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Best Carrot Cake

July 16, 2009

In my family, baking carrot cake when someone has a baby is a tradition. When I was born, my Grandmama visited my family in Illinois (all the way from Georgia). One of the things she did was to make a carrot cake. My mom said, “I remember being so impressed with her patience to follow the detailed directions for such a complex creation. It was delicious and quickly became my favorite cake.” Grandmama also made the cake for my family when one of my sisters was born five years later.

So, last week, when I made some food for friends who just had their first child, I decided to make carrot cake. But I diverged from the family tradition and tried a new recipe. Little did I know then that the “new” recipe from Bon Appetite or Gourmet (I cut it out and don’t remember the source) was freakishly similar to Grandmama’s–both are a 3-part cake: cake, glaze, and yummy cream cheese frosting.

This is definately worth the time it takes to bake it. Make it in one large rectangular layer or 2-3 round layers. It will serve 12-16, depending on how large you cut the pieces. You’ll have to adjust the baking time depending on the size of cake and thickness of the layers.


2 C. all purpose flour

2 t. baking soda

2 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. salt

1 1/2 C. sugar

3 large eggs

3/4 C. buttermilk (or milk soured with lemon juice)

3/4 C. vegetable oil

1 t. vanilla extract

2 C. coarsely grated peeled carrots

1 1/2 C. sweetened flaked coconut (unsweetened works, too)

1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice

1 C. coarsely chopped pecans (or walnuts)


1 C. sugar

1/2 C. buttermilk

1/2 C. (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced

1 T. light corn syrup

1 1/2 t. baking soda

1 t. vanilla extract


1 1/2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 C. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 lb. powdered sugar

2 T. brown sugar

1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

1 t. ground cinnamon

Cake: Preheat oven to 350. Brush 13/9/2 ” metal baking pan with vegetable oil, dust with sugar. (Or prepare 2-3 round layers the same way.)

Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Beat sugar, eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in dry ingredients. Fold in carrots, coconut, pineapple with juice, and pecans. Transfer batter to prepared pan(s).

Bake the rectangular cake 30 minutes. Tent loosely with foil. Continue to bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Using a bamboo skewer, poke deep holes all over cake. (For round layers, bake 35-40 minutes, total, adding the foil tent after about 25 minutes of baking.)

Glaze: While the cake is baking, bring first five ingredients to boil in a large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until glaze is deep amber, whisking often, 3-4 minutes (glaze will thin out when almost done). Remove from heat, mix in vanilla.

Spoon hot glaze evenly over warm cake. Cool cake completely in pan.

Frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add powered sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon; beat until blended. Spread frosting over cooled cake. (Keep the rectangular cake in the pan. If you made layers, frost between layers.)

Store cake in the refrigerator.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Liz Fledderjohann permalink
    August 31, 2009 8:43 pm

    I made this carrot cake from your Grandmama’s cookbook for your dad’s 60th birthday in August. We had house guests at the time, so it seemed appropriate to make it to share. It was just as good as you described, and as good as I remember Mother’s being. Thanks for the good idea–and for writing about the memories.

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