Let’s Eat Carrot Cake – with Cream Cheese Frosting

By Beth Dooley, Star Tribune (TNS)

Dense, moist and creamy, carrot cake is the ultimate American classic. It evolved at a time when sugar was expensive, so root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and beets sweetened the dough. Dessert is perfect for today as we look for ways to lighten and jazz up our treats.

My favorite cake recipes are the simplest – as easy as baking a batch of cookies. Although I admire elaborate confections that require a day of preparation, I prefer to leave them to the pros; there are many in our city to support. And it is in such recipes that the right ingredients are of utmost importance. Cakes have a way of showcasing “off” flavors. Make sure the carrots taste good, the nuts aren’t stale (or worse, rancid), and the dried fruit isn’t as hard as marbles. And use high-quality eggs and butter, because they make a difference. If the ingredients are not good, unpleasant flavors will appear in each slice.

My favorite recipe is an old family recipe from “The Joy of Cooking”. It’s nicely spiced, the texture relies on grated carrots, parsnips, golden beets (alone or in combination), hazelnuts and dried cranberries. But feel free to use whatever you want and have on hand: raisins, chopped dried apricots, grated coconut.

Not one to fuss, I prefer to bake it in an oblong pan, but the quantity will nicely fill two round cake pans if you’re looking for a more refined two-layer beauty. The cake keeps well for a day or two and freezes perfectly.

Don’t forget the velvety, tangy cream cheese frosting – it makes the cake.

Carrot cake

Makes 1 cake (9 x 13 inches) or 2 round cakes


1¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 cups grated carrots (or a mixture of grated carrots, golden beets, parsnips)

1 cup chopped hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts, toasted (see note below)

1/2 cup dried cranberries


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

Pinch of coarse salt, to taste

2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

2½ to 3½ cups powdered sugar

Milk, if necessary to thin


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13-inch pan or two round cake pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the oil, both sugars, salt, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder and baking soda. Add the flour to the dough and stir to combine. Stir in carrots, walnuts and cranberries until well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

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