Jordan: There’s a restaurant near my apartment that sells a four-layer carrot cake with roughly equal parts cake and frosting. It is monstrous and beautiful and impossible to eat in one sitting. My boyfriend and I once split a slice and still almost couldn’t finish it. He picked some up the other day and while it was perfectly fine, all it did was leave me with a craving for better carrot cake. Something not so painfully sweet, and with ALL the things in it.
Kitra: And I, like most people (I hope) will never say no to a chance to eat carrot cake. Or have my house smell like carrot cake. Or have it in my fridge for breakfast. Or dinner.
Carrot cake is one of those cakes that can go in a lot of different directions. Fancy layer cake? Casual sheet cake? Dinner while you type a blog post? Carrot cake has got your back.
The thing is, everyone has a different idea of what it is. Dense or fluffy? Nuts or none? Raisins? How many spices?
Is it just a vessel for cream cheese frosting? Should you actually be able to see the carrots or is this just a spice cake pretending to be healthy?
This is our version of carrot cake. Enough carrots that what you pour into the pan looks more like a carrot slurry than a batter. Walnuts because the cake needs some crunch to break up the density.
Also, raisins! Raisins belong in everything. Those people who complain about raisins being in oatmeal cookies or trail mix because “I thought it was a chocolate chip”? They are wrong.
Chocolate chips ruin the whole vibe of trail mix. I have never been disappointed that something was a raisin and not chocolate. I have been disappointed that it was chocolate.
Point is: if you like a light, fluffy, delicate carrot cake, this is not for you. If you like a chunky, dense, vaguely earthy carrot cake, read on.
Chunky Carrot Cake
Adapted from Alton Brown
We made several big changes to this recipe. First, almost every carrot cake recipe needs more carrots. The compensate for the extra moisture, we swapped in a bit of whole wheat flour, a tip we stole from Stella Parks. Then we added in plenty of nuts and raisins. The extra volume was enough to fill a larger pan, which means we could have the sheet cake of our dreams.
The instructions below use a food processor, but it’s totally doable without. Just grate your carrots using the large holes of a cheese grater and whisk your ingredients very thoroughly in separate bowls before adding them to the main mix.
We used 8 ounces of all-purpose flour and 4 ounces of whole wheat, but feel free to adjust the proportions to your liking. We think you could have done as much of half of the flour with whole wheat, or you could reduce the amount if you’re really not a fan. We also suspect it would be great with a higher proportion of brown sugar to white, if you’re up for experimenting.
- 1 lb carrots, washed, stem ends cut off
- 340g (about 2.75 cups) flour, a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat (see note)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoons allspice
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 120g (1 cup) walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 100g (⅔ cup) raisins
- 280g (1⅓ cups) white sugar
- 55g (¼ cup, packed) brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 170g (¾ cup) plain yogurt (not Greek-style)
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
Preheat your oven to 350° and coat a 9”x13” pan with baking spray or butter and flour. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
Using the large holes of your food processor’s shredding blade, grate your carrots and transfer them to a large mixing bowl.
Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt to the bowl of the food processor and blend for about 5 seconds to mix. Add the flour mixture to the carrots and toss/stir to coat everything. Add the walnuts and raisins and toss/stir again.
Add the sugars, eggs, and yogurt to the food processor and blend to combine. With the processor running, slowly add the oil until everything is well-combined. Pour the liquid mixture over top of the carrot/flour mixture and stir to combine.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and even out the top with a spoon or spatula. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 325° and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the edges are golden.
Let cake cool completely in the pan before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Everyday
We like a less-sweet frosting, and Deb Perelman’s is definitely on the less sweet side. We also swapped in some plain yogurt in place of the milk/cream, which gave it even more of a tanginess. If you don’t have enough yogurt for that, feel free to use an equivalent amount of cream or whole milk.
- 8oz (225g, or one block) cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz, or ½ a stick) butter, softened
- 160g (1⅓ cups) powdered sugar, sifted
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until mostly smooth. Add the sifted powdered sugar and salt and beat until thick and smooth. Add yogurt and vanilla and continue beating until well-mixed and slightly fluffy.