Cheri Eby of Gunnison, Colorado, entered this yummy, moist cake in a Colorado Outfitters Association dessert contest and it took first prize. After I made it, I agreed with the judges' decision. This is the best classic carrot cake I've made yet, and my taste testers all raved. Whether it was Cheri's recipe or my tweaks or a little of both, I can't say, but I do know I'll be making it again.
My changes: I grated the carrots very fine using a coarse microplane grater. It was hard to detect any traces of carrot in the cake because they were so well integrated, and I and my taste testers liked that. I used 12 oz. cream cheese instead of 16.
This carrot cake doesn't have much salt in it, but it does have extra sugar. Normally, I would decrease the sugar, but I decided to follow the recipe and I'm glad I did. Carrot cakes are so easy to make because you barely mix the ingredients together. In fact, if you over mix, the cake will fall or be tough, just like muffins and pancakes. You don't even need to get your mixer out. The best way to make a carrot cake is by hand, using a whisk and spatula. This is a dessert that's welcome year round, easily made in a 9 x 13 pan and mixed by hand. You can't beat that for convenience and ease.
Prize-Winning Classic Carrot Cake
Adapted from Taste of Home February/March 2008
Rating: 10 out of 10
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1 (8 oz.) can unsweetened crushed pineapple
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsps. baking soda
2 tsps. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. table salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk mixed with 1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice or vinegar)
2 cups peeled carrots, grated using coarse microplane grater
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts (1/2 cup for cake, 1/4 cup for garnish)
Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 13x9x2" baking pan. Line pan with parchment cut to fit. Drain pineapple, reserving 2 Tbsps. juice for cake. Discard remaining juice or save for another use.
In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and buttermilk. Stir in reserved 2 Tbsps. juice and carrots and 1/2 cup nuts with spatula or spoon, then stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients lightly, mixing till just barely combined. Do not over mix. Pour into pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or till toothpick inserted near center returns clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto towel-lined wire rack and peel off parchment. Cool thoroughly, then return cake to cooled pan before frosting.
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
In small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar and beat till again smooth. Continue to add sugar gradually, beating well after each addition. Spread frosting over cake top. Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup nuts sprinkled over frosting. Yield: 12 servings