This iced spice cake made with shredded carrot has been a beloved dessert since at least the 1800s. But it enjoyed particular popularity during the health craze of the 1970s, when carrot cake was deemed more virtuous than pie or cheesecake.
With its rich and fluffy cream cheese icing and timely nod to Peter Rabbit, it’s a perfect dessert for Easter. This recipe calls for double layers, but you also could make it as a sheet cake. Leave out the pecans if you’re not wild about nuts, but don’t switch out the buttermilk — it makes the cake super moist and tender.
CLASSIC CARROT CAKE
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup pecans (optional)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
unsalted butter, for greasing pan
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
16 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper and flour the pans.
Spread pecans on baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then finely chop pecans.
Whisk 2 cups flour with baking powder and soda, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. In small bowl, whisk oil, buttermilk and vanilla. In large bowl, use hand mixer to beat eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, about 5 minutes.
Beat in liquid ingredients, then beat in dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in carrots and pecans.
Divide batter between two pans and bake cakes for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until springy and golden. Let cakes cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then unmold and let cool completely.
For frosting, use a hand mixer in a large bowl to beat butter and cream cheese at high speed until light, about 5 minutes.
Beat in vanilla, then confectioners’ sugar. Beat at low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Peel off parchment paper and invert cake layer onto plate. Spread with a slightly rounded cup of frosting.
Top with the second cake layer, right side up. Spread the top and sides with remaining frosting and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Slice and serve.
— “Desserts: More than 140 of Our Most Beloved Recipes” by the Editors of Food & Wine (Oxmoor House, 2017, $35)