Everyone in my family really likes carrot cake. I decided many years ago to find and make the best one. After testing many recipes and combining many recipes, I finally came to what I consider perfection! It is now our family recipe and I make it every Easter.
2 c. chopped pecans
2 t. baking powder
1 ½ c. dark brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
½ c. granulated sugar
½ t. salt
1 c. vegetable oil
1 ½ t. ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 t. ground ginger
¾ c. unsweetened applesauce
¼ t. ground nutmeg
1 t. pure vanilla extract
¼ t. ground cloves
2 ½ c. all-purpose flour
2 c. grated carrots (about 4 large)
Cream Cheese Frosting
20 oz. block of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
6 ¾ c. confectioners’ sugar
1-1/2 T. heavy cream or milk
3 t. pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread the chopped pecans on a baking sheet and bake pecans for 7–8 minutes. Cool pecans for 10– minutes. Increase oven to 350.
Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, and grease the parchment paper.
Mix the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce and vanilla together in a large bowl until combined and no brown sugar lumps remain. In another large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves together. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.
Fold in the carrots and 1 cup of the toasted pecans. (The rest of the pecans are for decorating the cake when frosted.) Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans. Bake for 20-24 minutes. Test the center with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cakes are done. If not, continue to bake until cooked through.
Do not over-bake. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.
In a large bowl beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, cream/milk, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until creamy. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, more milk if frosting is too thick, or an extra pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
Place one cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with second layer, more frosting, and then top with the third layer. Spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Decorate the sides and top of the cake with the remaining toasted pecans.
I recommend making this cake a day ahead and refrigerating it, but at the very least, refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Bring cake to room temperature before serving. (For storage be sure to keep in the refrigerator.)