In my never-ending quest for the best carrot cake, I think I may have just found it. It’s from Allrecipes.com and it’s called Best Ever Carrot Cake. Like just about every other reviewer, I made changes to the original recipe. Notably, draining as much moisture as possible from the carrots for a firm and less mushy cake.
I made this cake a couple of times (half batches, of course) seeing just how dry I could get the carrots and how much extra watery liquid I could remove from the carrots. The best results came from draining the carrots in a paper towel, roasting them for 10 minutes alongside the walnuts, then macerating them with the brown sugar (the trick from the original recipe) before adding the rest of the ingredients. The cake comes out “bakery style” with a firm, dense, texture and moisture provided by oil, and to some extent — raisins and pineapple. After a day of sitting under a load of cream cheese frosting, the cake has even more moisture, so this is one that I do recommend making ahead of time.
Since I didn’t want three 9 inch layers, I scaled the recipe down and made two 8 inch layers. As mentioned, I roasted the carrots and nuts, reduced the salt slightly (because I could taste it in the first batch), used grapeseed oil because a few chefs have recommended it, used evaporated cane juice crystals (but regular sugar is fine) and very dark organic brown sugar from Wholesome Sweeteners. I might add a little coconut next time or play around with the types of raisins and spices, but overall I really liked the texture of this cake. If you make it, let me know what you think. A few reviewers mentioned using applesauce in place of oil, but to me cake tastes more like muffins when applesauce is used.
UPDATE: After making this cake a fourth time and leaving out the pineapple, I’m going to advise to make this cake only if you DO like pineapple and plan on using it. In this case, the pineapple (and raisins, but mostly the pineapple) really add to the overall texture of the cake. If you want a super moist carrot cake and are planning on leaving out the pineapple, there are others with proportionately more sugar, oil and eggs that might be better.
2 small cans (8 ounce each) cans crushed pineapple, well drained
1/2 cup raisins
1 pound baby carrots
1 cup whole walnuts
3 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice crystals or granulated sugar
3/4 cup organic dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup grapeseed oil (or any vegetable oil)
2 1/4 cups (10.1 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 8 inch round metal cake pans with flour-added baking spray.
Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice, and press down between sheets of paper towel. In a small bowl, pour some of the pineapple juice over the raisins and let the raisins plump while you proceed with the recipe.
Shred the baby carrots in the food processor, then put the carrots on a stack of paper towels and press down on them with more towels to remove moisture. Spread them on a large baking sheet, leaving a little extra room for the walnuts. Spread the walnuts on the remaining area of the baking sheet. Bake carrots and walnuts together on center rack for 8 to 10 minutes or until walnuts are toasted. Set aside to cool slightly. While carrots are roasting, measure out all your other ingredients and stir together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Combine the carrots and the brown sugar in a mixing bowl and stir well with a mixing spoon or heavy duty scraper. Using the back of the spoon or scraper, press the carrots against the side of the bowl and squeeze out some of the liquid. Pour it off into the sink. I think I must have poured off about ½ cup of liquid in total, but you don’t have to be too fastidious here. In the original recipe, the liquid is not poured off at all.
Okay, moving on!
In a second mixing bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until light. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating for about a minute. Beat in the vanilla and oil. Stir in the carrot/brown sugar mixture. By hand, stir in the flour mixture. When flour mixture is incorporated, stir in the pineapple. Chop the roasted walnuts and stir them in, then drain the raisins and stir them in last.
Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake on center rack for 30-35 minutes or until set. Let cool for about 10 minutes in the pans, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat together 8 ounces of softened cream cheese, 4 ounces of softened butter, a pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter), 3 cups of powdered sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Beat and scrape sides until creamy. Add more sugar if desired.