur Flour test kitchen, where a bunch of very well-educated college grads spend time each day discussing the relative merits of dark gray vs. light gray aluminum cookie sheets; the best way to pat out a thin-crust pizza; and which are better: cinnamon Flav-R-Bites or cinnamon chips (Flav-R-Bites, hands-down).

Sue Gray, our test kitchen director, started the carrot cake debate sometime last year. In the process of developing a new mix, she asked us kitchen denizens, “Hey, what goes in carrot cake besides carrots?”

Baker A: “NOTHING. Forget all that other junk people like to add.”

Baker B: “Golden raisins. Maybe nuts.”

Baker C: “Pineapple, coconut, nuts, raisins… YUM, what else?”

Bakers A, B, and C, in chorus: “But it has to have cream cheese icing!”

Indeed, cream cheese icing seems to be the carrot cake constant, the one ingredient – besides carrots – all carrot cakes must have. We can agree on that.

As for the rest, we can choose to disagree agreeably.

I have to confess, I’m Baker C – a total carrot cake maverick. While a relatively fine-grained, “pure” carrot cake is OK, I much prefer one with the tangy-sweet bite of pineapple, the savory crunch of nuts, and the tropical touch of coconut.

Though I neglected to add golden raisins to the cake below, I actually think I’d do so next time; I love how raisins morph into soft, moist little pillows of sweetness when they bake.

Oh, and how about diced ginger? Carrots and ginger go together like… well, like carrots and pineapple. And pecans. And cream cheese icing…

Ready? Get out your favorite carrot cake “add-ins,” and let’s begin.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9” x 13” pan.

img_7672.JPG

Put the following in a bowl:

4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

img_7673.JPG

Beat till smooth, about 2 minutes at medium-high speed.

img_7676.JPG

See how the batter sheets off the beater blade and “ribbons” in the bowl?

img_7679.JPG

Whisk together 3/4 cup melted butter and 3/4 cup vegetable oil. With the beater running, add the oil mixture in a stream, beating till smooth.

img_7682.JPG

Put the following in a bowl:

2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice

So, what’s with all the little indentations? That’s so I don’t forget any of the dry ingredients.

When I’m following a recipe with lots of spices, I put the flour in a bowl, and use a spoon to make a little well for each of the ingredients that’ll be whisked into the flour. If I haven’t filled all the wells when I’m ready to whisk, I know I’ve forgotten something.

img_7684.JPG

Whisk to combine.

img_7686.JPG

Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients…

img_7689.JPG

…stirring to make a smooth batter.

img_7690.JPG

Add the following:

3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) finely grated carrots
1 cup diced pecans or walnuts, toasted if desired
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (preferred), or sweetened coconut
1/2 cup diced dried pineapple*
*Substitute one 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained and squeezed dry, if preferred

img_7691.JPG

Stir just to combine.

img_7694.JPG

Spoon the batter into the pan

img_7695.JPG

…spreading it to the edges.

img_7696.JPG

Be sure to use a pan that’s deep enough; the cake will rise fairly high. This 2”-deep pan has a full 1” of headroom to accommodate the baking cake.

img_7697.JPG

Bake the cake for 40 to 50 minutes…

img_7700.JPG

…until the cake is golden brown, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

img_7702.JPG

Remove the cake from the oven, and quickly loosen its edges with a spatula. This will help prevent it from sinking in the center.

img_7706.JPG

Cool it right in the pan.

When the cake is cool, make the cream cheese frosting.

img_7707.JPG

For lump-free frosting, take the cream cheese and butter out of the fridge an hour or more ahead of time, to make sure both are at room temperature.

img_1194.JPG

Get out your vanilla; my favorite is this Sonoma Vanilla Bean Crush.

img_7710.JPG

Combine the following in a bowl:

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

img_7711.JPG

Beat together until smooth.

img_7712.JPG

Sift 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Is sifting necessary? Yes, if you want perfectly smooth, lump-free frosting.

Just to make sure you’re not confused, when a recipe says “3 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted” – it means to measure out 3 1/2 cups (14 ounces) sugar, then sift it.

If a recipe says “3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar,” you’d sift the sugar first, then measure it.

img_7714.JPG

Gradually beat the sugar into the cream cheese mixture.

Add 1 tablespoon of milk, beating all the while. Continue to add milk till the frosting is nicely spreadable. I’d added 1 1/2 tablespoons at this point; it’s not quite spreadable enough for my taste…

img_7715.JPG

…so I added another 1/2 tablespoon of milk. Perfect!

img_7717.JPG

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat again to make sure the frosting is perfectly smooth.

img_7719.JPG

Dollop the frosting onto the cake.

img_7720.JPG

Spread it to the edges.

img_7724.JPG

I thought I’d get fancy, and use my bowl scraper to make perfectly smooth frosting. But I never could get it PERFECTLY smooth; the scraper always left a few lines.

img_7726.JPG

Never mind, this is good enough!

img_7728.JPG

I did feel the urge to do something to that pristine white top, however. It was an empty canvas, waiting for some color.

Ah-HA! Piped-sugar carrots.

img_7730.JPG

Artfully placed.

img_7777.JPG

Now, for the taste test. Nice and moist…

img_7788.JPG

…tasty frosting…

img_7770.JPG

Excellent!

