Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Walnuts

It was my mom's birthday and I decided that I was crazy enough to make the cake  for her and her friends. My mother has, let's say, opinions about everything so I was feeling the pressure. I took the base of this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and tweaked and turned it to work for me. To my surprise it turned out so well that my mom said she loved it. Phew!


  • baking trey
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • mixing bowls
  • food processor [optional]
  • grater [optional]
  • standing or hand mixer
  • 1-2 spring form 9" baking pans
  • spatula
  • non-stick fry pan
  • parchment paper
  • decorating shit [if you're into that]


** for the carrots, I hand grated 3 large peeled carrots, which gives it a finer texture and quite the upper body workout. You can use a food processor if you want but it will make bigger chunks**

**I always bake with organic sugar -- it gives the dough more texture but also it's not as sweet, however you can use regular sugar as well or coconut sugar if you're trying not to eat processed sugar**

Makes 1 2-layered 9" cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 cups organic granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups olive oil
4 large eggs

3 cups grated peeled carrots
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup rum or bourbon raisins** see below [optional]

1 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup organic sugar
1 tablespoon butter

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup


For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F

**If doing rum or bourbon raisins: place 1/2 cup whole raisins in a heat-resistant bowl. Boil water. Add 1 tablespoon of rum or bourbon to the bowl and 1 cup boiling water. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. You can also take out the alcohol and just use the hot water to plump up the raisins so they don't burn during the bake. Drain and chop roughly before adding to the cake mixture.

Take the 1 cup of chopped walnuts and put them on a baking trey, place in the oven while it heats up. Check after about 15 min -- they should smell toasty. Don't let them burn :) take out of the oven to cool.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl. In a standing mixer with the wisk attachment, combine the sugar and oil and wisk until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture a bit at a time and wisk on low until blended. Using a spatual, hand stir in carrots, chopped walnuts and chopped raisins.

Line bottom of 2 spring-form cake pans with parchment paper [I take out the bottom, trace it and then cut it out. Butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour. Divide the batter between the prepared pans -- if you don't have 2 of the same pan, do this one at a time. I don't recommend doing the whole cake as one as the moisture will not cook out of the center if it's too thick. Bake the layers for about 35-40 [start checking for doneness around 35 min] minutes each, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean and the center isn't wobbly. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off paper; cool cakes completely.

For the Candied Walnuts:

Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat, add the walnut halves, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tbsp butter.

Heat over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently so your mixture doesn’t burn. When the sugar mixture starts melting, stir constantly until all sugar is melted and nuts are coated. Sometimes the organic sugar doesn't melt as well, so spoon in a little water at a time to disperse the sugar. 

Once the sugar is melted and coating the walnuts, transfer immediately onto a sheet of parchment paper and separate the nuts right away.

For the Frosting:

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes or overnight, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

Assemble the Cake:

Slice off the top of one cake to make it flat, then put a layer of frosting down, about 1/2" and place the second cake on top -- if you want a flat top, then flatten out the second cake and place the cut-side down so the bottom of the cake is on top. Frost the sides and top with remaining frosting -- keeping some aside for decorating. If you are decorating, in separate bowls, add food coloring to frosting and put into piping bags. I suggest refrigerating the cake while you do this, as the frosting has a low melting point and is easier to work with when cold.
After you're done decorating, decoratively place the whole candied walnuts on the top and serve. Best served close to room temp but keep in the refrigerator if it's hot.



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