“What 12-year-old girl wants carrot cake for her birthday?” – Krystal
Prepare yourself (and your taste buds) for something completely out of character for this blog: cupcakes.
Yes, cupcakes. You read that right. BAKED GOODS.
Now, while Krystal is an amazing chef who is talented in all things culinary, she will not step within ten feet of a cake pan… which means you are stuck with me!
Fun fact about me – baking is in my blood. I learned nearly all there is to know about baking from my grandmother. She’s a pro. Just look at the cake she made for my wedding a few weeks ago:
But I digress.
When I was in high school I started baking birthday cakes for my friends – it was simply a nice gesture that soon became regular requests from both friends and family alike. So it didn’t take me by surprise when my 12-year-old niece asked me to bake a cake for her birthday. What DID surprise me was the flavor. Carrot cake?
In my niece’s defense, this request is not entirely random. Other members of my family have asked for carrot cake for their birthdays which has given me the chance to perfect the recipe: a delicious treat that still yields a slightly higher nutritional value than your average carrot cake. Now these were adults we’re speaking of, not kids, so I’ll take it as a true compliment that a 12-year-old girl would ask for it specifically!
The secret to this recipe is how the cake is sweetened – applesauce and honey. These both complement the taste of the carrots without overpowering it entirely. The cream cheese frosting gives you just the right amount of sweetness to make it decadent, yet guilt-free.
I decided to go out of my comfort zone and make cupcakes for the birthday girl, but below you’ll find directions for both cupcakes and a traditional cake.
Rayann’s Carrot Cake
(Yields 24 cupcakes OR one 9” round, two layered cake)
For the cake:
– 3 cups carrots, peeled and grated
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 ½ tsp baking powder
– ½ tsp salt
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– 4 eggs
– 1 cup organic honey
– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (I used California Olive Ranch)
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup applesauce (I used Santa Cruz Organic)
For the frosting:
– 2 cups powdered sugar
– 16 oz cream cheese (I used Philadelphia Whipped)
– 2 sticks unsalted butter (I used Tillamook)
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
I know many people like walnuts on their carrot cake. Personally, I’m not a fan of using nuts as a garnish on cake, but if you’d like to, you can also use ½ cup of coarsely chopped, lightly toasted walnuts to decorate.
How to make the carrot cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour your cake pans
a. For cupcakes, use two cupcake pans.
b. For standard cake, use two 9” round pans.
* I chose to use cupcake liners in place of greasing the pans.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat eggs on high for one (1) minute. Add in honey and beat on high for another three (3) minutes. Blend in olive oil, applesauce and 2 tsp vanilla extract.
4. Slowly add in flour mixture (½ cup at a time) and mix into a smooth batter.
5. Fold grated carrots into the batter (and walnuts, if you so choose).
6. Divide the batter equally within the cake pans and place in oven.
a. For cupcakes, bake for 15-20 minutes.
b. For standard cake, bake for 25-30 minutes.
*Use this time to make your frosting – make sure to refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.
7. When ready, remove cakes from oven (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean). Remove from pans when cool enough to handle, and then let cakes cool to room temperature before frosting to keep frosting from melting.
How to make the frosting:
1. Use a food processor to mix together the butter and powdered sugar until the mixture takes on a pale, fluffy appearance.
2. Add in cream cheese (1 cup at a time) and mix until combined. Continue to mix for one (1) more minute.
3. Add in 1 tbsp vanilla extract, and then mix for one (1) minute. Refrigerate frosting until ready to use.
I will leave the frosting of your cakes up to you, get creative and make it your own! Just be sure to be mindful of the frosting – it is perishable and thus needs refrigeration if it’s not going to be eaten right away.