No cake is homier or more casual than a carrot cake, especially a carrot cake with a filling or topping of cream cheese frosting. This is loosely adapted from a recipe by Maida Heatter in her landmark Book of Great American Desserts.
Makes two 9-inch round layers, 2 inches tall
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil, such as safflower
1 pound carrots, rinsed, trimmed, peeled, and grated in the food processor or on the largest holes of a box grater
3/4 cup walnut or pecan pieces, coarsely chopped
Cream Cheese Frosting
12 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans, buttered and the bottoms lined with disks of buttered parchment or wax paper.
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375˚F.
2. Combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and whisk to mix; set aside
3. Place the brown sugar in a mixing bowl and use a large rubber spatula to work in the eggs, one at a time. Whisk in the oil.
4. Whisk in the dry ingredients about one third at a time. Use a large rubber spatula to fold in the carrots and nuts.
5. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until risen and firm, 40 to 45 minutes.
6. Let the cakes stand for 5 minutes in the pans, then unmold to racks, turn right side up and cool completely. (Wrap and freeze the layers for up to one month if you don’t intend to use them immediately.)
7. For the frosting, combine the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle on medium speed until completely mixed, about 3 minutes, stopping and scraping the bowl and beater several times.
8. Decrease the speed to low and add the confectioners’ sugar a cup at a time, beating until absorbed after each addition. After the last cup is added, the frosting might look dry, but it will eventually smooth out.
9. Beat in the vanilla and increase the speed to low-medium until the mixture is no longer dry looking, about 2 minutes.
10. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the frosting until it is smooth and light, 4 to 5 minutes. Use the frosting soon after mixing it.
Bake the batter in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan, prepared as above, for 45 to 50 minutes. Use a half batch of the cream cheese frosting to cover the top of the cake only.