Life is Great

The Delicious Appreciations of Pick Yin

Not exactly predictable.
Has enough brains for codes
(but can be completely clueless on other more important matters).
Likes her Joe (and her man?) black, her chocolate dark and her food spicy.
“Quam bene vivas refert, non quam diu.” — Seneca

Total Posts   191      Last Updated   23 November 2015 12:00 PM (GMT +8)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Normally I'd go straight to the point and tell you about the cake but today we shall connect a little and kick start on a different note. Don't worry, I'll get to the cake bit soon enough. If you're tempted to scroll down all the way for the recipe though, I'm equally happy about that, simply because, that is one of the reasons why I started food blogging. Now if you're either still here because you're curious on what I'm going on about or you're back here because you realize the recipe section is missing, like I said, I promised - you will, in less than 10 minutes, be scheming to arrange for this cake to appear on your own kitchen counter.

Food and blogging are nothing new to me. Growing up, my favorite place at home was my mother's kitchen. I watched as my parents worked their magic near the stove and helped Mum bake. I assisted her in 'getting rid' of her baking failures and was the second toughest food critic in the house - the first was my late father, he had good taste and high standards. Personal blogging for me kicked off eight years ago when it was all the rage in the States and was just starting to get hip in Asia. I slowed down in recent years after moving to Singapore but never killed the blog. Last year food and blogging were combined, transforming Life is Great to what it is now. I've already reaped what I thought was the best reward out of the blogging world - making new friends, some of them my best friends now, many of whom I constantly miss dearly since I left Malaysia. Food blogging, on the other hand, not only brought me more like-minded friends but exposed me to a whole new level of knowledge and amazing experiences; like this carrot cake (see, I told you I promised).

When I started to post up recipes here, the goal was (and still is) to share with you what rocks my culinary boat. These would be things I grew up eating, my favorite food or new recipes I found which I thought would taste awesome. The humble, yet delicious carrot cake (yes, I know, where have I been all these years?) was never in my list of things-I-must-bake because I couldn't imagine what it would taste like. Would be like mushy, steamed carrots (which I dislike, I'm a raw or crunchy carrot kind of girl), would I even taste the carrots at all (have you seen those other stuffs that go into some carrot cakes?) or would it be all weird because at the end of the day, it's a cake with three whole cups of root vegetable in it? It is my best friend's favorite, the cake another friend asked for her birthday and the one Bee requested to be featured in her baking section.

So I dug out my cheese grater, put on my rubber gloves (grated skin bits from my fingers would probably be lost in all those carrots but I learned my lesson when making these so let's not get into bloody memories here) and went down to the grind with six large carrots. That business took forever but I've clearly been warned so I stuck it out and sweated it through. If you're still here and on the verge of going out to get some carrots, then let me tell you that this is the carrot cake for me, possibly for you too. With some fresh ginger and a can of crushed pineapples - I couldn't help myself. And there was some blitzed to oblivion walnuts.

But I stopped short of adding coconut and pecans, which I reckon you could, though I worry if it came to that the carrots might get jealous and decide to stage a mutiny. Then all those sweaty moments with gloves on and possibly some expletives released would be in vain. I think two additional flavors from a nut and fruit respectively, plus a little bit of spice kept the carrots happy, for the cake screamed sweet carrots like they meant business - just like they did in the medieval period. Of course the maple cream cheese frosting played the crucial role of a supporting actor, after I tried - and failed - to replace it with this mascarpone cream cheese frosting. I shall spare you the drama and let you know that this cream cheese frosting was made to feel pretty special by that quarter cup of maple syrup.

Feel free to play around with the recipe at Bee's Rasa Malaysia and have a ball while you're at it. I'd ask you to save me a piece but will completely understand if you refuse.

Note: If you're halfway out the door with your environmental friendly tote on your shoulder wondering what on earth are those dark brown spikes, I apologize. I got carried away cooking down the caramel for the toffee hazelnuts and didn't have enough hands to hold them up for fancier looking drips. I cried to Vijay for help and thanks to him I got three half descent looking ones. I'll own up and admit I'm watching too much Masterchef for my own good.

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Yields 24 cupcakes/one 9-inch two-layer cake/one 8-inch three-layer cake
Adapted barely from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen.

