With the warm sunshine, birds chirping and flowers blooming, there’s no doubt spring is fully here.
I eagerly welcome the new season with open arms. And carrot cake.
There’s just something about carrot cake that screams spring to me. Maybe I associate carrots with bunnies, and bunnies with Easter and Easter with spring? Whatever the link, this cake is a moist classic that needs no reason to make.
The flavors of this spiced cake are complemented with the additions of pineapple, coconut and pecans, which offer not only sweetness and nuttiness but texture, too. You can swap the pecans for walnuts, and raisins can also be added – better yet, rum-soaked raisins. If you’re picky about any of those, there is no wrong thing to leave out or add-in. Except carrots. You can’t really skip that part.
And you can’t have carrot cake without cream cheese frosting. Well, you can. But, why would you? With its rich cream cheese flavor and silky, smooth texture, this frosting is far from the overly sweet icing from the store. Though, if you prefer sweeter, you can always add more powdered sugar. Add in a 1/2 cup at a time until your sweet tooth is pleased. The cup of pecans reserved for decorating can also be added directly into the frosting. Just finely chopped them first.
As for decorating your cake, get creative. I do mine differently every time. With or without pecans, frosting only on the layers and naked on the sides. I’ve even mixed shredded coconut with green food coloring to create “grass” to sprinkle on top.
Regardless of what you mix in or how you choose to decorate it, this carrot cake is a delightful welcoming for spring or Thursday.
Adapted from allrecipes.com
For the cake:
3/4 cups vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple sauce, sweetened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups grated carrots
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Orange food coloring (optional)
Parsley stems (optional)
Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour three 9-inch round cake pans, or a 9-by-13 cake pan.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, applesauce, sugars and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg until blended. Fold dry ingredients into wet until just blended. Fold in carrots, crushed pineapple, coconut and pecans. Pour evenly into prepared pan(s).
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 15 minutes then turn out to racks and let cool completely.
Make the frosting: In a medium bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla and then beat in the powdered sugar, half a cup at a time. Mix until mixture is smooth and creamy.
If stacking cake rounds, level cooled cakes with a serrated knife. Place first layer on serving plate and slather on frosting. Repeat with the second and third layers, then frost sides of cake.
Gently press coarsely chopped pecans onto sides of cake, or sprinkle onto pan cake. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.
To create the carrot decorations: mix orange food coloring with 1/4 cup of frosting. Place in piping or zip-top bag, with corner snipped. Pipe out mounds for carrot tops. Insert parsley sprigs in carrot tops, but do so right before serving, as the parsley will wilt.