6 Secrets To The Best Carrot Cake
Not a holiday dessert, but an everyday favorite.
There is no shortage of carrot cake recipes out there—and for good reason. The soft and almost wet cake carries all of our most beloved spices in its crumb, and it tends to also support a generous amount of silky cream cheese frosting. If you're obsessed with a good carrot cake, know that you're in good company.
Not too long ago, Chrissy Teigen posted about an "absurd" homemade carrot cake on her Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Lo and behold, the incredible recipe was none other than Southern Living's Carrot Cake recipe from 1997. We don't want to brag, but we have to agree with Chrissy—if you want to try your hand at a carrot cake that is "so, so good," you shouldn't look anywhere else.
Carrot cake is just as versatile as it is delicious, meaning that you can add your own flairs of flavor to this base recipe and come out with a spectacular cake in the end. However, there are a few tips that we recommend you always do when you use our carrot cake recipe:
Toast Nuts and Coconut for Added Flavor
Toast the nuts and coconut in the recipe. The rich nutty flavors of pecans, walnuts, and coconut are enhanced with a little heat. Gently toasting them in the oven for a few minutes (until they are fragrant) makes the aromatic oils in these ingredients stand out, and this will add an extra layer of complexity and flavor to your cake.
Properly Grate the Carrots
For the perfect texture, use the large holes of a box grater to grate your carrots (some recipes even call for using the small holes). Layered carrot cakes bake in a relatively short time, which means thick chunks of carrots would not have time to thoroughly cook, especially when blended with flour, eggs, and other ingredients. Carrots serve to moisten the cake and add taste and texture, but not crunch.
Always. Accurately. Measure.
We can't stress this tip enough: carefully measuring your ingredients is a major factor in the success of any recipe. In baking, extra sugar or leavening will cause a cake to fall, whereas too much flour makes it dry. To ensure an accurate measure of flour, never scoop the flour directly from the flour sack. Instead, spoon flour into the measuring cup, and then level it off with the back of a knife.
Be Careful When Adding Extra Ingredients
When making a recipe for the first time, I often wonder how much better it would be if I just added a bit of this or a touch of that. In hearty soups and stews this practice of adding ingredients and flavors usually doesn’t spoil the finished product. In baked goods, however, where the amount of each ingredient is in direct proportion with the others, adding more elements to a recipe might result in a failure. Adding dried fruit will absorb a lot of moisture from the other ingredients, possibly resulting in a drier outcome. On the other hand, stirring in a can of crushed pineapple (when it isn’t in the ingredient list) will add too much moisture, potentially leading to an overly wet cake layer that never tests done.
Don't Overmix the Batter
There is no need to leave your mixer running - it doesn't make the cake any better. Once all of the wet ingredients are added and you are ready to incorporate your flour, stir or beat the flour in until it is just incorporated. Overmixing the flour will make for a tough and less appetizing cake.
Embrace the Buttermilk
Trust and use the buttermilk glaze. This recipe calls for a buttermilk glaze that you lightly soak the cakes with after they are finished baking. This step is crucial! The warm cake instantly melts the glaze so it infiltrates the whole cake, and as it cools, the glaze thickens again and replaces any dryness with moist, sweet tang.