Notes: For a soft batter and a cake with a melt-in-your-mouth crumb, like Deb I grated the carrots by hand with a box cheese grater and like her, I will not lie to you – it takes some elbow grease to get the required 3 cups. You can use the food processor but you will get thicker pieces – take care not to over do it or you will end up with carrot pulp swimming in carrot water. Like most cakes without butter and using oil instead, this is a very moist one so I chilled the cooled layers in the freezer prior to frosting.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup granulated/castor sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 8-ounce can pineapple slices
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups/650 grams grated peeled carrots (from about 5-6 large carrots)
  • 2 inches fresh old ginger, finely grated
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.

For cupcakes: Line 24 cupcake molds (2 12-standard muffin tins) with liners, or butter and flour them.
For layered cakes: Butter two 9-inch-diameter or three 8-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment, butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour.

If using walnuts, lightly roast them on a baking tray or a frying pan, about 4-5 minutes. Leave to cool before processing them finely.

Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger in medium bowl to blend. Set aside. Place the pineapple slices in a blender and add some of the juices from the can. Discard excess liquid. Puree until smooth and set aside.

In a separate large bowl, whisk sugars, pineapple puree and oil until well blended. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Add in the flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in the vanilla, carrots and fresh ginger. Add in the walnuts and raisins, if using them.

For cupcakes: Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each. Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for about 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.
For layered cakes: Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans, and bake the layers for about 30 minutes each for 8-inch cakes or about 40 minutes each for 9-inch cakes; or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for about 15 minutes. Turn out onto cooling racks. Peel off parchment; cool cakes completely before icing.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Yields about 2 cups, sufficient for any of the combination of this cake recipe

  • 2 (8-ounce/226-gram) packages cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 stick/4 ounces/113 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups/230 grams confectioners’/icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat all the ingredients on medium speed until fluffy. Chill the frosting for about 20 to 30 minutes or until it has set up enough to spread smoothly and hold its shape.

For cupcakes: Place the maple cream cheese frosting into a piping bag fitted with your tip of choice and pipe onto cooled cupcakes accordingly.
For layered cakes: To assemble a layered cake, with an offset spatula, frost the top of one cake and place the other cake on top. Repeat for a three-layered cake. Frost the sides and top with a thin layer of frosting, chill the cake for about 30-45 minutes. Frost the cake completely to cover and decorate with swirls on the top. Chill cake for at least 30 minutes or till frosting is set. Bring to room temperature before serving.

54 Comments on Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

I think it's just gorgeous and utterly tempting!

Posted by Anonymous Mabel, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:14:00 PM  

I love the way you've decorated this - absolutely stunning! We all need a masterchef moment.

Posted by Anonymous Emma @ Poires au Chocolat, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:14:00 PM  

Mabel: Thank you!

Emma: Your cakes inspire me very much as well, very much!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:15:00 PM  

Beautiful! I also tried one recently!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:15:00 PM  

swoon. as much as i dislike carrots, your cake is beautiful. the sparing sprinkle of the nuts and caramel is so genius. your masterchef moment is fantastic. i avoid shows like that for that exact reason.

Posted by Anonymous Lan, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:15:00 PM  

Anon: Thank you, try to make one!

Lan: Thanks! All those shows and the world of food blogs inspired me, my ideas are hardly new or original.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:16:00 PM  

I love the deco on the cake but what I love MORE is the adorable wood cake stand and plates you've used! GOSH I'm super jealous - where did you get them!!!

Posted by Anonymous Janine, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:16:00 PM  

Janine: Thank you. The cake stand isn't really one. It's made out of a cheeseboard (Robinson's) and a bowl (Muji). Plate also from Muji, right now their wooden stuff are quite extensive, go check it out!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:16:00 PM  

This is absolutely decadent Pick Yin. Your frosting has completely transformed the usual plain jane carrot cake into a stunning masterpiece. Wow! I must agree that it's worth your time watching Masterchef.


Posted by Anonymous Reese@seasonwithspice, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:16:00 PM  

Never seen such a perfection of a carrot cake!

Posted by Anonymous anita menon, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:17:00 PM  


Posted by Anonymous, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:17:00 PM  

wow, i love the decor!!! especially with the impaling shards of caramelised nuts, I remember seeing this somewhere... was it Chef Gregoire's book? hmm...

