Spiced Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Frosting


Last week I was talking to a coworker about food likes and dislikes and it got me thinking about all of the crazy freaks out there and their aversion to certain foods. Can you believe some people don’t like octopus or century egg? Or fork tender braised meats? Or geoduck? Or duck? I happen to love all of the above and it’s a complete mystery that some people have such odd food likes and dislikes and I highly doubt I’ll ever understand. But that’s all right, because there are a ton of things I don’t understand in life and I’m okay with that.

My personal food dislikes include:

  • Anything cherry flavored (fresh cherries are divine, but anything that’s aimed to taste like cherry reminds me of cough medicine)
  • Cilantro (I think it tastes like soap and I use it sparingly in any recipe that calls for it)
  • Ketchup
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Raisins

The odd thing about my dislike of raisins is that I absolutely love dried fruit and I love grapes. It would be a logical assumption that I would like raisins, but I think they’re vile (also, keep in mind no one accuses me of being logical on a daily basis).

Any time I see raisins in a recipe I cringe a bit then quickly reach for dried cranberries. See, I absolutely love dried cranberries. I love the slight tartness, the hint of sweetness, and the chewy texture. I add them to far too many things and I think they’re a fantastic substitute to anything that requires raisins.

Since raisins are so often found in carrot cake and the rest of the world doesn’t feel the need to substitute them with dried cranberries, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own carrot cake. And I have to say it was one of the best carrot cakes I’ve ever had. The cake itself had amazing texture and flavor but the truly remarkable aspect of the cake was the frosting: browned butter & cream cheese. I love the nutty flavor butter gets when it’s browned and when combined with cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt, the nutty flavor just popped even more and really elevated a simple cream cheese frosting. I cannot recommend it enough and I think it is truly essential for any carrot cake.

Carrot Cake

Baked good are always best the day they’re made, but I find carrot cake keeps well in the fridge. Even on day 2 it was quite tasty.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • Pinch of fine black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups finely grated peeled carrots
(I grated mine by hand and managed to grate my knuckle… I’m sure the skin and blood enhanced the flavor [kidding])
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans, line with a circle of parchment and butter and flour parchment.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, and ginger in medium bowl.

Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended, completely smooth, and relatively thick. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, thoroughly mixing after each addition.

Add flour mixture and stir until barely blended. Fold in carrots, walnuts and dried cranberries.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans, and bake the layers for 35-40 minutes (rotate pans at 25 minutes to ensure even baking). Test for doneness at approximately 32 minutes. To test, insert a toothpick, skewer, or in my case (since I was out of both) a pairing knife. There should be just a few moist crumbles that stick to your testing apparatus. Let cakes cool in pan for approximately 15 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely. Frost and enjoy!


Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

From The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt

Put the butter in a small to medium size saucepan (the butter foams a bit, so make sure the pan is big enough) and cook over medium heat. It will become golden brown and aromatic approximately 3-5 minutes after it has entirely melted. Definitely keep a close eye on it as it has a tendency to rather quickly burn. Once it became golden brown I removed it from the pan to ensure it didn’t cook further. Let cool to room temperature. I browned the butter while the cake cooked and found that they were both completely cooled to room temperature at the same time (which will depend on the temperature of your kitchen, but probably an hour minimum).

Put the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer (with the paddle attachment) and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Reduce speed to medium-low and slowly drizzle in the brown butter. Continue beating for 1 minute.

Then frost that delicious cake!



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  1. Sweet Potato Cupcakes | aaron (air-runn) and his love of food - November 20, 2013

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