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Carrot cake perfect for Easter

A homemade, vegetarian carrot cake made with cinnamon, pecans, all-purpose flour, buttermilk, coarsely shredded carrots and topped with a cream cheese frosting, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Ben Avon. (Jessie Wardarski/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

“Rabbit food” doesn’t excite me all that much — unless we’re talking carrot cake.

This longtime birthday favorite also is perfect for Easter, particularly on years when my special day has coincided with the holiday.

Maybe my natural inclination for fruit-flavored sweets over chocolate primed my palate at an early age for carrot cake. Or maybe I was just a product of the health-conscious 1970s, when the cake saw new popularity.

The most significant selling point of carrot cake, in my mind, continues to be the cream cheese frosting. Simply put, it’s not a proper carrot cake without that rich but tangy topping. Happily, this recipe, courtesy of Tribune New Service, delivers.

Carrot cake as a two-layer dessert makes this chunky, nutty batter a bit more sophisticated. It’s easier, of course, to make a sheet cake that’s still delicious with less fuss.

Classic Carrot Cake

For cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup pecans (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
  • Unsalted butter, for greasing pan

For frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

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

Spread pecans on baking sheet and toast in oven for about 8 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then finely chop pecans.

In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 cups flour with the baking powder and soda, the cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, buttermilk and vanilla. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, for about 5 minutes.

Beat in the liquid ingredients, then beat in dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in the carrots and pecans.

Divide batter between two prepared pans and bake cakes in preheated oven for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until springy and golden. Let cakes cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then unmold and let cool completely.

For frosting, use a hand mixer in a large bowl to beat the butter and cream cheese at high speed until light, for about 5 minutes.

Beat in the vanilla, then confectioners’ sugar. Beat at low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, for about 3 minutes.

Peel off parchment paper and invert cake layer onto plate. Spread with a slightly rounded cup of frosting.

Top with second cake layer, right side up. Spread top and sides with remaining frosting and refrigerate until chilled, for about 1 hour. Slice and serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

— Recipe from “Desserts: More than 140 of Our Most Beloved Recipes” by the Editors of Food & Wine (Oxmoor House, 2017, $35).