Dish of the Week: Carrot Cake

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

With Easter right around the corner, this week we're taking a look at carrot cake.

In case you've been living under a rock, carrot cake is a cake with -- you guessed it! -- carrots mixed into the batter. Though putting carrots inside of a dessert may sound odd, those veggies actually make the cake incredibly moist, while also adding texture and a hint of sweetness.

Though the origins of the carrot cake are unclear, many historians believe the use of carrots as a sweetener dates back to medieval times, when cheap carrots were plentiful and sugar was too expensive and hard to come by. In the middle ages, the carrots were used to make sweet carrot puddings.

Today, you can find versions of the cake all over the world. In Europe, it is often topped with a lemon-sugar or kirsch-sugar (cherry brandy) icing, while in the U.S., a creamy and decadent cream cheese frosting is more common. Sometimes, cinnamon, nuts and raisins are mixed in.

This recipe, from pastry chef Jodi Elliot, incorporates toasted pecans, cinnamon and buttermilk to make a two-layer carrot cake that is moist and just the right amount of sweet. It gets topped with a simple cream cheese frosting.

Classic Carrot Cake with Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients serves 8 to 10 For the cake: 1 cup pecans (4 ounces) 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 tsp baking powder 2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp salt 1 cup vegetable oil 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 4 large eggs 2 cups sugar 1 pound carrots, peeled

For the frosting: 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened 2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract 2 cups confectioners' sugar

Needed: 2 9-inch cake pans


Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter two 9-inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment. Butter the paper and flour the pans.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes, until fragrant. Cool and finely chop the pecans.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, buttermilk and vanilla. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, 5 minutes. Beat in the liquid ingredients. Beat in the dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in the carrots and pecans. Divide the batter between the pans and bake the cakes for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until springy and golden. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then unmold the cakes and let cool completely.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese at high speed until light, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the confectioners' sugar; beat at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Peel off the parchment paper and invert one cake layer onto a plate. Spread with a slightly rounded cup of the frosting. Top with the second cake layer, right side up. Spread the top and sides with the remaining frosting and refrigerate the cake until chilled, about 1 hour. Slice and serve.

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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano