I bake this cake for my son every year. My daughters are chocolate cake fans so I bake chocolate cakes on their birthdays but for my son? It's 100% carrot cake with cream cheese icing...every year! I create this cake without walnuts as my son has a peanut and tree nut allergy but my personal preference is to include the walnuts. This is a classic but it's so much better with this added maple spin.
For the cake
1 cup canola oil
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, more for the pans
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups lightly packed, finely grated carrots
2 cups packed light brown sugar or maple sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the icing
1 lb cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 lb confectioners' sugar
4 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
Maple flakes for sprinkling on top of icing
Make the cake
Position a rack in the centre of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour the sides of two 9x2-inch round cake pans, tapping out any excess flour. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl with a hand mixer, mix the oil, eggs, carrots, brown sugar, walnuts, raisins, and vanilla on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just blended, about 30 seconds. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
Bake until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick comes out clean, 28to 30 minutes.
Let cool in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pans to loosen the cakes, invert them onto the rack, remove the pans, and carefully peel away the parchment. Set the cakes to cool completely before icing.
Make the frosting
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter with the mixer on medium speed until very smooth about 1 minute. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on medium high until blended about 2 minutes. Cover the icing and set aside at room temperature until the cake has completely cooled.
Assemble the cake
Carefully set one cake upside down on a flat serving plate. Using a metal spatula, evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of icing over the top of the cake. Top with the remaining cake layer, upside down. Spread a thin layer (about 1/3 cup) of icing over the entire cake, filling in the gaps between layers. Refrigerate until the icing is cold and firm, about 20 minutes. Spread the entire cake with the remaining icing. Sprinkle maple flakes over the top of the cake.
Refrigerate the cake for a minimum of 4 hours or up to 2 days. The cake is best served slightly chilled or at room temperature.
Tip: The flavours of this moist cake only improve with time. You can bake it a few days ahead. Great for the holidays!
The images show the cake before I sprinkled the top with maple flakes. I sprinkle the top to cover it with maple flakes as that's the way my son loves it!