Like Janine, was almost fooled by the "cake stand". The two pieces look so homogenised I'd swear its carved from the same block of wood if you hadnt told us!

Posted by Anonymous Alan (travellingfoodies), at Feb 1, 2012, 5:17:00 PM  

Reese: Thank you. I wanted to create a classy looking carrot cake and thought the all white frosting whould be perfect for some sugar art experiment. I really watch too much Masterchef. If the Swedish version is dubbed I would've watched that as well.

anita and diva: Thank you!

Alan: Impaling shards? I like the way you put it. I've seen this at a few places and yes, including Chef Gregoire's book. Of course if he sees this he'd shake his head on that color. I contemplated not using them at one point.

I really wanted to set the cake on a wooden cake stand but under the time constrait couldn't find one online or around shops but was lucky Muji is running their wooden collections with a vengence currently. After I bought these two items, I found an actual stand at Tanglin Mall but I reckon I'll use this combo again as I can do away with the bowl and put the whole cake+board into the fridge.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:18:00 PM  

one word: WOW.

Posted by Anonymous maureen, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:18:00 PM  

Maureen: One word: THANKS!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:18:00 PM  

Hi Pick Yin,

I made carrot cupcakes based on your recipe and I am not sure if I had done it correctly - the texture of my cupcakes is spongey. Should it be like this? I was expecting more of a crumbly texture. But taste-wise, it was great! I would appreciate if you can give me some heads up if I am doing this correctly. I followed everystep to the T!


Posted by Anonymous Kathryn Poon, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:19:00 PM  

Hi Kathryn, sorry for my late reply.

I hope to understand exactly what you mean first before troubleshooting the case. When you say spongey, do you mean not moist enough/slightly dense/tight crumbs? Did you grate the carrots finely? Other than that, this is a straight forward mixing cake, so it could be either just slightly over-mixed or over-baked.

My cake was really moist but because of the moistness, the crumbs were pretty intact, as you can see from the photos. I would say the cake is more stable than a very moist chocolate cake, for example. Hope this helps!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:19:00 PM  

Beautiful!!!!! Meravigliosa!!! I like one slice - I have some recipe with carrot - you give me some idea..!!!!!!
Congratulations for your blog!!!

Posted by Anonymous Sorina Petre, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:19:00 PM  

Thank you Sorina!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 5:19:00 PM  

Hi. I made this cake this evening but haven't tried it yet (other than a little nibble). My frosting is nothing at all like yours seems in the photo - mine is prety runny. I managed to stiffen it up slightly by putting it in the freezer to chill, and putting the cake in the fridge, but it's still nowhere near as manageable as yours and kind of runs down the sides of the cake. Any tips for next time? Thanks - otherwise it seems yummy! Claire

Posted by Anonymous Claire, at Feb 8, 2012, 5:16:00 AM  

Claire: This frosting is pretty forgiving. It's possible that you've over-whipped it just a tad. Ensure to only whip until smooth and chill it in the fridge (not freezer) for 30-45 minutes before trying to spread it over the cooled cake. Hope this helps!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 8, 2012, 8:12:00 AM  

Is there a recipe somewhere that I'm missing..?

Posted by Blogger Kate R., at Feb 24, 2012, 9:13:00 AM  

Kate R.: It is here where I did the guest post for Bee. For your convenience I've included the recipe now in this post.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 24, 2012, 9:32:00 AM  

Hi, found your cake on pinterest. What a great cake. So beautiful. I would try to bake it but my daughter is allergic to nuts. But now I found your blog and I will find an other cake to make. Thank you for sharing

Posted by Blogger Lien, at Mar 30, 2012, 5:43:00 PM  

Hi Lien, you can bake this cake without all the nuts (in the cake and as decoration). It will taste just as good!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Mar 30, 2012, 6:08:00 PM  

I reall really LOVE this cake! It looks so yummy! And I especially love the asymetric design
Wonderful :)
Greetings Jo

Posted by Blogger Jo, at Apr 15, 2012, 7:08:00 PM  

This cake looks spectacular and it taste magnificent. Made it for my husband's B-day 7/18/12. Will have to try that Mascarpone Cream Cheese Icing next time as it looks mouth watering in the photo. Thanks for sharing these wonderful recipes, Pick.

