Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A reliable recipe that'll become your new go-to layer cake
39 Ratings
100% would make again
Photo: Liz and Max Haarala Hamilton

A layer cake is always a trustworthy showstopper, and Jane Hornby's carrot cake is bound to become your new go-to. The recipe, which you'll find in her new cookbook Simple & Classic, gets a pre-frosting hit of citrus thanks to a drizzle of freshly squeezed orange juice on top of the finished cake. To make cupcakes (this recipe will make around 18), simply reduce the baking time by 10 minutes.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe adapted from Simple & Classic by Jane Hornby.

Yield: One 8-inch cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour


For the Cake:

1 cup pecans

¾ cup plus 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 orange

3 large eggs

5 carrots, grated (2¼ cups)

½ cup raisins

For the Frosting:

1¾ sticks soft butter

1¾ cups regular cream cheese, cold

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 scant cup confectioners' sugar  


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the nuts over a baking sheet and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and toasty. Cool, then coarsely chop. Toasting nuts will add an extra depth of flavor, but if you're in a hurry, just chop the nuts and use them as they are.

2. While you wait, get everything else ready. Grease two 8-inch shallow, round pans with removable bottoms with a little oil, then line the bottoms with parchment paper. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin , and salt, then sift into a large bowl. Add the sugar and work it in with your fingers, breaking up any larger lumps, until evenly blended. Finely grate the zest of the orange into the bowl. Squeeze the juice.

3. Crack the eggs into a measuring cup with the oil, add 2 tablespoons orange juice, and beat together.

4. Trim, then coarsely grate the carrots. Pour the oil mixture into the dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Add most of the nuts, then the carrots and raisins, and stir until evenly blended. If the batter seems stiff, add another 1 tablespoon orange juice. Divide the batter between the prepared pans.

5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and have risen, and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of the pans. Poke holes all over the cakes, and drizzle with a little orange juice. Cool completely.

6. To make the frosting, put the soft butter into a large bowl and beat well until creamy and totally smooth. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat until smooth and evenly blended. Now sift in the confectioners' sugar and work it in gently with a spatula.

7. On a serving plate, sandwich the cakes with a third of the frosting, spreading with a spatula. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and the sides.

8. Sprinkle the reserved pecans over the top. The cake benefits from a little while in the refrigerator to settle. If it's a hot day, keep it there until you are ready to slice it.

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