You know how I can tell I’m an adult? I wanted carrot cake for my birthday.
Not just any carrot cake. That Carrot Cake. I received the recipe for That Carrot Cake from a friend during college. He’d gotten it from his mom, who’d gotten it from a neighbor, who’d gotten it from her aunt, etc. etc. etc. I ended up passing it on to HR Director at work a year or so ago, and now I’m passing it on to you.
It’s That Carrot Cake because I’ve been fiddling with the ratios in this recipe for years and years, and I’ve got the balance of moisture level and cinnamon batter flavor and carrot/walnut/coconut bits just right; that is, exactly how I like it. The original recipe came from a friend, but now it’s mine.
That Carrot Cake is so moist that it’s hard to ice; little moist chunks and crumbs keep wanting to fall off, and I used to need to ice it with an inordinate amount of cream cheese frosting that never actually got eaten. Now I don’t even try to ice the whole thing — just a slip of frosting between each layer will do.
That Carrot Cake has so much walnut in it that it might as well be called a walnut cake. The carrots aren’t shredded or puréed, but shaved with a vegetable peeler then diced, so that some smaller pieces melt into the batter while other, larger pieces hang around like flakes of carrot confetti. A good amount of coconut provides more chewy texture. Oh, and there’s pineapple in there. You don’t taste it, and I have no idea how it works, but that pineapple might be the secret ingredient that brings it all together, with just enough batter to hold everything in one piece.
That Carrot Cake
Makes 1 9×13-inch sheet cake, 3 8-inch round cakes, 24 cupcakes, etc.
butter and flour for pan(s)
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3 large carrots (enough to make 2 cups when shaved and chopped)
1 cup fresh pineapple OR 1 8oz can of crushed pineapple with juice, undrained
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter and flour your cake pan(s). If desired, you can line your cake pan(s) with parchment paper as well for cleaner release.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract and stir until uniform. Add the dry ingredients to this mixture and mix well.
Peel the carrots using a vegetable peeler and cut off the very tops and bottoms and discard. Then, still using the vegetable peeler, shave thin strips off the carrots. Gather the carrot shavings into a pile in the middle of a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, chop the pile until the carrot shavings look like orange confetti. Add 2 cups (packed) of the carrot confetti to the batter.
If using fresh pineapple, chop up the pineapple very fine, reserving any juice that is released from the fruit from the chopping, and add 1 cup of the chopped pineapple and accumulated juices to the batter. If using canned pineapple, just add the whole can to the batter, including juice.
Add the toasted chopped walnuts and coconut to the batter. Stir everything together and pour into your pan(s), dividing the batter up evenly if using smaller pans.
Bake for 50-60 minutes for a 9×13-inch pan, 40-50 minutes for 8-inch pans, and about 30 minutes for cupcakes, or until a toothpick poked into the center of a cake comes out clean. Cool completely before unmolding from the pan.
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place the cream cheese in a medium-sized bowl and cream for 1 minute with a hand-held mixer or electric mixer, until the cream cheese is fluffy and smooth. Add the butter and continue creaming with the cream cheese for another minute or so until completely incorporated with the cream cheese. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt and cream for another 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the frosting is light and fluffy.