Posted by Blogger Adriana O.G., at Jul 20, 2012, 1:16:00 PM  

This cake looks spectacular and it taste magnificent. Made it for my husband's B-day 7/18/12. Will have to try that Mascarpone Cream Cheese Icing next time as it looks mouth watering in the photo. Thanks for sharing these wonderful recipes.

Posted by Blogger Adriana O.G., at Jul 20, 2012, 1:19:00 PM  

Hi Pick,

Would love to know if you used the Mascarpone Cream Cheese Icing on your carrot cake per your red velvet cake frosting recipe? You said you added maple syrup in your carrot cake entry? I want to bake with that delicious looking frosting. Thanks.

Posted by Blogger Adriana O.G., at Jul 20, 2012, 2:05:00 PM  

Adriana O.G.: For this recipe I didn't use mascarpone. You can use the recipe for the mascarpone frosting from the red velvet cake post, perhaps double it as this is a big cake.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jul 24, 2012, 9:29:00 AM  

I made this the other day for a birthday cake for a colleague at work. It was demolished within 5 minutes, it is one of the best cakes that I have cooked and tasted it was easy to make and that Maple Cream Cheese Frosting divine - loving your website I put down my Donna Hay magazine to scroll through your website. I am going to make the Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes on the weekend for my son. Andrea

Posted by Blogger Andrea, at Aug 3, 2012, 2:44:00 PM  

I made this the other day for a birthday cake for a colleague at work. It was demolished within 5 minutes, it is one of the best cakes that I have cooked and tasted it was easy to make and that Maple Cream Cheese Frosting divine - loving your website I put down my Donna Hay magazine to scroll through your website. I am going to make the Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes on the weekend for my son. Andrea

Posted by Blogger Andrea, at Aug 3, 2012, 2:45:00 PM  

Andrea: Thanks for the feedback. The maple cream cheese frosting really does make the cake. Hope your son will like the chicken as well!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Aug 3, 2012, 2:51:00 PM  

my sister has requested carrot cake for her birthday so I was hunting around pinterest to find inspiration to decorate one without fondant carrots, love this and I'm planning on trying it with purple heirloom carrots which I'm told give the cake a lovely colour, just wondering if you have instructions on how to do the hazelnuts in toffee...?

Posted by Blogger J Cups, at Sep 8, 2012, 7:37:00 PM  

J Cups: To make the toffee hazelnuts:

Roast some hazelnuts or macadamia – I used the oven, you can also do it with a frying pan. Let cool to room temperature. Poke the base of each nut with a toothpick.

Melt some sugar in a heavy-based saucepan – I used castor sugar. Without stirring over medium low to medium heat, move the pan around from time to time to even out the caramel. Once a nice golden brown color is achieved, remove from heat and let cool till the caramel thickens enough to coat the nuts. (Don’t let the color be as dark as mine, I overdid it.)

Dip the prepared nuts into the caramel to coat evenly. Lift upwards 90 degrees to drip and create the ‘spike’. Cut of the cooled sugar strand with a pair of kitchen scissors and leave to rest on a plate/tray lined with parchment paper. Once caramel is fully set, remove the toothpick and set the nuts upright.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Sep 10, 2012, 11:09:00 AM  

This is such a modern master piece, how did you ever cut into it. It should be in a gallery.

Posted by Anonymous little box brownie, at Oct 8, 2012, 6:59:00 PM  

Sorry, but what are the shards made from on top? Could you briefly describe how to make them? I love it!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jan 8, 2013, 5:18:00 AM  

I made this for my mother in law for her birthday and she loved it! Everyone did. My husband asked me to make it again for the Superbowl. I guess that says it all right there!

