Over the years, I’ve baked my share of carrot cakes, but this is my favorite recipe. It’s rich and moist and packed with freshly grated carrots, toasted nuts and golden raisins. This one bowl wonder is truly a great cake that shouts “Spring has arrived”! The frosting is my creamy brown butter mascarpone cream cheese frosting and it is spectacular – it takes the cake to another level.
I often reference how important good quality ingredients make a difference. No exception here. Freshly grated carrots, good butter, like Plugra, and White Lily flour makes all the difference. Please don’t buy pre-shredded carrots. Grating your own doesn’t take a lot of time and that freshness comes through. I’m very partial to good European style butter for its rich and creamy flavor as not all butters are the same. Lastly, White Lily All Purpose Flour is a light flour that creates light-textured baked goods. A southern staple since the 1800s, White Lily is finely milled from soft red winter wheat and is a high quality ingredient. I highly recommend it!
HERE’S HOW I MADE IT
You only need one big mixing bowl and a whisk or handheld mixer for this batter. That’s a wonderful thing when you consider the after-bake clean-up! Don’t forget to measure out all your ingredients before starting and prepare your tins. Grease and flour two 8-inch round baking tins and line the bottom of your tin with parchment paper for easy release. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Note: Parchment paper is not the same as wax paper and wax paper is not a substitute for parchment paper. If you don’t have any, just grease and flour your tins well.
Peel four large carrots and grate them using the small grate/shredder side of a box grater. You should have 3 cups of grated carrots. Make sure you have 3 full cups as this recipe is rich in fresh carrots and it makes for such a moist cake. If using medium carrots, you may need 5-6 carrots.
In a small pan, toast a generous cup of walnuts for a few minutes over medium heat until fragrant – remember to toss or move around so they don’t burn. Remove from the heat and finely chop using a knife then set them aside. Melt 1/2 cup of unsalted butter and the eggs need to be at room temperature.
Note: The cake recipe calls for only 1 cup of walnuts, the overage will be used to garnish the cake.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of White Lily all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated white sugar, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon of ground all spice and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Whisk all the dry ingredients well to make sure they are evenly distributed and the brown sugar is broken up.
HOW TO MEASURE THE FLOUR
Because flour settles in the bag or container, you need to loosen it before you measure it. You can either sift the flour, or you can shake up the flour by inverting the bag or container a few times, fluffing up the flour. Then to measure, spoon the flour out onto the measuring cup and use the back of a knife to scrape off any excess flour back into the bag or container. This ensures you have the right amount of flour. If you use the measuring cup to scoop the flour directly out of the bag, you will compact the flour again, resulting in extra flour in your recipe. If your recipe uses weight measurements instead of cup measurements, then you don’t need to fluff the flour. Recipes with weight measurements are always more precise.
Add a cup of vegetable/canola oil and 1/2 cup of melted unsalted butter and mix just to combined. Add 4 large eggs, one at a time and mix to combine. Add 1 generous Tablespoon of vanilla paste or extract and the zest of half a small navel orange. I prefer to use vanilla paste since it has the vanilla specks from the bean. Orange zest is not a traditional ingredient, but it adds a little hint of citrus that truly compliments the carrots. If you don’t like or have orange zest, leave it out, but I encourage you to try it just once.
Using a spatula, fold in 3 cups of grated carrots, 1 cup of chopped toasted walnuts and 1/2 cup of golden raisins. Don’t over mix, just fold until combined.
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared baking tins and bake at 350°F for 40 minutes. You can test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center – if it comes out clean, the cake is done. As with anything in the oven, once it’s close to done, the aroma will permeate the area – be it savory or sweet. Once your kitchen smells of carrot cake, check it even if it’s before the 40 minutes. Remember each oven is different and altitude also affects a bake.
MAKING THE BROWN BUTTER MASCARPONE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
While the cakes bake, make the frosting. My Brown Butter Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting is over the top amazing! The brown butter adds a rich nuttiness while the combination of mascarpone and cream cheese gives it a little extra.
In a small light bottom skillet over medium heat, melt and cook 1 stick of butter until lightly browned and with a nutty fragrance, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a heat safe container and refrigerate until solid. Once cold, transfer to standalone mixer and beat butter until creamed. Add 1 block of room temperature cream cheese, mascarpone cream cheese, vanilla paste and kosher salt and beat on low until well blended. Remember to scrape down the sides.
Add 6 cups of confectioner’s sugar, one cup at a time, and blend on low to avoid a powdered sugar cloud. Scrape the sides down after every cup of sugar. When all the sugar has been combined, beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes to fluff up and smooth out. Set frosting aside until ready to use. I like to cover with plastic wrap so the frosting doesn’t dry out and develop a film.
