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The Batter Thickens: Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

WE'VE MOVED! Now redirecting you to our new page.

I'm back! After along hiatus from this blog and an even longer hiatus from the United States, I am back to both. And I come bearing - what else? Carrot cake.

So it seems that while I've been gone, I haven't been the only one going gaga over carrot cake. And, I'm realizing now that I've returned to the shores (so to speak, the closest thing we have to waves here in Indiana are fields of corn or soybeans undulating in the wind) of my homeland, it's not an exclusively English thing either, as I had thought. No, turns out carrot cake is has become a full-blown, all-out international obsession. It's all over Foodgawker, and when on an epic reunion Browse at my second home - Target - the other day, I discovered that the trend has even made its way over to snack bars, with both Clif bars and Luna bars now offering a carrot cake flavor. (So far I've only tried the Luna bar one, and found it disappointing. There was no actual carrot involved. 'Nuff said.)

Well, then. I thought my carrot cake obsession was a personal quirk, unique to my fickle, prone-to-phases palette. I see I was wrong. Hmpf.

(Incidentally, this isn't the first time that being abroad has caused me to think I had stumbled on some undiscovered, under-appreciated gem only to find out later that the entire country of America was in on the secret. In high school, I spent my senior year abroad with my family in Germany listening to songs by what I thought was a relatively unknown band only to come home for the summer and hear them on the radio every five seconds. Those songs, for the curious, were "Breakeven" and "The Man Who Can't Be Moved" by The Script. Underground hits, they were not.)

Fortunately, in the case of both those songs and carrot cake, something's widespread popularity has no influence on its quality. Those songs were still good even after I found out they were chart toppers. Carrot cake is still delicious even if everyone and their mom is into it right now.

This past weekend was a big one for Audrey. First, I came home on Thursday. (A big deal for everyone...obviously.) Then on Friday she graduated from middle school, a bigger deal when you go to a small school that many kids have attended for 12 years since pre-K. And on Sunday, she was confirmed. It was a weekend of celebration. The kind of weekend that demands cake.

Because Audrey was the Person of Honor, she got to request what kind of cake we were chewing while we offered her our congratulations garbled through mouthfuls of cake and frosting. Much to my delight, she chose carrot.

When I put the recipe together, I was still in London and thus still operating under the delusion that carrot cake was an anglospecific obsession. So when looking for a good carrot cake recipe, I turned to London's famous Hummingbird Bakery (you may recognize the name from my review). A friend and I had split a slice of their decadent three-layer carrot cake a few weeks ago and it was delicious so I knew the recipe would be a solid one. Plus it seemed fitting to turn to an English institution for something (I thought was) so very English as carrot cake.

The Hummingbird recipe is flavorful and moist with a surprisingly light crumb (many carrot cakes are quite dense, in my experience). The maple cream cheese frosting I used is light as well, giving the cake a very delicate quality that makes you believe you can eat more than one Standard Slice.

Spoiler: You can. You probably will. Whether you or should or not...that's another dilemma entirely. And, well, I'm never going to be the one to say you shouldn't ;) This is your celebration cake, after all. Celebrate! With three whole layers of carroty goodness, that's three more reasons we should be celebrating.

Basically...we have a lot of celebrating to do.

This carrot cake thing might be a phase...but you better believe I'm going to enjoy the heck out of it while it lasts. I'm already dreaming up new and quirky twists on carrot cake for future recipes: carrot cake ice cream, carrot cake smoothie, carrot cake scones... Stay tuned.

- Molly

Carrot Cake
From Hummingbird Bakery

1 ¼ cup soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 ¼ cup sunflower oil
1 ¼ cup plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup carrots, grated*

*I bought pre-grated carrots, which weren't grated as finely as they would be by hand. I recommend either grating them yourself or doing what I did, which is giving your store-grated carrots a few good pulses in the food processor. It will make their carroty presence more subtle, though no less flavorful!

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare 3 x 8in cake tins with loose bottoms by greasing then lining the bottoms with greaseproof paper.

Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed (don’t worry if it looks slightly split). Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, orange zest and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed.

Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts by hand. Pour into the prepared cake tins and smooth over. Bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes (mine took 40 minutes, which seems to be the feedback from other cooks, too), or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
From Smitten Kitchen

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.


  1. Uauu this is amazing ! I love it! Thanks for recipe :)

  2. these pictures are causing a lot of food-frustration (similar to sexual frustration) for me.

    1. Come visit Indy this summer and I think we can do something about that. Maybe I'll even let you request what baked good is waiting for you upon arrival ;)

    2. Don't you mean, "which baked goods"? ;)

  3. This cake looks awesome! You didn't go to Queen Mary University, did you? I've been stalking around your (adorable) blog and it sounds like you were in the East End of London.

    1. I studied abroad at Queen Mary last spring! Are you from London/the East End??

  4. Haha I wish I was that cool! No, I'm American but I also studied at Queen Mary, back in 2010. Where do you go to school here in the U.S.?

    1. That's awesome! How did you like it? I go to a small liberal arts school in Minnesota. Where did you go?

    2. I also went to a small liberal arts college, in Pennsylvania. I studied theatre at Queen Mary, and it was amazing, of course. I loved being able to have so much contact with British students, as opposed to some of my friends who were surrounded by Americans at their abroad schools.