Posted by Blogger Unknown, at Jan 31, 2013, 12:28:00 AM  

I made this for my mother in law for her birthday and she loved it! Everyone did. My husband asked me to make it again for the Superbowl which was impressive to me coming from someone who claims to not like cake. That says it all right there! Thank you for sharing your recipe!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jan 31, 2013, 12:37:00 AM  

Great cake, I have tried it and it is delicious ... just one thing, I was wondering I you end up with such a white frosting ... after adding vanilla and maple syrup (which are rather brownish colour), my frosting is not white at all, rather beige !
thank you for the recipe and the tips for the caramelized chestnuts :-)

Posted by Anonymous argone, at Feb 3, 2013, 6:13:00 PM  

argone: The frosting is not really snow white, a little off white, but shouldn't be brownish. I've seen mostly yellowish cream cheese frosting on shop bought cakes though. Perhaps it's the whipping of the cream cheese, I whipped mine till really soft and fluffy.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 14, 2013, 10:47:00 AM  

Would you consider this recipe stable enough to stack and use for a wedding cake? This is by far my favourite recipe - but I'm worried that it will collapse and that the layers are too thin!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jun 26, 2013, 6:12:00 PM  

This is a gorgeous, gorgeous cake! So beautiful. Love everything about it.

Posted by Anonymous Laura (Blogging Over Thyme), at Sep 18, 2013, 10:31:00 PM  

Greetings from Finland! I just found your blog while searching for a perfect carrot cake recipe and I think I found one!! Love the way you have decorated your cake and your way to write is awesome. I have to read your blog from start to get to know all your amazing recipes! Love, Heidi

Posted by Blogger Sohviss, at Oct 30, 2013, 9:22:00 PM  

Anon: For a wedding cake you can still stack it but don't make more than 2 layers for each cake. The frosting is not good with heat and humidity, unless your reception is in an air-conditioned environment, I wouldn't use it.

Laura and Sohviss: Thank you so much! :)

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Oct 31, 2013, 10:45:00 AM  

Hi, thank for sharing this recipe! I love e cake taste very much except I don't know why my cake tend to be like "steam cake" texture despite the top and side are brown and the cake tester came out clean? Can you advise me? Secondly, I follow e frosting exactly.. But is not as white as yours, mine is slightly brown too. Could it be e effect from cinnamon? Hope to hear from you soon. Thank so much, Evelyn

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Dec 9, 2013, 9:10:00 PM  

Can I chk how many in gram for 8oz of pineapple slice? Many thanks, Ashley.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Dec 9, 2013, 10:24:00 PM  

Evelyn: It could be the carrots are too fine and more liquid had been released to compromise the batter. Roughly grated them and pat dry before using.

As for the frosting, I'm not sure but it could be the cinnamon. Cream cheese frosting is always pale beige, not pure white like whipped cream.

Ashley: 8oz = 227 grams

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Dec 10, 2013, 11:01:00 AM  

Thank so much, Pick Yin. Will try again. :) Evelyn

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Dec 14, 2013, 10:34:00 PM  

I am not much of a carrot cake girl, but this gorgeously decorated cake has me thinking it's worth a try. Life is broader than just chocolate and vanilla, right? Your photos are stunning, as well. And to think I clicked the pin to get the maple cream cheese frosting for my maple-obsessed husband!

Posted by Anonymous Katy Aebi, at Mar 11, 2014, 11:44:00 PM  

I adore your presentation of this dubious creation and lord knows I LOVE carrot cake! I am pretty new to baking and can't cook at all. Baking is inspiring to me though and I want to keep trying new recipes and bringing them to work for my guinea pigs. I can't keep them at home because I am already overweight! This one sounds fun. I can't wait to try it out and hopefully make it half as pretty and yummy as yours!!! I also want to find a wooden cake stand!

Posted by Blogger newbjudy, at Sep 6, 2014, 11:04:00 AM  

I love the unique presentation of your classic carrot cake.

Posted by Blogger Unknown, at Nov 28, 2014, 10:23:00 PM  

The cake looks so delicious and so perfect. The texture looks so uniform. Would you please explain if you used nuts and/or raisins. Because if nuts are usde how did you stil achieve that uniform consistency? Thank you for the recipe.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jan 17, 2016, 2:10:00 PM  

I love this cake ans I will be making it for my nieces birthday as she loves carrot cake. Please tell me what nuts you used on the top. I see pecans and hazelnuts but are there also pistachios? Please explain what you did. I think the decoration is beautiful.
Thank you. Sherrill

Posted by Anonymous Sherrill, at Jun 2, 2016, 9:01:00 AM  

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