I’m not a cake decorator so I stick to simple, minimalistic decor. I start by placing a small dollop of frosting on the cake plate to “glue” the cake to the stand. Because these cake had a cake dome, I used a serrated knife to remove the dome and even the top. I didn’t use any special equipment, just eye-balled it. Take your time and do use a serrated bread knife. I’m not a fan of the dental floss method since floss is flavored and I don’t wish to transfer any minty flavors onto the cake.
Once the domes are removed, the two layers are stackable. Place the first layer cut side up and dollop a few spoonfuls of frosting. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting from the middle outward toward the edge, smoothing the top as you go as to have an even layer of frosting. Then place the second layer cut side down and again, dollop with frosting and spread from the center out, smoothing the top as you go. I wanted a semi-naked cake so the excess frosting was spread on the sides to create a crumb coating. I added a little extra frosting as needed.
I used a star tip and piping bag to add a decorative trim around the top. I had extra frosting so I stored it in a container and froze it. It will keep well for up to three months. Finely mince the remaining walnuts and dust the cake top and sides. I think it is simple and beautiful. Most importantly, it is crazy good!! My uncle considers himself a connoisseur of carrot cakes and this is his favorite recipe! Best compliment ever.
Just look at the moist crumb on this cake! This is a keeper recipe and one worth trying. If you do, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
The Ultimate Carrot Cake
Welcome Spring with the most perfect and decadent carrot cake with brown butter mascarpone and cream cheese frosting! This is such a moist cake with well balanced spices. It will be a family favorite too!
CARROT CAKE BATTER
- 3 cups freshly grated carrots, about 4 large peeled carrots
- 1 generous cup walnuts, toasted and finely diced, divided
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, spoon scooped and leveled with a knife prefer White Lily brand
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground all spice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt prefer Diamond brand
- 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 generous Tablespoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
- zest of half a small navel orange
- ½ cup golden raisins
BROWN BUTTER MASCARPONE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- ½ cup unsalted butter prefer Plugra or Kerrygold
- 1 8-ounce block full fat cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 8-ounce mascarpone cheese
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 cups confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
BAKING THE CARROT CAKE
Grease and flour two 8-inch round baking tins, line with parchment paper and set aside. Position oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 350°F.
Peel and grate about four large carrots using the fine shredding side of a box grater. You need 3 full cups of shredded carrots. Set aside.
In a small pan, toast the walnuts over medium heat. Remove from heat and when cool, chop into small pieces. Measure 1 cup and set aside. Continue to chop the remaining nuts until superfine. This will be the cake garnish, set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 2½ cups White Lily all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated white sugar, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground all spice and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk all the dry ingredients until evenly distributed and the brown sugar is broken up.
Add 1 cup of canola oil and ½ cup melted unsalted butter and mix just to combined.
Add 4 large eggs, one at a time and mix to combine. Add 1 generous Tablespoon of vanilla paste and orange zest and combine. Don't over mix.
Gently fold in 3 cups of freshly grated carrots, 1 cup of toasted chopped walnuts and ½ cup of golden raisins.
Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to separate from the tin and invert onto a cooling wire rack and remove the parchment paper. Once cooled, you can decorate or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate to frost the following day.
Note: You can also wrap well and freeze the cakes up to three months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then frost and decorate.
BROWN BUTTER MASCARPONE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
In a small light bottom skillet over medium heat, melt and cook the butter until lightly browned and with a nutty fragrance, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a heat safe container and refrigerate until solid. Once cold, transfer to standalone mixer and beat butter until creamed. Add cream cheese, mascarpone cream cheese, vanilla paste and kosher salt and beat on low until well blended. Remember to scrape down the sides.
Add confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time, and blend on low to avoid a powdered sugar cloud. Scrape the sides down after every cup of sugar. When all the sugar has been combined, beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes to fluff up and smooth out.
DECORATING THE CAKE
Once the cake rounds are cool, use a serrated knife to make the cake level but removing any dome or unevenness the cake may have.
Place a dollop of frosting on the cake plate to secure the cake in place and position the first layer on the stand, cut side up. Add a few spoonfuls of frosting and with an offset spatula, spread from the center outward toward the edge.
Position the second layer cut side down so you have a smooth edge to frost. Dollop a few spoonfuls onto the top and spread the frosting from the center out.
Smooth the excess frosting onto the sides, adding additional frosting as needed. Garnish with the minced nuts.