In the dessert world, carrot cake lands somewhere between healthy and decadent. OK, if we're honest, it's a lot more decadent than healthy, but still worth every bite. We have a few tips and tricks to make your carrot cake really, well, take the cake!
How to Make the Best Carrot Cake
1. Get Zesty
Add a healthy pinch of citrus zest to really pop the carrot flavor. Try this recipe for Isaac's Carrot Cake, to see how orange and carrot bring out the best in each other.
2. Spice It Up
Be sure your recipe includes spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or even coriander. Just make sure to not go too heavy—you don't want to overwhelm the natural sweet flavor of the carrots. Try adding a touch of ginger, too, whether it's powdered or candied.
3. Think Thin
It's true that carrots are the star of the show, but aim for finely grated pieces rather than chunky. The finer you grate the carrots, the more evenly they will be distributed throughout the cake (for the perfect texture), and the more evenly the cake and the carrots will bake.
4. Oh, Baby
Do you have a few jars of extra baby food or squeeze pouches in the cupboard that the kids haven't eaten yet? Add it to your cake! Replace some of the oil in the recipe with mashed carrots (for an extra-intense carrot flavor) or applesauce (for added moisture, lower fat, and natural sweetness). Try this recipe for Pat's Award Winning Carrot Cake, to taste the difference a little baby food can make.
5. Brown Sugar, Sugar
Replacing half of the white sugar with brown sugar makes your carrot cake richer and darker because of the molasses in brown sugar. While you're at it, macerate (soften) the carrots in the sugar for 15 minutes before you begin making the cake batter. This will release some of the carrots' natural juices and sugars, adding extra moisture and flavor. Try this recipe for Lite Carrot Cake, which uses a nice balance of white and brown sugar.
6. Amp Up the Add-Ins
Raisins are a common addition to carrot cake; take them to the next level by soaking them in a bit of warm booze (rum, anyone?!) or juice for 15 minutes before adding them to the batter. If you're adding nuts—walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts or even pine nuts—give them a bit of a toast in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing frequently, until fragrant. This will help to release their natural oils and provide even more aroma in your cake.
One of the most popular add-ins is pineapple, and for good reason. (Find out why you add pineapple to a carrot cake recipe.) Carrot Pineapple Cake I is just one of the many recipes we have that include pineapple in the mix.