Cakes and Cheesecakes

Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

I know people who like Carrot Cake and many others who say it is not their favorite, including me.  But I had never heard anyone say they LOVE Carrot Cake until recently when a friend, who happens to be a chef, said it was one of his favorite desserts.  About a week later, another friend said the magic words, “I LOVE carrot cake!”  My old recipe, a variation of my Mom’s, was pretty darn good but my challenge was to make it really good.    

First of all, the perfect carrot cake must be extra-moist and fluffy, not dense but with a bit of texture.  There should be plenty of finely shredded, very fresh carrots to add flavor, moisture, color and texture.  No limp, shriveled carrots please.  If you can get carrots from your garden or the Farmer’s Market, that’s ideal!  A perfect level of sweetness should let the warming spices shine through. Toasting the nuts is optional, but toasting the nuts intensifies the flavor and improves the texture.  The candied ginger, also optional, adds a wonderful spicy/sweet flavor to the cake.  I use the ginger in place of the popular raisins that many people use.  Of course, you can use raisins if you prefer.          

And finally, a decadent cream cheese frosting is a must.  The Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting is a game-changer for this cake.  Brown butter is MAGICAL.  Brown butter is butter that has been cooked over a moderate heat until the milk solids begin to toast.  The butter turns a light brown color and smells nutty and delicious. This small step of browning your butter really transforms any recipe, especially this frosting!  Voila – the result is one utterly divine slice of cake!

Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes a 9” two-layer cake (see notes for other sizes).
A rich, moist, spice cake, full of sweet carrots, toasted nuts and crushed pineapple. Finished with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, this classic cake reaches new heights.
Author Rosalie D’Amico

Ingredients

The Cake

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • cups vegetable oil or a light flavored olive oil
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 2 cups peeled finely grated carrots
  • ½ cup toasted, finely chopped pecans (or other nuts)
  • ½ cup finely chopped candied ginger (optional)

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • (Enough for a 2-layer cake. For a 3-layer cake, see notes)
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces full fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

The Cake

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325° convection. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) cake pans and line with parchment.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves together (I like to use a whisk). Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer with beater blade attachment, combine sugars, oil and eggs and beat on medium high for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
  • Add orange zest, vanilla, pineapple and carrots. Mix on low until well blended.
  • Add dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Stir in nuts and candied ginger (if using). Pour into prepared pans and bake for 28-30 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Add the butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir while the butter starts to melt. The butter will start to bubble, then after a couple minutes it will start to foam up — keep stirring. After the foam subsides, you’ll have brown, nutty smelling butter! Take the pan off the heat and pour the butter into a glass bowl or cup. Transfer the butter to the refrigerator or freezer to chill. The butter must be very cold before using.
  • Combine the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer with beater blade attachment. Beat together until smooth and fluffy, scraping bowl down as needed.
  • Add cold brown butter and beat to combine well.

Notes

This recipe will amply frost a two-layer cake. It is just enough for a three layer “naked cake”. To completely cover a three-layer cake (filling, sides and top), make 1½ times the recipe. The frosting is quite rich. When I make a 3-layer cake, I prefer to frost between the layers and the top only leaving the sides unfrosted (a “naked cake”).
The cake can also be baked in 3 (9-inch) pans or a 9×13” pan. Baking time for 3 (9-inch) pans is about 22 minutes; a 9×13” pan about 35-40 minutes.