Spring has sprung!! Can I get an AMEN?! Our little family is coming off a weekend of celebrations. First, my husband’s 26th birthday (he’s a bebe). Second, St. Patrick’s Day. Both were on the same day. So much celebrating! And now Spring is upon us even though it still feels like mid-winter. The excitement I have this time every year is almost too much to handle! Like how perfect and delicious this carrot cake is. Y’all, it’s really, really good. It’s the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. Maybe because it still tastes as fresh and moist on day 5 as it did on day 1!
Everyone says their carrot cake is the best. My husband will tell you the best you can buy is the “Carrot Bar Cake” from Publix. Nowhere else has he found a match and I’d have to agree. It’s moist, perfectly spiced and doesn’t go overboard with all the add-ins. It’s just carrots and nuts. As I was planning to make carrot cake for his birthday, I knew it’d need to have all those components to rival the Publix version, plus my own personal spin. I was determined to create the perfect carrot cake.
I’ve tested this cake several times. In a quest to make it my own I settled on rum. First cake test was too boozy and was lacking in the carrot and nut department. Not to mention you could barely taste the spices. One more test run was all it took and I mastered the absolute perfect carrot cake. Sometimes it bes like that! And man am I grateful since it was getting close to my husband’s birthday. Now I’m sharing all the goodness of this cake with y’all!
What Makes This Carrot Cake So Perfect?
At our house, Publix carrot bar cake is gone in a matter of several days because it’s so yummy. It’s also really small. But MY carrot cake stays fresh and moist even after a week! I’ve actually had it sitting on the counter for 6 days now (it’s much bigger than Publix carrot bar cake) and it tastes like I just made it. How? I use oil instead of butter. Not just any kind. I use oil from the best oil supplier in the South: Oliver Farm Artisan Oils. If you haven’t ever heard of them, click here now. Seriously, you’ll use the heck out of their oils especially if you bake. They’re definitely pricier than oils at the grocery store but OH MY WORD are they 20,000 x better!
1. Moist Factor – Oliver Farm Artisan Oils
A cake that’s moist is the perfect kind of cake. It can be achieved with oil but I had to know something. Is Oliver Farm’s oil really that much different/better than grocery store oil? My curiosity got the best of me and I did a taste test. I made two cakes. One with grocery store peanut oil. One with Oliver Farm’s peanut oil. The difference was night and day. Not only was the flavor a gazillion times better, the cake with Oliver Farm’s oil stayed moist much longer than the grocery store peanut oil. That’s when I knew these artisan oils were special and irreplaceable. Since then, I’ve only used grocery store oil as a last resort. Like when I forget to order more Oliver Farm oils. It’s my secret ingredient to a super-moist, flavorful cake every single time. Still don’t believe me? Give ’em a try by clicking here.
In this recipe I use their green peanut oil and pecan oil. It’s not overly nutty tasting at all. However, it imparts rich flavor and moistness that lasts for days. They also use the leftover “meal” from their pressings to make their flours. In this recipe I added their pecan flour for extra flavor. We might as well call it an Oliver Farm Carrot Cake for all their amazing products loaded in this cake!
2. Booziness – But not TOO much
The first time I tested this recipe it tasted like a cross between a rum cake and a carrot cake. That’s not a bad thing to me. If my husband hadn’t mentioned using less rum, I would’ve added more. Just sayin’. I know all the alcohol gets cooked out, but, personally, the generous pour of rum gives it that wow factor. However, for this particular cake I dialed it back to be reminiscent of a classic carrot cake. So this recipe still has rum, just not as much as it…maybe…should? But, hey, if you’re feeling liberal, go on with your bad self.
3. Spice Level On Point
There was no way I was about to add a tablespoon of any kind of spice to this cake. But it just didn’t have much flavor in the spice department on my first test run. So, the second time around I wanted to give it some oomph. The only way to achieve that is by saying a prayer and adding several Tablespoons (eek!) of spices. But I promise it doesn’t ruin the cake. It’s juuuuust right. Cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg make the perfect trio of spices for this delicious cake.
4. Simple Add Ins – Carrot and Nuts
Why do people add raisins? Or pineapple? Just don’t do it. Keep it simple and go with pecans or walnuts. I have an abundance of pecans for some reason so that’s what I used. Walnuts are totally acceptable. It just depends on your preference. The carrots are grated on a box grater on the average grate side. I don’t know how else to explain that side. It’s the only side of the box grater I ever use!
5. Cream Cheese Frosting – Not Too Sweet
One thing I cannot get on board with is overly sweet frosting. I get it’s frosting but DANG, I really want to avoid diabetes as long as I can. This frosting is so my jam. Perfect cream cheese to butter ratio. And literally half the sugar of most frosting recipes. Yay! So, you can pretend you’re eating healthy, yanno, with the carrots and scant sugar. Just make sure the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature before blending, or else you’ll have chunks of it in your frosting and it ain’t pretty.
