A spring time classic
It’s hard to have spring or Easter without carrot cake. Carrot cake is one of my favorite cakes since I was a little girl. Moist delectable cake layers, rich cream cheese frosting, warm spices, and delightful surprises of crunch from the hidden walnuts.
Many traditional carrot cakes are super spice induced and often have raisins. While that version has it’s place, I use cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg sparingly and subtly enough to provide just the right balance.
Sorry raisins, you’re 86’d from my recipe.
Spring time is a time of new beginning and rebirth you can see every year as the seedlings pop through the dirt and the flowers burst in bloom.
Gaining some inspiration from my hopeful garden bed, my carrot cake has to be beyond just carrots. It’s spring time!
Upon some reflection, my mom always makes zucchini bread that’s absolutely amazing and moist so that’s where we start.
One cup of zucchini is subbed in for some of the carrots. Zucchini is full of water, delicate in flavor, and very neutral. The speckles of green look good with the orange from the carrot; looking like some of my favorite blooms – California poppies.
More than ever, pineapple has come to find itself in some of the best carrot cakes around. This bright, yellow, acidic, sweet fruit is also a necessity in my recipe as this is the essential sunshine in my cake!
While I’ve found many use crushed pineapple, I like to use pineapple tidbits for better texture. I love cutting into my cake to see it bursting with color, nice chunks of pineapple and visible walnuts.
A happy Easter tradition
My mom would hide the eggs the night before and Easter Sunday would represent brunch and carrot cake. Between her recipe for carrot cake and my own experience as a baker, this is by far one of the best recipes for flavor, texture, and stability.
As you can tell I continue this tradition in my home with my little one. She loves the pastel Easter colors which serve as the other half of inspiration for this cake. The fresh coconut on the top of this cake add an extra layer of depth and pairs so well with the pineapple inside the cake.
My cream cheese icing is loaded with orange zest giving it that ultra beautiful citrus flavor. Oranges, cream (cheese), carrots, walnuts, and even coconut and pineapple are best buds when it comes to flavor profiles.
They’re the carrot cake click and it fits!
Carrot cake and more!
Aside from the fantastic flavor combinations and my personal historical attachment, this recipe is great because it is very versatile. You’re not automatically committed to make a layer cake!
It’s understandable that layer cakes can seem challenging and intimidating. Not going to lie, they are both but that’s the fun of it for me. You can totally do it!
Or don’t… make muffins, cupcakes, a roll cake, loaf style, bundt – the recipe is pretty flexible. I include my recipe for my orange cream cheese frosting which is my personal favorite with carrot cake but you can omit the orange from it no problem.
My decor was inspired by Easter (obviously) because of my tradition but this cake can be enjoyed any time. Super rich and delicious so find someone (or two) to share it with and get creative on the decoration. Perfect reason to practice your skills!
- 4 cups white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour*
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cardamom**
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup zucchini, grated (4 - 5 small)
- 2 cups carrot, grated (3 - 4 medium)
- 1 can (20oz) pineapple tidbits, drained
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- *All purpose flour can be substituted if necessary
- **If no cardamom available, substitute extra cinnamon
- Yields enough batter and frosting for two 9-inch cake rounds.
- 3 lbs cream cheese, softened
- 2 1/2 lbs powdered sugar, sifted
- pinch salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp orange extract
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- zest from one large orange
- 1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
- food coloring
- FOR THE CAKE
- Step One
Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare cake pans by generously buttering the the whole inside of the cake pans, especially the bottom and crevice. Place about a tablespoon of flour into each of the buttered pans coating the entire bottom, sides, and crevices with flour to prevent the cake from sticking. Dump excess flour out of the pans.
Using a stand or hand mixer, crack the eggs into a large bowl, add the sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Whisk on high speed until eggs are a pale yellow color and slightly thickened (think appearance of ribbons or streaks as whisk is mixing). This takes about 8 to 10 minutes.
On low speed, slowly pour vegetable oil into the egg mixture until well emulsified. In a separate bowl, sift together the bread flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the egg mixture on low to medium speed in three intervals. Do not over mix.
Continuing by hand, fold in zucchini, carrot, pineapple, and walnuts until all ingredients are just combined. Split mixture evenly between prepared cake pans. Bake on the middle rack of the oven at 375 F for 50 minutes*. Check the center of the cake with a toothpick or butter knife until it comes out clean.
*You may need to bake this cake up to 20 additional minutes depending on your oven. I recommend checking about every 5 additional minutes.
- Step Five
Once cakes are cooked, run a knife around the edges of the pan and let cool for 30 minutes. After, turn out cakes onto a screen or parchment paper. If cakes do not release from the bottoms of your pans easily, try tapping the bottoms of the cake pans with the handle of a knife to help them release. Let cool at least 30 minutes more before frosting. You can also chill in the refrigerator.
FOR THE FROSTING
Using the hand or stand mixer, place the softened cream cheese in a large bowl with salt, zest, orange juice, orange extract, and vanilla extract. Blend on low to medium speed until smooth.
Sift powdered sugar and use the mixer to incorporate into the cream cheese mixture. Do this slowly and in about four intervals to avoid a huge mess and lumpy frosting. If it is warm in your kitchen, you may want to chill your frosting before using on your cake.
To color coconut, divide into separate bowls. Depending on how bold you want your colors, add more or less food coloring. I did yellow, blue, and red, one drop each. Mix well with a spoon or fork. If the color is too bold or dark, add more white coconut flakes and mix again until desired color is reached.
Bread flour is used in this recipe due to the excess moisture present in this luscious cake. The added starch proteins help hold and keep the structure of this cake so it is moist, tender, and doesn't crumble apart.
*Adjust baking times as necessary when making cupcakes, jelly roll, bundt, or muffins with this recipe.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1267Total Fat: 62gSaturated Fat: 23gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 34gCholesterol: 185mgSodium: 654mgCarbohydrates: 169gFiber: 4gSugar: 133gProtein: 15g
Nutritional information is estimated and may not be accurate.
How to do watercolor frosting
To achieve the watercolor look I used for my cake, after making the cream cheese frosting, separate three smaller amounts of frosting (about 1/3 cup each) into small bowls. Use food coloring to achieve 3 different desired colors.
Crumb coat your filled, layer cake which means to frost the outside of your cake lightly so all crumbs are secure from coming loose and combining into your frosting. Refrigerate your cake for 30 minutes.
Remove your chilled cake and frost again covering with plain white frosting (which should be the majority you have left, about one cup) ensuring cake is covered and even.
Alternating colors, place dobs of colored buttercream on the sides of your cake from bottom to top, scattered and not too close to one another. Using a cake wheel and plastic bench scraper or cake spatula, gently flatten the dobs of buttercream going in one fluid circular motion with the cake wheel.
You have the opportunity to fix certain spots and even out the sides yet you don’t want to go around too many times or spread too much as this will end up just blending the colors together which may not produce the result you want.
If you make this please leave me a comment, picture, shout on social, or even a star rating! Let me know what you like, what could be better, I want to help you learn!
Cooking and baking is my craft. Showing others they can too is my passion.
Happy Easter y’all!