Bill’s Big Carrot Cake

If you like to bake, run-do-not-walk to your favorite bookstore and pick up Dorie Greenspan’s Baking. It is a phenomenal cookbook that you—and anyone who shares the fruits of your labors—will not regret. I’ve made this carrot cake for several birthdays, and now for a friend’s wedding, and it’s a winner every time.

For the cake:
2 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
2 t ground cinnamon
3/4 t salt
3 C grated carrots
1 C coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 C shredded coconut (sweet or unsweet)
1/2 moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 C sugar
1 C canola or safflower oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:
8oz cream cheese, at room temp
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, at room temp
1lb confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 T fresh lemon juice or 1/2 t pure lemon extract
1/2 C shredded coconut (opt)

For topping (opt):
finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour three 9×2-inch round pans. Put two on one baking pan, and the third on another.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut and raisins. Working with stand mixer with paddle attachment or hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one, and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing only until dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix in the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean; the cakes will have just started to come away from the pan sides. Transfer cakes to cooling racks for about five minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temp right side up. (The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temp overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

For the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract. If you’d like coconut in the filling, scoop out about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this portion.

Assembly: [Dorie goes into great detail. I’m doing some major editing because it’s not rocket science!] This cake looks great even if you don’t frost the sides of it; the rustic look definitely works for a carrot cake. So frost between layers, then frost the top. Add toasted nuts or toasted coconut if it floats your boat. Enjoy!

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