Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This carrot cake is unexpectedly fruity, and it’s so delightful. Yes, it has the de rigueur carrots, plump raisins, toasted pecans, and spice, but it’s also got juicy chunks of pineapple — and it’s drenched in a puckery lemon syrup. It tastes lighter and more interesting for it. We love what fruit does for the cake’s texture too: it’s moist and tender with a magnificent crumb, even though it’s full of chewy, crunchy, goodness.

With all that going on, it almost seems a shame to put frosting on the cake. But, oh, this cream cheese frosting is the tops. We made it with Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract, so that underneath all the cream cheese tang, there’s a lovely, warm vanilla base note — like sweet, velvety caramel. So this is our advice: don’t skimp on the vanilla.

Carrot cake is the quintessential October dessert: all those sweet, summer carrots meet deep autumn spice. This one is a labor of love, as pretty as it is scrumptious. Make it for your family on a special occasion — big birthday, tiny anniversary, or any old awesome Sunday supper.

Servings: 10 to 12


For the carrot cake:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar

4 eggs, lightly whisked

1 tsp Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract

2 ¼ cups self-rising flour

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1 pinch ground cloves

3 cups shredded carrots

½ cup canned pineapple, roughly chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

⅓ cup Gelson's golden raisins

1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

½ cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

For the lemon-vanilla syrup:

¼ cup brown sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract

For the vanilla cream cheese frosting:

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup cream cheese

1 tsp Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

4 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted


  1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease and line two 8-inch cake pans.

  2. To make the cake: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

  3. Gradually pour in the eggs and vanilla extract, beating well between each addition.

  4. Add the self-rising flour and spices and continue to mix for 1 minute.

  5. Using a spatula, fold in the carrots completely, and then fold in the pineapple, zest, raisins, pistachios, and pecans.

  6. Divide the batter equally between the two cake pans and flatten it with a spatula.

  7. Bake on the middle rack until the top is golden and a skewer comes away clean when inserted into the center of the cakes, about 30 to 35 minutes,

  8. To make the lemon-vanilla syrup: Warm the brown sugar, lemon, and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 2 to 3 minutes.

  9. Turn both of the cakes out onto a wire rack and brush the tops of the warm cakes with the lemon-vanilla syrup. Allow the cakes to cool while you make the frosting.

  10. To make the frosting: In the bowl of the stand mixer, use the paddle to cream together the butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract, and salt, beating on medium-low until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat until you achieve a spreadable consistency.

  11. Transfer one of the cakes to a cake plate or stand, and spread half of the frosting on it.

  12. Put the second cake on top of the first and cover with the remaining frosting. Decorate with more lemon zest, chopped pistachios, and pecans, if you wish.

Recipe adapted from: Nielsen-Massey

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