Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

The interesting thing about being particular is that you more often get what you want. Case and point – my father. He hates sweets of all kind, preferring instead the really bland, old school, stale-seeming Italian cookies. He does like a good carrot cake, though, so every September he gets a carrot cake for his birthday! It’s nice, in a way, to know exactly what he wants as you’re ensured a great response for putting in the work of making a homemade cake. And it is work, but of a more satisfying sort than most. Let me explain…

I’ve said before that most people could describe themselves as either a cook or a baker. Cooks like to try something different each time, hoping for an even better result. They like to put in a “little of this and a little of that” – they take risks with spices and show no fear in the kitchen. Bakers, on the other hand, like sound results. They measure accurately, depend on solid recipes, and can be perfectionistic. Bakers are probably on time more often, too. While the cook sure sounds “cooler”, I am definitely a baker. Though it’s work to grate carrots, get out the electric mixer, line the cake pans with parchment, etc, it’s satisfying work as I know my labors will yield one very nice, very moist, very pretty carrot cake. Can you buy a carrot cake for $15 at your local grocery store? Yes. Will it taste good? Probably. If you are a baker, though, you’ll make your own because it’s soul soothing.

Ashley from Cali – hey giirrrll – just told me that she likes this site because she can find healthy dinners but decadent, “real” desserts. This is how I eat, so I’m glad it’s reflected online! Anyways, this carrot cake is very “real”, but I did make one change which you can feel free to change back. Instead of using a whole 1 1/2 c. of oil, I subbed 1/2 c. of applesauce for a 1/2 c. of oil. Applesauce is 50 calories per 1/2 cup. Vegetable oil is about 900 calories per 1/2 cup. This small change shaved almost 1000 calories from my cake, and I still loved the texture. If you want your cake even MORE moist, use the whole 1 1/2 cups of oil. This swap just made sense to me, but maybe it doesn’t to you, and that’s fine!

Happy birthday to my wonderful, generous, loving, funny, particular father (shown here with his 6 grandkids). Hope you enjoyed your carrot cake! Love you!

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves 12-16

1 1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

4 eggs

1 c. oil

1/2 c. applesauce *

2 1/4 c. all purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. chopped, toasted walnuts

1 lb. carrots, peeled, trimmed and finely shredded**


8 oz. cream cheese, softened but still cool

8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened but still cool

1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter, softened but still cool

2 tbsp. sour cream

4 1/2 – 5 c. powdered sugar

1 tbsp. maple syrup

*For very VERY moist cake, omit the applesauce and use an extra 1/2 c. oil

**Shred carrots with the box grated but don’t use the largest holes.. use the next size down. 

1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray two 9 in. round cake pans with nonstick spray. Cut parchment rounds to fit inside the bottom, set in pans, and spray parchment with nonstick spray. Trace around the outside of the cake tin to get the right fit. 

2. Beat sugars and eggs on medium high speed with electric mixer until light in color (about 5 minutes).

3. Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.

4. Add oil to egg/sugar mixture in a very thin stream while the mixer is still working. Add applesauce (if using) and beat to combine.

5. Switch to a spatula and mix dry ingredients into egg/sugar/oil mixture by hand.

6. Add walnuts and carrots and stir to just combine.

7. Add to prepared pans and bake for 35-38 minutes or until the cake is set in the middle. You can tell this by the cake pulling away from the edges, by touching the center and seeing if the cake springs back, and by inserting a toothpick to see whether it comes up with a few dry crumbs. 

8. While cake bakes, make frosting. Beat cream cheese, butter, and sour cream on high with electric mixer until thoroughly and smoothly combined (about 3 minutes).

9. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix on low to combine.

10. Add maple syrup and beat to combine. Refrigerate frosting until ready.

11. Let cake cool 10 minutes and then invert onto cooling racks. Let cool two hours at room temperature.

12. Let frosting sit out at least 20 minutes before using. To frost, place one layer on serving plate. Underneath the edges, lay strips of parchment or waxed paper. Add 1/4 of the frosting to the first cake layer and spread in an even layer across the surface.

13. Place the second layer on top (making sure the smoothest side is facing upwards). If choosing to decorate the cake with the cream cheese frosting, scoop 1 c. into a small bowl. Put the rest of the frosting on the top center and spread across the top, over the edges and around the sides using an offset spatula.

14. Color the remaining frosting as you wish and place in a small plastic bag or icing bag. If using the plastic bag, snip the corner and decorate as you wish.


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