cook\'s illustrated carrot cake
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 whole eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 2/3 cup carrots
shredded, about 4 carrots
2/3 cup dried currants
16 tbsp unsalted butter
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
12 oz cream cheese
chilled and cut into 12 equal pieces
2 cups pecans
toasted and chopped coarse, about 8 ounces
The baking and build of this cake is essentially a small project. It involves multiple steps and phases but is well-worth the work. The flavor profile is just perfect; the cake is sweet and moist and the frosting is decadent and slightly sour. This cake is pretty rich and yields a lot, so be prepared to share with family and friends.
Move the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pull out the butter you'll be using for the frosting so that it can soften. Grease the 18x13-inch rimmed baking sheet, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves together in a large bowl.
In a separate (slightly larger) bowl, whisk the brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together until the mixture is smooth.
Stir in the carrots and currants into the liquid mixture. Add the flour mixture and fold it in with a rubber spatula until it is just combined.
Transfer the batter to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Smooth and level the surface with an offset spatula. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the center of the cake is firm to touch.
Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool for about 5 minutes. Then invert the cake, parchment side up, onto the wire rack. Do not remove the parchment. Invert the cake again, parchment side down, onto a second wire rack. Cool completely for about 30 minutes.
Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, prepare the frosting by beating the butter, sugar, buttermilk powder, vanilla, and salt on low with for about 2 minutes.
Then increase the speed to medium low and add the cream cheese, 1 piece at a time. Mix until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the cooled cake to a cutting board, parchment side down. Use a chef's knife to cut the cake and parchment paper lining into 4 equal rectangles, about 6 by 8 inches each.
Set the cardboard rectangle on a cake turntable or plate. Set 1 cake rectangle on the cardboard, parchment side up. Carefully remove the parchment paper. Spread 2/3 cup of frosting with an offset spatula. Repeat with 2 more layers of cake. Set the last layer of cake on top then frost the top with 1 cup of frosting. Frost the sides with the remaining frosting.
Hold the cake in one hand, then use the free hand to gently press the chopped, toasted pecans onto the side. Chill for at least 1 hour prior to serving.