Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Carrot Cake

Image: What to Bake & How to Bake It

Earlier this month we featured a recipe for Iced Gingerbread Cookies from the cookbook What to Bake & How to Bake It, which has been an office favorite in 2014. Up now is a fantastic and crowd pleasing carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

As we did before, we highly recommend What to Bake & How to Bake It for any at-home baker this holiday season. It’s wonderful for novices and pros, so don’t hesitate to pick it up!

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus cooling

Baking time: 30-35 minutes

Makes: 12 slices

Carrot cake is perfect as a first cake to make, since it’s not only tasty, but also less likely to overcook and be dry, thanks to the water content in the carrots. If you’d like to make the cake in squares or cupcakes instead of layers, see the variations on page 94.


For the cake

  • 1 cup pecans
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 packed cup light brown sugar
  • 1 orange
  • 3 eggs
  • 10 oz carrots
  • ½ cup raisins
  • For the frosting
  • 1 stick (½ cup) soft butter
  • 10 oz full-fat cream cheese, cold
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the nuts over a baking sheet and cook for 8 –10 minutes, or until golden and toasty. Cool, then roughly chop. Toasting nuts will add an extra depth of flavor to the batter, but if you’re in a hurry, just chop the nuts and use them as they are.
  2. While you wait, get everything else ready. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms with a little oil, then line the bottoms with parchment paper. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt, then sift into a large bowl. Add the sugar and work it in with your fingers, breaking up any larger lumps, until evenly blended. Finely grate the zest of the orange into the bowl. Squeeze the juice for later.


  1. To make your own pumpkin pie spice, combine 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, and ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg. Why not multiply this quantity, so it’s ready to use next time?
  2. Crack the eggs into the measuring cup with the oil, add 2 tablespoons orange juice and beat together.
  3. Coarsely grate the carrots and measure them to make sure you have 2½ cups. Pour the oil mixture into the dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Add most of the nuts, then the carrots and raisins, and stir until evenly blended. If the batter seems at all stiff, add 1 tablespoon more orange juice. Divide the batter between the prepared pans.
  4. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and have risen, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of the pans and cool completely.
  5. To make the frosting, put the butter in a large bowl and beat well until creamy and totally smooth. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat until smooth and evenly blended. Now sift in the confectioners’ sugar and work it in gently with a spatula.


  1. It’s important that the butter and cream cheese are the correct temperatures, or the frosting can end up lumpy. If that happens, pass it through a sieve and no one will be any the wiser. Do not overwork it once the sugar has been added, as this can loosen the texture.
  2. Put one of the cakes upside down on a serving plate, then use an icing spatula to spread about a third of the frosting across it. Top with the other cake, then spread the remaining frosting over the top and the sides (see page 136 for guidance).
  3. Sprinkle the reserved pecans over the top. The cake benefits from a little while in the fridge to settle. If it’s a hot day, keep it there until you are ready to slice it.


Use a 9 x 13-inch pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Frost, then cut into squares.


Also makes 18 cupcakes. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, then cool and frost.