This naked carrot cake is exquisitely sweet and spiced, perfectly moist and tender, with an impeccable tangy cream cheese frosting that’s dangerously yummy.
I love love love the versatility that Carrot Cake has to offer…
I mean, it IS one of the rare cakes that gives you the possibility of being super good and keep things truly healthy, or be totally naughty, go all out and bake one that’s as indulgent as can be!
Not only that, but rare are the cakes that come in so many different “varieties”. Some recipes call for a lot of grated carrots, while others keep their presence a little more modest. Some add grated apples, crushed pineapple, shredded coconut, raisins or other dried fruit, walnuts or pecans, or even almond, while others leave the nuts completely out of the equation.
Some people like to make theirs really sweet and boldly spiced, while others prefer to keep the spice level fairly low and let the flavor or the carrots really shine.
Finally, carrot cake can be covered in as much or as little cream cheese frosting as you like. Because yeah, if there is one thing that I “think” we can all agree on, it’s that no carrot cake would be complete without at least SOME form of cream cheese frosting!
But even at that, it appears as though there is never a right or wrong answer with carrot cake…
Or maybe it’s just me who can’t make up my mind? Sometimes, it feels like every single time I make carrot cake, I feel compelled to come up with an entirely new recipe. Some things, I never modify, though. For instance, I like my carrot cake to be very generously spiced. And this Naked Carrot Cake really reflects that well: it harbors such a generous amount of cinnamon, ginger, all-spice, nutmeg and ground clove that I came “this close” to calling it a Spiced Carrot Cake.
In fact, I think you could almost say it’s a cross between a carrot cake and a spice cake…
This naked carrot cake, it literally explodes with flavor; it’s exquisitely sweet and spiced, and it’s perfectly moist and tender.
To keep things simple, I chose to unceremoniously cover it with a generous layer of the most amazing, delectable, yummy, tangy, DIVINE cream cheese frosting ever. I’m telling you, this thing is totally insane and dangerously addictive. Be warned: you’ll have a hard time staying away…
As it that wasn’t enough, this cake gets even better after it’s had a chance to sit in the fridge for a day or two. The flavors seem to intensify and get even richer; the frosting gets firmer and creamier and tangier and… OH! be still my heart! I can’t even find the words; you’ll have to taste it to believe it.
Now that I think of it, I might not feel so compelled to come up with a new recipe the next time I get a craving for Carrot Cake. I think I’ll be making this exact same recipe again… and again… and again!
Yeah. It’s definitely a keeper.
STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS & PICTURES
FOR THE CAKE
Preheat your oven to 350°F; grease and flour 4- 8″ round cake pans and set aside.
If you didn’t have 4 cake pans, you could either bake your cakes in 2 batches, or divide the batter between 2 pans and slice your cakes in half after they’re completely cooled. Of course, if you chose to go with the latter option, you’d have to adjust baking time significantly and your finished cake would look slightly different. But, it would still work, and I have no doubt that your cake would still look beautiful!
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well with a whisk until fully combined. Set aside.
You could also combine all the add-ins, i.e. the grated carrots, drained crushed pineapple, chopped walnuts and raisins together in another bowl. No need to dirty a separate bowl for each ingredient!
In yet another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients, except for the eggs. Either keep the eggs in their shells until ready to use, or crack them into their own little bowl.
Now mix the wet ingredients with a whisk until they are very well blended and then add the eggs, all at once.
Whisk vigorously until they are fully incorporated.
Throw in the dry ingredients…
…and stir delicately with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until well combined.
Now fold in the grated carrots, drained crushed pineapple, chopped walnuts and golden raisins.
It’s important that you drain the crushed pineapple really well, otherwise you may end up introducing too much moisture into the cake batter. I like to place mine in a fine meshed sieve and press it down with my hands to help the juice out, or squeeze it between the palms of my hand, a handful at a time.
If you can’t find a 398ml can of crushed pineapple (I’m not sure, but I think that this might be a Canadian format, I’m not sure if it’s available elsewhere) you’ll need to measure about a cup of crushed pineapple, after you have squeezed it dry.
Mix the add-ins until just incorporated, no more.
Divide the batter equally between the 4 prepared cake pans; you should get about 465g (16.4oz) per pan.
Of course, you’ll want to double that amount if you chose to use only 2 pans…
Bake the cakes for 20 to 22 minutes, (or longer if using 2 pans, probably closer to something like 32-35 minutes) or until the edges of the cake take a nice golden coloration, the top looks set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the cakes rest in the pans for a few minutes and then delicately turn them onto a cooling rack to cool down completely, then transfer them to refrigerator (or freezer if you’re in a hurry) to cool completely.
It’s imperative that the cakes be thoroughly chilled before you frost them.
While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting…
MAKE THE FROSTING
Combine the the softened cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon extract and salt in a large mixing bowl;
Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add about half the powdered sugar and the dry buttermilk, if using.
