I make a lot of carrot cake this time of year. It’s not just for Easter in my house; it’s also the birthday cake of choice for many friends with spring birthdays. We’ve been munching on carrot cake cupcakes, carrot muffins, carrot cake whoopie pies and the like since February. I’m confident this cake is the absolute best carrot dessert to be had. The full-size recipe I used as a reference for scaling down is one of my grandmother’s. No one is quite certain of its origin but most of the time, in my family, a recipe without a source can be attributed to an old issue of Southern Living or a church cookbook. Whatever the source, this cake makes all who taste it a little weak in the knees. The oil and egg make for a tender cake, the cinnamon adds warmth, and the cream cheese frosting provides its wonderful tanginess.
One small note here: You really need to manually shred the carrot with a hand grater. One year, I used my food processor to save time, but the thicker shreds made the texture of the cake seem off. Along these same lines, don’t be tempted to buy pre-shredded carrots. Use some muscle, we only need ¼ cup.
Yields 1 6" cake.
- FOR THE CAKE:
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup packed grated carrot (from 1 small carrot)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- FOR THE FROSTING:
- 3 ounce block of cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- Grease a 6” round cake pan with shortening or cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350°.
- In a medium bowl, beat together with an electric mixer the canola oil and sugar. Beat very well, about 1 minute.
- Add the egg, cinnamon and vanilla and beat another 30 seconds. Beat in the carrot for about 15 seconds--you want it to break up a bit so it stains the batter orange. Sprinkle the flour and baking powder on top and beat until just combined. Do not overmix. You may stir in the walnuts at this point or save them for the frosting, your choice.
- Pour the batter into the pan, place it on a baking sheet, and bake for 24-26 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick before removing from the oven--moist crumbs clinging to the toothpick is ideal.
- Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before attempting to frost it.
- To make the frosting, ensure all ingredients are room temperature or you will end up with lumps. Beat together everything with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Tip the cake out of the pan, place it on a serving plate upside down (so that you have a flat surface on top) and spread the frosting on the cake. Garnish with walnuts. This cake tastes even better if allowed to sit one day (in the fridge) before serving.