Desserts with nutrition – carrot cake

I’m often told that I don’t eat enough vegetables… not that I dislike them, but I just don’t cook them much.  Why cook veggies when I can makes cakes and pies?!  Those seem like perfectly reasonable ideas for breakfast to me (heck, I ate cheesecake almost every morning last week).  But I guess it was all a matter of time before I started preparing my own vegetables.  When I was invited to a potluck last week, someone thought it’d be a good idea if I brought some veggies for once… not wanting to disappoint, I did exactly that!  This big carrot cake packs a lot of nutrients in its carrots, raisins, and pecans 🙂

3 layered carrot cake with raisins, nuts, and cream cheese frosting

3 layered carrot cake with raisins, nuts, and cream cheese frosting

I hadn’t made carrot cake in over a year, mainly because I remember how annoying it was to grate the carrots by hand.  Last time my recipe only called for 2 cups of grated carrots, yet it took me nearly 45 minutes just to do that!  Ugh, I didn’t want to go through that again… but then I remembered that I have a food processor now!  I hunted through my pantry for the accessories my cuisanart processor came with and discovered my unused grating disc.  How much easier would this make my life?  Well…. 3 cups of carrots barely took 3 minutes this time 🙂  I’d say it’s  a huge timesaver.

Chop up carrots to place in food processor

Chop up carrots to place in food processor

Pulse and obtain instant grated carrots!

Pulse and obtain instant grated carrots!

Everything else about this cake is pretty standard.  You have your wet ingredients (oil, sugar, eggs), dry ingredients (flour, spices, etc), and your mixings (carrots, raisins, coconut, nuts).  The recipe calls for 3 9″x2″ cake pans, but you can really make these easily in 9″x1.5″ if that’s what you have (like me) or even 8″x2″ pans… these layers don’t come up to the top of your cake pans.

A little tip for the cream cheese frosting: although both the cream cheese and butter should be near room temperature, ideally you want to leave your cream cheese out of the fridge for at least 6 hours (overnight if possible).  However, you don’t want your butter out as long or it’ll get too soft… generally about 2 hours is a good target.  Otherwise, you may end up with a weird texture in your cream cheese frosting.  I’ve used this tip whenever I make cream cheese frosting and it’s definitely improved my desserts!

To make your raisins nice and plump, I generally soak them in a pot of warm or simmering water for about 15 minutes, then drain after they cool.  As for the coconut, I didn’t mix any directly into the frosting… instead, I just sprinkled some on top of each layer.

Time for the recipe!

Bill’s Big Carrot Cake

from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”


For the Cake:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • ½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola or safflower oil (I used safflower oil)
  • 4 large eggs

For the Frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • ½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)
All the ingredients

All the ingredients


1.  Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess.  Or just use Pam’s baking spray like me 🙂

2.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.

Set aside the dry ingredients and mixings

Set aside the dry ingredients and mixings

3.  Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.

Admittedly, the batter looks rather unappetizing at first

Admittedly, the batter looks rather unappetizing at first

4.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

The finished cake layers

The finished cake layers

5.  Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.

6.  If you’d like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.

7.  To assemble: Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.

Frost liberally :)

Frost liberally 🙂

8.  Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

Its not really that lopsided, just a bad cross section :)

It's not really that lopsided, just a bad cross section 🙂


4 Responses to “Desserts with nutrition – carrot cake”

  1. May 17, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    oh man i love carrot cake! do you like your food processor? what brand is it? i’m thinking about buying one for cooking but i’m on the fence…

  2. 2 Kee
    May 18, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    That carrot cake rocked my tastebuds!

  3. 3 angrybaker
    May 19, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Haha, I have a Cuisinart 7 cup food processor that I bought from Amazon for $99. It’s really handy! This is the first time I used the grating disc but I’ll probably use it more often… it’s so much easier than grating by hand 🙂

  4. 4 Anonymous
    May 22, 2009 at 11:10 am

    this was REALLY good. moist and dense and i’m all about cream-cheese frosting 🙂 i just wish carrot cake was healthier!

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