Homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is really good and it’s a favorite for birthdays in our family. But frankly, I used to inwardly groan when anyone asked for carrot cake because it meant I had to hand shred a pound of carrots. I will never again mind it, however, because now I make food processor birthday carrot cake.
Back in the 1970s when I first started making carrot cake, the recipe that everyone used called for 1-1/2 cups of vegetable oil, and all the carrots had to be grated by hand. Over the years, I tweaked the recipe with varying degrees of success. First, I cut the amount of oil back to 1 cup (yay–nobody even noticed); one time I thoroughly scrubbed the carrots, but didn’t peel them before shredding (bad idea, the bits of peel turn green during baking); another time I tried chopping the carrots with the eggs and oil in a blender (I got bright orange mayonnaise); a couple of years ago I added crushed pineapple to the batter (that got a big thumbs down); I used butter to replace part of the oil (big win!). So, from then on, I always peeled the carrots, shredded them by hand, used part butter, and never added any other ingredients.
We’ve owned a food processor for at least 15 years, but it never occurred to me to use it for preparing the carrots for carrot cake, until I made this birthday cake for our daughter’s birthday. She and her boyfriend were visiting us from Minnesota and she requested carrot cake for her birthday. Since her birthday and Super Bowl Sunday happened to be the same day this year, we invited my brother and sister-in-law over to watch the game and celebrate with us. Joe and I planned to fix a fair amount of food, including Buffalo chicken wings, bang bang shrimp, veggies and dip, and potato chips with clam dip, so I needed to save time with everything else I was doing.
Joe’s birthday is eight days before Katy’s birthday and I made carrot cake for his birthday. I had more time when I made his cake, so shredding carrots by hand wasn’t a big deal except that I cut my pinkie on the grater. This time I decided to peel the carrots, cut them into 1″ chunks, then toss them into the food processor and buzz them until they were minced. It worked better than I expected and was so EASY and FAST! I can’t believe I’ve never thought of it before.
Then, I decided to add a little something extra, so I peeled and cored a Granny Smith apple, cut it into eighths, minced it in the food processor, and added it to the batter along with the carrots. Next time, I’ll just process the carrots and apple at the same time.
These are the cake pans I use; I own two sets and I love them. So far, I’ve used them for two wedding cakes, dozens of birthday cakes, many pans of yeast rolls, Irish soda bread, shortcake, and pineapple upside down cake.
Those small light-colored pieces you see in the batter are apple.
Here’s the secret to having cakes that are flat on top, instead of domed, which is especially nice when you’re making a cake to decorate. Cakes dome in the middle because the outside batter is closest to the hot sides of the pan which causes it to bake faster than the middle which continues to rise. That was one of the first things I learned when I started cake decorating years ago, and since then I’ve always used cake strips. I used to have ones that I cut from old bath towels and fastened on with T-pins; they shed pieces of toweling and I nearly always stabbed myself with the T-pins. These are the cake strips that I use now. They fit 8″ or 9″ round cake pans and work great. You soak them in cold water, lightly squeeze the excess water out, then wrap them around the cake pans just before they go in the oven. Voila! No more domed cakes.
I always make sure to bake my carrot cakes till they’re well done. You can see how the cake has pulled away from the edge of the pan and the top is well browned.
Let the cakes cool thoroughly on a rack, don’t even think about trying to put cream cheese frosting on a cake if there’s so much as a hint of warmth. Sometimes the top of the cake will be cool, but feel the center of the cake underneath to be absolutely sure that it’s completely cool before frosting it.
Put one layer on a flat plate, cover just the top with frosting, then place the second cake on top, and finish frosting the top and sides. Here, I used a Wilton 1M frosting tip for the top and bottom borders, and a Wilton #5 frosting tip for the writing. I couldn’t resist those adorable little flip flop candles when I saw them! I used a yellow pair on the top of a yellow cake with chocolate frosting that I made earlier in the week for my other sister-in-law. In case you’re counting, that’s three decorated bithday cakes in eight days. =0)
So, here’s the thing about these cakes–which were delicious, by the way. I forgot to take any photos after we cut into the cakes! You see, there’s so much to remember about food photography and writing a blog, and I’m still so new at it that I don’t always remember to complete all of the steps, especially if there’s a gap between the time that I’ve actually made the food and when we’re ready to eat it. With both of these cakes, we didn’t do the whole “light the candles, sing the birthday song, cut the birthday cake” routine until several hours later. So, by the time we were ready to EAT the birthday cake, I forgot to bring out the camera. There may have been alcohol involved…
I’m so embarrassed about not having a photo of a slice of the cake that I wasn’t going to do this post, but Joe convinced me that I should do the post anyway, so I’ve made myself a “cheat sheet” for the future to remind me of all the photos that I need to take to complete the picture story for you. Show a slice of cake!
This recipe makes a cake that’s seriously delicious for any occasion, and leftovers make a terrific breakfast or afternoon snack (carrots, apple, eggs, cream cheese!). So try my recipe next time you crave carrot cake, or someone wants one for their birthday, or you have a potluck to attend.
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Thanks, and bon appetit!
- 1 pound (450 grams) carrots, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
- 1 large Granny Snith apple, peeled and cored, cut into eigths
- 1/4 cup (2 oz, 56 grams) butter
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups (8-1/2 oz, 240 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups (10-1/2 oz, 300 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup lightly packed (3 oz, 100 grams) brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup (3 oz, 80 grams) coarsely chopped and toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)
- 1 cup (8 oz, 226 grams) salted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups (12 ounces, 340 grams) confectioners' sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 16 ounces regular cream cheese, chilled and cut into 16 pieces
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and use non-stick spray in two 8" or 9" cake pans, then line the pans with parchment cut to fit and spray the parchment.
- Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
- Put the carrots and apple in the bowl of a food processor and process until the carrots are finely minced, stopping the machine 2 or 3 times to scrape down the sides.
- Put the eggs in a large bowl and beat for about half a minute, then add the oil, melted butter, vanilla, carrots, and apple and mix until combined.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined, fold in the toasted nuts, if using.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.
- Wet and wrap cake strips around the filled pans.
- Bake until the tops are very golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 75 minutes; pans with cake strips will take 15 to 20 minutes longer to bake.
- Set the pans on a cooling rack, and let them cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then tip the cakes out of the pans, remove the parchment from the bottoms of each cake, and place on a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.
- Sift the powdered sugar.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, briefly beat the butter until creamy, then add the powdered sugar and vanilla on low speed until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.
- Increase the speed to medium-low and add the cream cheese, 1 piece at a time, mixing until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Frost the completely cooled cake.
Always sift confectioner's sugar before using.
Time stated does not include time to cool the cake or decorate it.
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