Carrot cake already has a charming earthiness to it. The warmth of cinnamon, the vegetal sweetness of carrots, and the pop of raisins (their particular sweetness fruity and mellow in their own right) — all come together to make a dessert easily enjoyed on many occasions. Bake up four towering layers, pipe on the cream cheese frosting with a pretty technique, and decorate with garden-fresh flowers, and suddenly that charming, earthy cake takes on an air of pure elegance. In this video, you'll see just how the piping is done.
The Technique: Scalloped Frosting
There are many ways to make a homemade cake look like a masterpiece from the hottest bakery in town, especially now that naked cakes are in style, but when you want something a bit more elaborate, scalloped frosting is a good choice.
This technique includes piping a series of dots in a line down the cake and then dragging them with a spoon or an offset spatula to create the scalloped look. You can make the presentation as rustic or uniform as you like. Just don't forget to chill the cake layers first or add a crumb coat before jumping to the scalloping stage! See how it's done in the video above.
Learn more about frosting cakes: Cake Decorating 101
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 1 (8- or 9-inch) layer cake; serves 12 to 18
For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 3/4 cups sunflower or melted coconut oil, plus more for coating the pans
7 medium carrots, finely grated (about 4 cups grated)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
1 cup raisins (optional, soak in hot water for 20 minutes, then drain)
For the cream cheese frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For decorating (optional):
Make the cake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat 2 (8- or 9-inch) round cake pans with oil, then line the bottom of each with a parchment paper round; set aside.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
Whisk the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together in a large bowl until combined. While whisking, slowly add in the oil, then whisk until combined.
Add the carrots and stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Add the flour mixture and fold to combine; do not overmix. Mix in the walnuts and raisins, if using.
Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake until the top bounces back when you gently press it, or a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake, 45 to 55 minutes.
Place the pans on a wire rack and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges of the cake to loosen, flip the cakes out, remove the parchment paper, and then place right-side up back on the rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.
Make the cream cheese frosting: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer.) Beat on medium speed until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the butter until completely smooth.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and salt.
Assemble and decorate the cake: If the cakes are not level, use a serrated knife to trim the tops. Cut each cake in half horizontally so that you now have 4 layers.
Place 1 of the cake layers on a cake or serving plate. Spread about 1/3 cup of frosting on the top of the cake. Top with a second cake layer and repeat with spreading the frosting. Top with a third cake layer and repeat with spreading the frosting. Top with the fourth and final cake layer.
Frost the top and sides of the cake with the cake with a thin layer of frosting as a crumb coat. Refrigerate for 20 to 25 minutes to let the frosting set.
Transfer the remaining cream cheese frosting into a piping bag with a 1/2-inch round tip (or snip 1/2 to 1 inch from the bottom corner of the bag to create a round opening). Pipe a vertical line of frosting dots down the side of the cake. Use a clean spoon to smear each dot to the side, tapering off the edge. Clean off your spoon. Pipe a new column of dots immediately next to the previous column and smear with the spoon. Repeat this process until the whole outside of the cake is scalloped. (Watch this technique in the video above.) Decorate with fresh flowers if using.
- Make ahead: The cake layers can be baked ahead. Do not level or split the cakes. Wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for 1 day, or in the freezer for up to 1 week. Defrost before using.
- Storage: The assembled cake can be covered in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Credits: Emily Petrick is a West Coast-based baker and food stylist. She is a Cordon Bleu graduate and worked at several prestigious Los Angeles bakeries before starting her own business. She is happiest when she is experimenting and making a mess in her kitchen. You can see more of her work on her website.