Celebrate the start of Spring with this layered carrot cake lightly frosted with brown sugar cream cheese. Minimally decorated with fresh carrots, this is an easy cake everyone can make!
The first official day of Spring is around the corner. We’ve got St. Patrick’s Day coming up, Easter in a couple of weeks, and the start of Daylight Saving Time this weekend. Nothing gets me more excited about the upcoming change of seasons than cake. Let’s kick off flowers blossoming, birds singing, and picnic weather with carrot cake!
Cake decorating can be intimidating. It can be overwhelming and time consuming. I’m here to hold your hand and help you. This is a SUPER easy and fast way to decorate cake. You don’t need a ton of tools, sprinkles, or gadgets. All you need to decorate this cake is fresh carrots and a plastic zip-top bag (or a piping bag).
What makes a great carrot cake?
- In my opinion, a great carrot cake should have visible specks of carrots. I use a coarse grater to shred the carrots.
- The cake should be soft and moist. To achieve this, most carrot cakes are made with vegetable oil instead of butter.
- A variety in texture makes all foods more exciting. I like to add chopped walnuts to the cake batter. Chopped almonds or pistachios also make wonderful additions.
- Carrot cake isn’t complete without cream cheese frosting! The frosting for this carrot cake is sweetened with brown sugar and molasses and it’s spiked with a touch of sour cream for extra tang.
This carrot cake is sweet enough on it’s own. Rather than drench the cake with a ton of frosting, I’ve opted to keep the sides of the cake bare. The brown sugar cream cheese frosting is quite soft, making it great for piping. By using a piping bag (or plastic zip-top bag with a corner snipped off), you can evenly apply frosting to the cake layers. This allows you to add a distinct clean border of frosting along the outer perimeter of the cake.
Once you’ve got your cake layers stacked, it’s time to decorate. Get some fresh bunch carrots with the top greens still attached. Wash and dry the carrots and greens.
While it’s tempting to simply stick the entire carrot into the cake, I don’t advise it. You risk splitting the cake. Slice off about 1 -3 inches of the top portion of the carrot and then attach it to the cream cheese frosting. Add movement and texture by placing a few sprigs of the carrot greens on top and around base of the cake. VOILA! That’s it. Carrot cake complete.
Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: four 6-inch layers, or three 8-inch layers
- 3 cups (370 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (100 g) brown sugar, packed
- 1 Tablespoon (16 g) baking soda
- 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons (7 g) ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups (295 g) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs (218 g)
- 1 1/2 cups (328 ml) vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups (303 g) grated carrots
- 1 1/2 cups (150 g) toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 8 oz (240 g) cream cheese
- 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100 g) light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- 2 cups (212 g) powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon sour cream
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and lightly flour four 6-inch round cake pans (or three 8-inch round cake pans). Tap out any excess flour. Line cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.
350 degrees 40-45 minutes for 6-inch cakes
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat together sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla until smooth.
Add half of dry flour mixture to mixing bowl and stir together. Add grated carrots and continue mixing. Add remaining dry flour mixture and chopped walnuts. Mix until just combined and there are no longer any dry streaks of flour.
Distribute cake batter evenly among prepared cake pans. Bake 6-inch cakes for 40-45 minutes (or 8-inch cakes for 35-40 minutes), until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Rotate cakes midway through baking. Allow cake layers in cool in pan for 5-8 minutes. Unmold cake layers and allow to cool completely on wire racks.
Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting:
Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing. Add brown sugar, molasses, powdered sugar, salt, and sour cream. Beat until smooth and creamy.
If necessary, level cake layers once completely cooled to room temperature. Place one cake layer on cake board (or serving plate). Pipe a ring of frosting along the outer perimeter of cake. Fill in the center by continuing to pipe spiral.
Place second cake layer on top. Gently press cake layer down to secure. Pipe layer of frosting. Repeat with remaining cake layers. Use a mini offset spatula or the smooth end of butterknife, to smooth the top layer of frosting. Let assembled cake chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to allow frosting to harden.
Allow cake to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to soften before serving. Decorate cake with sliced carrot and carrot top greens.