This recipe is based on Bon Appetit’s “Best Carrot Cake” (and it is), though I’ve added citrus zest, cloves, and cardamon to this version. They make it as a two-layer round cake, and I make it as a sheet cake. But I agree with their assessment that “this is the only carrot cake recipe you’ll ever need.”
Makes twelve approx. 3″x3″ pieces
Nonstick vegetable oil spray (I like coconut)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 cup coarsely-chopped walnuts
1 pound carrots, peeled, coarsely grated (I use a food processor)
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (220g) packed dark brown sugar **
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegetable oil
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick / 112g) unsalted Kerrygold butter, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Large pinch of salt
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9″ x 13″ cake pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom with parchment paper; lightly coat liner with nonstick spray.
Heat raisins, orange zest, and rum in a small saucepan over low just until warm, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes; let cool.
Grate carrots (I use a food processor) and combine in a bowl with the buttermilk.
Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl (flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda).
Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until pale and thick, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually add oil. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with carrot-buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; mix until smooth. Fold in raisins and walnuts, using a rubber spatula. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
Bake cake—rotating pan at about the 20-minute mark—until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around sides of cake and invert onto wire rack; remove parchment. Let cool completely.
Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla extract, lemon zest, and salt. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in powdered sugar. Increase speed to high and beat frosting until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Spread top of cake with frosting and chill 30 minutes to let it set.
** If your brown sugar has become hard as a rock, as mine so often does, put it in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with a wet paper towel, and microwave for 20 seconds, breaking it up with a fork. Repeat as necessary. I usually also pulse it a few times in my food processor to get it finely-grained again.