Recipe Review

I Tried Ina Garten’s “Foolproof” Carrot Cake and Did Not Expect These Results

published Sep 9, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk | Graphics: The Kitchn

I’ve been a loyal fan of Ina Garten for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching Barefoot Contessa on Food Network, and I’ve always loved her laid-back cooking style. Ina has a way of adding special ingredients or techniques to take her recipes up a notch without making them feel fussy or inaccessible. When picking out which recipes to include in our carrot cake recipe showdown, I knew I needed to include an Ina recipe.

Turns out Ina has two recipes for carrot cake: One is a carrot and pineapple cake, while the other is a more traditional carrot cake from her cookbook Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust. I went with the latter, eager to see if the mascarpone-ginger frosting would make it stand out against the competition. As a big fan of Ina, I had high hopes.

Get the recipe: Ina Garten’s Carrot Cake with Ginger Mascarpone Frosting

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk | Graphics: The Kitchn

How to Make Ina Garten’s Carrot Cake

Ina’s recipe is fairly simple but takes a decent amount of time to make. You’ll start by greasing two round baking pans, lining them with parchment paper, then greasing and flouring them.



In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together eggs, vegetable oil, and sugar, then stir in vanilla extract. In a separate large bowl sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. In a third bowl, toss together grated carrots, raisins, walnuts, and one tablespoon of flour. Stir into the batter, then divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean and let them cool.

As the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. Beat together mascarpone, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, cream, and vanilla extract until fluffy. Add chopped crystallized ginger and beat until combined. Place one cake onto a serving plate (rounded side-down), top with a layer of frosting, then top with the second layer. Frost just the top of the cake, then garnish with additional chopped crystalized ginger.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Carrot Cake Recipe

I hate to say this, but this cake was a major disappointment — and definitely not foolproof. The flavor was fine — the cinnamon was pleasant and the carrot flavor was bold without being vegetal — but the texture of the cake was a bit sticky and slightly marshy. It was as if the cake had been soaked in simple syrup. Not bad, but not exactly what I look for in a classic carrot cake.

The frosting didn’t do much to help this cake. It was too loose and hard to work with, making the presentation of the cake look sloppy and unfinished. No matter how much I chilled it, it kept melting off the cake when I tried to assemble it. It could have been the brand of mascarpone cheese I used (maybe I used a wetter one?), but it just didn’t work. As much as I love Ina and her recipes, this one didn’t do it for me.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making Ina Garten’s Carrot Cake, a Few Tips

1. Make sure to use extra-large eggs. This recipe calls for three extra-large eggs, which are not as common as your standard large eggs.

2. Add additional powdered sugar to the frosting if it seems too thin. My frosting came out a bit runny, so feel free to add extra powdered sugar if your frosting looks too liquidy. Mine would have benefitted from an extra half cup or so.

3. Give the cake enough time to cool before frosting it: Because the frosting is already soft, make sure to give your cake plenty of time to cool before attempting to frost it.

Rating: 5/10

Have you ever made Ina Garten’s carrot cake recipe? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk | Graphics: The Kitchn