A good carrot cake is a wonderful thing, but a bad one is just horrid. I have had carrot cakes that had far more oil/fat than necessary, which led to a greasy, soggy cake, and ones that have so much spice in them that they’re hard to choke down. Some have so little flavor that they rely on their cream cheese icing to draw you in for another bite. Once in a while a good carrot cake comes along, but if you like them, the best way to enjoy them is to bake them up yourself.
And I know that I say that about almost everything, but it is definitely true in this case.
I like carrot cakes that are reasonably substantial (they do have veggies in there, after all), but still light and tender. I look for a moist, but not wet, cake that can stand up to frosting , but also tastes good when eaten plain. On top of that, I want the recipe to be easy because it takes a while to grate all those carrots.
This cake is all of those things and more. It is so easy that it is made in only one bowl, so not only do you get your cake, but there is less cleanup to do after you bake. The only extra tip you’ll need to make this cake is to remember to grate the carrots beforehand so that you have a chance to squeeze out some of the excess moisture before adding to the cake. I like to squeeze them between some paper towels, then fluff up the shavings before stirring them in, which allows for a more even distribution in the cake.
One-Bowl Carrot Cake
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot (from 2-3 large carrots), drained
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan.
In a large bowl, beat together sugar and eggs until smooth. Beat in melted butter, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, spices and salt. When combined, sift in the flour and baking soda (sifting helps evenly distribute the baking soda) and gently stir it into the batter until no streaks remain. Stir in shredded carrot, then scrape into prepared pan.
Bake for 36-42 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack before frosting.
Cream Cheese Carrot Frosting
4 tbsp butter, softened
4-oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 – 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
red, yellow and green food coloring
Beat together butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Add in confectioners’ sugar, orange juice and zest and beat until smooth. You could spread this in a single layer on the cake, or make frosting carrots to top the cake.
For the carrots, divide frosting into two bowls. Dye one orange (yellow and red) and one green (green and yellow). Scrape into two piping bags (or ziploc bags with piping attachments) and use a plain tip for the body of the carrot and a slanting tip for the carrot top. Practice on a plate until you get the shape down consistently.