See that cake in the back? That’s a slice of carrot cake from our King Arthur Bakery.  I think our homemade version here compares very favorably.

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for “Kitchen Sink” Carrot Cake.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Jes

    Thank you for the detailed instructions. I couldn’t figure out why my carrot cake was too heavy and dense … i mixed it too much. Using this process, turning my all purpose flour into cake flour (substituting 2 TB flour for 2 TB cornstarch and sifting together) has produced even a better cake. One of my tricks is to grate the carrots, mix 1/2 cup sugar into them and let sit at room temperature 1-2 hours, pour off most the juice made before adding to cake. YUM!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Susie, while our blog posts are not currently available in a printable version, the recipe page is printable. Click on the link to the recipe that is found right beneath the title picture, highlighted in orange. Once on the recipe page, click on the words “print recipe,” which appears towards the top right of the page. This will take you to a printable version of the recipe. Barb@KAF

  2. Laurie

    I made this cake for my birthday last week (yes, I made a cake for my own birthday). We had game night with friends and I just felt like making it.
    It turned out awesome. The only adjustments I made were eliminating the coconut and adding golden raisins. I used canned crushed pineapple because I already had that in the cupboard. I used walnuts for the nut choice.
    The only other change I might make would be to have less sugar and more cream cheese in the frosting, but that is a personal preference.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      We are so glad to hear that you had a lovely birthday with family and friends, Laurie! Many happy returns of the day. ~ MJ

  3. Julie

    I actually have a question. Can this carrot cake be made as a layer cake if I am able to thicken the frosting so it doesn’t ooze out between the layers? If so, would anyone know if the batter amount would work for 2-eight, or 2-nine inch pans? I would really appreciate the advice. I’m making this for a shower and think it would look prettier as a layer cake.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Julie, this recipe can certainly be made as a layer cake. For best results, we recommend baking this recipe in two 8″ pans (for thicker layers) or 9″ pans (for standard layers) rather than baking it all in one pan and trying to split it. You don’t need to make any adjustments to the recipe other than reducing the baking time to about 30-35 minutes; simply divide the batter evenly between the two greased, parchment-lined pans, which is approximately 5 cups of batter. If you have a scale, you can weigh how much batter you add to each pan to ensure that both contain the same amount of batter. Don’t fret if you don’t though–if the two pans look equal to the eye, they will look just fine when covered in delicious cream cheese frosting! Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  4. JoJo

    I made this carrot cake and cream cheese frosting exactly as written for a potluck dinner with my friends tonight, and it was SO DELICIOUS!

    It was just perfect. It didn’t fall in the middle, it wasa high and fluffy cake and lots of texture from the pineapple, coconut, and pecans, while not dry at all.

    Thanks so much for my new go-to recipe for carrot cake!

    Reply
  5. Marge

    Could whole wheat or whole-wheat pastry flour be substituted instead of (or partly for) the all-purpose flour? Has anyone tried it? I do like the variation someone mentioned of using honey instead of sugar for the cream cheese frosting.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You might consider using 25% white whole wheat flour in this recipe and see what the taste and texture results are. If they are pleasing, consider 50% white whole wheat. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  6. Crys

    So, I’ve spent countless hours looking for a carrot cake recipe. The first time I madeit it was a hit (recipe from another site). The second time I made it (it was a baking soda/hard brick; recipe from another site). This is my third time making it and I’m so excited. It’s in the oven now. I omitted the nuts and ginger, but I did add a half a cup of rum infused raisins (they’ve been soaking for 3 months). As for the icing, I’ll be trying the recipe with the honey that another poster advised. I’m so excited. 😀

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Diana. This may take a couple of tries, and whatever you do the cookie isn’t going to be crisp (too much liquid from the carrots for that), but here’s what I’d try: Cream the 3/4 cup butter with the two sugars. Take out the oil entirely. Cut the eggs to 1, which you beat into the sugar with the spices. Delete the baking soda entirely. Next mix in 2 cups carrots (they need to be really finely ground, or they’re going to stay raw and crunchy). Add the flour next (I’m thinking 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups). Next, nuts, coconut, and dried pineapple (NO WAY fresh will work). Scoop and bake for 11 minutes (target time) at 350°F. And for heaven’s sake, tell us what happened!!! Susan

  7. elisa

    I’m planning on making a carrot cake with additions of coconut and walnuts for a birthday party this weekend….however i cant put them in the cake due to allergies. Any way I can omit both without changing the rest of the recipe, or ruining the end result?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Elisa, you can leave both of those out. The cake will be a thinner layer in the pan, due to leaving those out, but it’ll still taste fine and bake up OK. Good luck – PJH

  8. KellyTKCK

    Ok, gonna make this for my son’s birthday. Can I use a 10″ spring form pan ? Will I have to cook longer. I know it will probably be too much batter so how far should I fill the pan. I can use the let over in a smaller pan. Also, can I use the pre grated carrots you can get at the store instead of grating myself ? Thanks for any help 🙂 Regards

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The area of a 10″ pan is 78 sq inches; the area of the 9×13 pan is 117 sq inches. You will have extra batter- it makes for great cupcakes! Fill the pan about 1/3-1/2 way at the most. Bake it for 30-35 minutes and test for doneness. The pre grated carrots are not the same because they tend to be thicker and drier than the ones you’ll grate at home. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *