Using browned butter in the cream cheese frosting pairs perfectly with the cake’s warm spice flavors of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. This tender and delicious cake sets the standard for what a great carrot cake should be.
Cliff Notes: For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans. Mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients together separately, then combine and add carrots. Bake 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. For the frosting: Brown 1/2 cup butter then cool to room temperature. Using a mixer, whip the butter together with cream cheese, and a pinch of salt. Add in heavy cream and vanilla and continue whipping until light and fluffy. Add icing sugar one cup at a time, whipping well between each addition.
Make It Your Own: – Add chopped walnuts or pecans when stirring in the carrots – Add cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg to the frosting to echo the flavors in the cake
There are two camps of people when it comes to carrot cake. There are those who treat it as an “everything but the kitchen sink” recipe, mixing in nuts, raisins, pineapple, and even coconut; and then there are the purists who treat it more as a spice cake with character. This version is in the second camp.
You won’t find any wild ingredient list here – just a basic, straightforward, perfectly-spiced cake that is made tender and moist by the addition of freshly grated carrots. And yes – they must be freshly grated, which brings not only a sweetness to the cake, but they’ll also almost melt as the cake bakes, contributing tenderness and moistness.
But even though this is an amazing carrot cake, the real show-stopper to this cake is the browned butter cream cheese frosting. While the tang of cream cheese is still present, browning the butter brings an extra carmelized flavor while also cutting the sweetness slightly, so you end up with a perfect complement to the warm spices of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in the cake.
To make the browned butter, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Continue cooking, stirring and swirling the pan occasionally. The butter will slowly start to turn golden brown, and will continue to darken. Remove the butter from the heat when it’s a rich golden brown and smells nutty or caramel-y. Pour into a small bowl and let cool to room temperature.
Once the butter is room temperature, add it and the cream cheese to a mixing bowl. Using an electric or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the two ingredients together until they are completely incorporated and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
Add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, whipping between each addition until the sugar is fully incorporated and the mixture is creamy again.
Once all the sugar has been added, add the salt and heavy cream, and continue mixing 3-4 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy.