Whenever my father in laws birthday rolls around I am asked to make him a cake. And whenever I ask him what kind of cake he wants, he tells me he wants something dense with a lot of nuts and stuff in it. Carrot Cake certainly fits that bill. In fact, IMO, you cannot get a better cake (that isn't chocolate of course) than Carrot Cake. The recipe I use comes from Southern Living Magazine and is far superior to any other recipe I have tried. I don't make it often because it is a rather expensive cake to make and is a bit time consuming. But the results are so worth all the effort put in!
You will first need three 9-inch cake pans lined with wax paper. The way I do this is to put a sheet of wax paper on the counter, put the pan on top of it and then trace the pan with a pencil or with a knife. The knife goes through the paper, but not hard. You still may have to cut around it. Then put the wax paper round in the bottom of the pan, then lightly grease and flour the pans. I make mine in two layers instead of three.
Grate 2 cups of carrots and set aside. You can use a food processor shredding blade for this if you like, but I just use the regular old box grater. Believe me, with all the bowls and things you use to make this cake, cleaning a food processor will become a very low priority!
Take your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon) and stir them together.
Then in a mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, buttermilk and vanilla at medium speed until smooth. A little tip... measure the oil before the buttermilk. When you then go to measure the buttermilk, none will be left in the measuring cup!
Add the flour mixture to the mixer and beat at low until blended. Then you will take the bowl off the mixer and fold in all the goodies... carrots, crushed pineapple, coconut, and nuts. The recipe calls for canned flaked coconut, but I've never used that and just use the kind in the bag. For nuts, I always use pecans with carrot cake. When well blended, pour batter evenly into pans.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Mine took a bit longer because I did two cakes instead of three.
Now comes the interesting part. The Buttermilk Glaze! While the cake is baking you can make the glaze. It is to go over the top of the cakes as soon as they are out of the oven. In a saucepan on medium-high heat, bring sugar, baking soda, buttermilk, and butter or margarine to a boil. The recipe, as you will see, calls for corn syrup but I leave it out. The cake is plenty sweet enough without it and it add nothing to the party except more calories. In fact, I only use about 1/2 cup of sugar in the glaze as well. When this mixture comes to a boil, take it off the heat and stir in vanilla extract.
When the cakes are done, drizzle the glaze over the cakes evenly. You do not have to poke holes in the cake at all. It just drinks it all in without them.
And now, the best part. That delicious cream cheese frosting that is signature Carrot Cake. There are lots of recipes for cream cheese frosting and this cake has it's own as well. I use it as a guide but use my own measurements. For me, cheesy is better than sweet. Take two 8 oz. packages of cream cheese (softened) and one stick of unsalted butter (softened) and beat together in a mixer until creamy. Slowly add 2 cups of sifted powder sugar and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and creamy. It does happen, I promise!
This cake must be completely cooled, or even chilled, before you begin to frost. Be sure to line your platter or serving plate with wax paper before you begin. As you can see, I forgot to do that here (although I was able to lift each side up slightly and get the paper under it before I started to frost the cake completely). Don't put it totally under the cake, you want to be able to pull it out when you're done frosting.
The recipe makes a lot of frosting so be generous with the filling. Then just spread it over the top and the sides.
Even if you don't think you frost cakes well, this is a very forgiving cake and mistakes are easily hidden, especially the way I decorate it.
And finally, here it is on my in laws counter after we all devoured it!