Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dorie Greenspan's Carrot Cake

Salutations! Once again, I've somehow allowed months to lapse in between posts. It's not like I've been super busy or anything. Despite being back at uni for almost a month now, I'm still getting my full 8-hours of sleep each night, and taking the time to go for walks, and baking two-layered carrot cakes. Isn't that just disgusting? I should be ashamed to call myself a student.

Photo courtesy of the UNSW Baking Society

I've posted a recipe for carrot cake before, but that particular one has nothing, NOTHING on the one I share with you today. THIS is the mother of all carrot cakes. Once I had my first bite, I knew for certain that this would be the start of a beautiful and complex relationship - between myself, and the most perfect, most gorgeous, most sublime carrot cake on earth. I know that bakers (especially ones who blog about their handiwork) have a tendency to throw in superlatives like they're going out of fashion, but merely calling this the "best" carrot cake recipe would be to do it a supreme injustice (and there I go again...)

I made this cake for a very special occasion indeed. Did you know that the University of New South Wales, my residence away from home for the past three-going-on-four years, has it's own baking society? It's mind-blowing, isn't it. A baking society, dedicated to all things cake and baked, right there on my doorstep. Well, BakeSoc, as it is known, had it's first event of the year a few days ago; a Welcome Brunch for the members. We were invited to bring something (preferably home-baked, of course!) to share with one another. Dorie Greenspan's recipes are always a safe bet when it comes to taste and presentation, and so it was her "Bill's Big Carrot Cake" that I offered up to my fellow cake-lovers.

And the rest is history. This cake features toasted nuts and dried coconut slivers in the batter, which makes for an exciting mouthful. I used mixed nuts - a combination of walnuts, macadamias, cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and almonds. By all means, stick with one type, but that was what I had lying around. 

Photo courtesy of the UNSW Baking Society

If you compare the inside of this cake with that of my previous carrot cake recipe, you'll immediately be able to tell that this one is a lot fluffier and less dense. The reason for that, I believe, is the fact that I grated the carrots more coarsely this time round. I suspect that I grated the carrots too finely for the other cake, resulting in a dense, pudding-like texture. Don't be alarmed by the size of the carrot pieces when you use a coarse grater on them! Yes, they'll show up quite visibly in the baked cake and yes, people will be able to tell there are carrots in there (a potentially alarming concept for the uninitiated). But for those who have experienced the wonder that is a well-made carrot cake in the past, cutting into this cake will prompt all those fond memories (of tea at Grandma's, of cafe brunches, of chillaxed afternoons sipping tea at a girlfriend's place) to re-enter into their consciousness and, awash in the waves of nostalgia, the will turn to you with shining eyes and whisper "what a marvelous, marvelous thing it is you have done."

Photo courtesy of UNSW BakeSoc

Okay, so maybe I've been indulging in one too many Jodi Picoult novels. But bringing the cake to a dinner party or afternoon tea will guarantee you a dramatic entrance. Double-layered and generously covered with thick, cream cheese frosting, it's home-baked charm at it's best. Dorie's version consists of three cake layers, but I chose to go with two because my cake pans are slightly larger and there wasn't even batter for three. I also halved the amount of icing sugar that went into the frosting. Dorie, you've made me a fan for life with this recipe, but a whole pound of icing sugar?! Trust me on this, guys - go with half a pound (250g) lest your teeth fall out :D

Bill's Big Carrot Cake 2.0
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from my home to yours

(Makes a 2-layered 23cm cake)

For the cakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups coarsely grated carrots
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted/roasted mixed nuts (unsalted)
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 cups white granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (anything mild-flavoured is fine; I used olive but canola or safflower is also okay)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the frosting:
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g confectioners' or icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For decoration:
8 walnut halves


To make the cakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (or 325 degrees Fahrenheit). Place the baking rack towards the lower one-third of the oven. Prepare two round cake pans (23cm in diameter) by lining with baking paper or aluminium foil.

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

3. Cream together the oil and sugar until smooth with a hand electric beater, or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one by one, and continue to beat until the batter is smooth and thick. Add the flour mixture, and stir into the egg mixture by hand until just combined. Add the carrot, chopped nuts etc., and stir in until everything is combined.

4. Divide the batter between the two cake pans. Place into oven, and bake for 50-60 minutes. Cake is done baking when a skewer or cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 5 minutes, before inverting onto cooling racks. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting

To make the frosting:

5. Using a hand electric beater or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gradually add in the sifted icing sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is smooth and aerated.

To assemble and serve the cake:

6. Put one cake layer on a cardboard cake round or plate. Dollop on half the cream cheese frosting, and smooth over the cake evenly with a spatula. Put the second cake layer on top, and on top of that dollop on the rest of the frosting. Smooth evenly with a spatula. Decorate with the walnut halves.

7. Chill the cake in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (preferably overnight) to firm up the icing. Take the cake out of the fridge 15 minutes prior to serving. The frosted cake will last for 5 days in the fridge, and the oil in the batter means that it won't dry out if covered. Cake tastes the best 1-2 days after it's made!


  1. I have made Big Bill's Carrot Cake a couple of times before and I love it. Your version looks spectacular!

    1. Thank you! I've just made another one for my cousin's birthday. A little selfishly, I suppose xD

  2. Hehe you've just induced the biggest craving for carrot cake in me!! :D I don't think the cake has any chance of lasting 5 days in my fridge! :P

    1. Haha, I freeze leftover cake. Otherwise I end up eating it out of the Tupperware with a spoon in the middle of the night!