About that dry buttermilk, while it’s not absolutely necessary that you add it, I strongly recommend that you do, especially if you happen to have some in your pantry. It just enhances the texture of the frosting, making it feel somewhat firmer, extra fluffy and smoothly dreamy. Plus, it gives it a very distinct yet extremely subtle flavor, a little hint of je-ne-sais-quoi that you can’t quite put your finger on…
Trust me, once you start adding that magical ingredient to your frosting, you’ll never want to go without. And since dry buttermilk keeps for like forever and more, you can safely buy some, if only for that purpose alone, trusting that it will never go bad on you.
So beat that sugar and dry buttermilk in ON LOW SPEED until they’re well combined…
Then, add the rest of the sugar and resume beating ON LOW SPEED until the sugar is well incorporated.
Once that’s happened, increase the speed to high and beat the frosting for 2 to 3 minutes, until it’s really smooth and fluffy.
At this point, your frosting will be way too soft to use, so you’ll need to refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes before you can use it. Besides, I’m ready to bet that your cakes aren’t completely chilled yet…
So take a breather, clean the kitchen… and don’t stress. That frosting will not go overly firm on you; You could even leave it in the fridge until the next day and it’ll still be nice and spreadable when you take it out of there.
There’s just one thing, though… GOOD LUCK STAYING AWAY AND KEEPING YOUR FINGERS OUT OF THAT BOWL!!!
When your frosting has had ample time to chill, take it out of the fridge and give it a good stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula (mainly to hide the evidence, you know; that way no one will see all the traces left by your fingers!)
LET’S ASSEMBLE US SOME NAKED CARROT CAKE!
Place one of the chilled cakes, flat side up, on a cake board or plate and cover it with a fairly generous layer of frosting, making sure to spread the frosting all the way to the edge, and even going slightly over…
Just slightly. Don’t overdo it, otherwise the frosting will droop and it won’t look all that nice.
Repeat this same process with the remaining 3 layers.
Finally, garnish the top of the cake with a few tablespoons of chopped walnuts and golden raisins.
Return the finished cake to the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Serve this cake chilled or at room temperature and keep any leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.
Hum yeah… leftovers… good luck with that!
- 3 cups (385g | 13.5oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt (I use Himalayan salt)
- 1 tbsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground clove
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1-1/2 cup (300g | 10.6oz) packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100g | 3.5oz) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (240ml) melted coconut oil (210g | 7.4oz if weighed in solid state)
- 3/4 cup (135g | 4.8oz) unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract, (store-bought or homemade)
- 2 cups (260g | 9.1oz) grated carrots (about 4 large)
- 1 small can (398ml) crushed pineapple, squeezed dry (that's about 1 cup after squeezing)
- 3/4 cup (75g | 2.6oz) chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup (65g | 2.3oz) golden raisins
- 1-1/2 package (340g | 12oz) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (180g | 6.3oz) butter, at room temperature
- 6 cups (720g | 25.4oz) powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp dry buttermilk (optional)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp pure lemon extract
- pinch salt
- 2-3 tbsp chopped walnuts
- 1-2 tbsp golden raisins
- Preheat your oven to 350°F; grease and flour 4- 8" round cake pans and set aside.
- In a large bowl combine dry ingredients and mix well with a whisk until fully combined. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients, except the eggs, and whisk until well blended. Add the eggs, all at once, and whisk vigorously until they are fully incorporated.
- Stir in the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula; stir delicately until well combined.
- Fold in the grated carrots, drained pineapple, chopped walnuts and golden raisins. Mix until just incorporated, no more.
- Divide the batter equally between the 4 prepared cake pans; you should get about 465g (16.4oz) per pan.
- Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the edges of the cake take a nice golden coloration, the top looks set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the cakes rest in the pans for a few minutes and then delicately turn them onto a cooling rack to cool down completely, then transfer them to refrigerator (or freezer if you're in a hurry) until completely chilled before frosting.
- Combine the the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon extract and salt in a large mixing bowl; beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add about half the powdered sugar and the dry buttermilk (if using) and beat on low speed until well combined. Then, add the rest of the sugar and resume beating on low speed until the sugar is well incorporated. Once that's happened, increase the speed to high and beat the frosting for 2 to 3 minutes, until really smooth and fluffy.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until firm enough to frost the cake; give the frosting a good stir before you use it.
- Place one of the chilled cakes, flat side up, on a cake board or plate and cover it with a fairly generous layer of frosting, making sure to spread the frosting all the way to the edge, and even go slightly over. Repeat this same process with the other 3 layers.
- Garnish the top of the cake with a few tablespoons of chopped walnuts and golden raisins. Return the finished cake to the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature and keep leftovers airtight in the fridge for up to a week.