If you’re feeling fun and festive, and you probably are since it’s SPRING, then you should pipe some cute carrots. Obviously I need to expand my piping tip collection. But there’s something cool (I think) about using a star tip for the carrots. At least no one else is doing it.
A Few Things Before You Make This Carrot Cake
- Use a Kitchen Scale – It’s so much more accurate and your baked goods will turn out just perfect! You can click here to find the one I use. Or click here to see a smaller, less expensive kitchen scale on Amazon.
- Use a Mixer – My favorite is my KitchenAid stand mixer. Of course you could use a hand mixer. I’m thinking about getting this one on Amazon. You want to beat the heck out of your eggs, sugar, and oil until they’ve almost tripled in volume. Unless you’re the Hulk, use a mixer.
- Substituting Oil – Not being difficult, but get yourself some Oliver Farm peanut and/or pecan oil. It really makes all the difference. If you absolutely must, you can use grocery store oils (vegetable, peanut, or canola). But don’t count on big flavor or moistness that lasts for a week or more. Just warning you! Do yourself a flavor and order Oliver Farm’s oils by clicking here.
- Substituting Flour – Same thing basically with the oil. It’s best to use Oliver Farm pecan flour or another high quality, artisan flour supplier. However, if you must do without, use the best pecan flour you can find at the grocery store. And if all else fails, just use all cake flour. The cake will still turn out great.
- Leveling – This is important if you want to achieve a flat cake. If you don’t level your cakes they will end up doming and it will be harder to ice them in my opinion. I don’t have any special equipment for this. The best way to level is to put your layer on a cake turntable. Find the edge of the cake where it starts to dome and follow that line all the way around with a bread knife. You’ll need to crouch to eye level to get it right.
- Piping – I reserved a small amount of icing for piping the carrots and added food coloring in separate bowls. I give you permission to laugh at my turd-like carrots. I need more practice and definitely more piping tips. However, if you don’t have any piping bags or tips, just use plastic baggies and cut off the tip. Yours will probably end up looking better than mine. I’m fine!
Carrot Cake Recipe
For the Cake:
442 g (4 c) cake flour
79 g (2/3 c) pecan flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
5 large eggs
212 g (1 c) granulated sugar
250 g (1 1/4 c) light brown sugar
95 g (1/2 c) pecan oil
464 g (2 1/4 c) peanut oil
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
75 g (4 1/2 Tbsp) rum
1 c pecans, chopped
16 oz carrots, shredded
For the Frosting:
3 8 oz. (750 g/ 24 oz) blocks cream cheese, softened
2 sticks (113 g/ 8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 box (454 g/ 16 oz) powdered sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly grease 3 9-inch pans with peanut oil. Line each pan with parchment rounds and lightly grease again. Sprinkle flour in pans and tilt to coat in an even layer. Flip pans over and tap out excess flour.
In a large bowl, whisk together pecan flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs and sugar on high speed for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy and doubled in volume. With mixer still on high speed, slowly stream in both oils. Beat until mixture is fully incorporated and much thicker. Add vanilla and beat until just incorporated. The final mixture should be almost tripled in volume.
Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 stages, alternating with rum, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Turn mixer off. Use spatula to fold in any ingredients left on the sides and bottom of the bowl.
To evenly divide the batter, transfer cake batter to a large bowl on a kitchen scale that’s been zeroed out. Take the weight of the batter and divide by 3, since this is a 3-layer cake. Remove the bowl, put a cake pan on the scale, and zero it out. According to your calculations, transfer a third of the cake batter. Spread evenly with a spatula and tap on the counter to remove air bubbles. Repeat with remaining cake batter.
Place pans in 400 degree oven and bake for 25 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set cake pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully remove from pans and set cakes on wire to cool.
For the Frosting:
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream and cheese and butter on medium-high speed until fully incorporated. Turn off mixer and add 1/3 of the powdered sugar. Beat on low until just incorporated. Continue this process until all the sugar is incorporated. Add vanilla and beat just until combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Using a cake turntable and a cardboard cutout, add a small dollop of frosting on the middle of the cardboard and spread flat. This will keep your cake from shifting. Place first cake layer on turntable. Using an ice cream scoop to portion, put two scoops of frosting in the middle of the cake layer. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread frosting to 1/4 inch from the edge of the cake layer. Add second layer on top and repeat. Add third layer.
This next step will be the crumb coat. You’ll want this layer to be a thin layer of icing. You’ll be adding the final layer at the end. For this step, add 3 scoops of icing to the top layer and spread on the top and sides. You should still be able to see the cake layers through the frosting. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Reserve 1/2 cup of frosting for piping carrots. Separate frosting into 2 small bowls and color one green and one orange. You can use any small piping tip or none at all. Add frosting to small piping bags or small plastic baggies and set aside.
Once cake has cooled, remove from refrigerator. Add the rest of the frosting to the top of the cake. Spread evenly all over the cake. Pipe carrots however you like. Have fun with it!
This cake will keep on the counter, covered, up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for a week or so. Enjoy!