A Nice Carrot Cake

Buttermilk carrot cake

Carrot cake feels just right for fall - warm spices, walnuts, and cream cheese frosting. This recipe makes a particularly nice cake; the buttermilk gives it just a little tang and keeps it very tender. 

Adapted from Bon Appetit (one of my favorites!)


For the cake:

  • 2/3 cup (85 grams) chopped walnuts
  • 11 ounces (312 grams) carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups (200 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (132 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (99 grams) packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

For the frosting:

  • 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups (340 grams) powdered sugar
  • splash of milk, if needed

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter two 7" or 8" cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment paper, then butter the parchment. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet until fragrant, about 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

In a small bowl, combine grated carrot and buttermilk; let sit while you work on the rest of the cake. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine eggs and sugars, and beat well until pale and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Add vanilla extract and oil and mix to combine. Add the dry mixture in three additions, alternating with the carrot mixture and beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Do not overmix at this point; you just want everything to be combined. Stir in toasted walnuts.

Divide evenly between prepared baking pans, and smooth the tops. Bake, rotating once, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes for 8" cakes, or 40-45 minutes for 7" cakes. Let cool for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off parchment bottoms.

To make the frosting (when your cakes are completely cool), combine cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Beat until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla and salt, and mix to incorporate. Add powdered sugar in several additions, beating to combine between each addition. If frosting is too stiff, add a splash of milk to loosen. Frost cake as desired (I like to tuck some strips of parchment around the edges of the bottom layer before frosting - then when you're done, you can just pull out the parchment and leave your serving plate clean).

Buttermilk Carrot Cake
Ellen CutaloComment