‘Tis the season for celebrating. And eating … lots of eating. While most of us just consumed our annual intake of pumpkin pie, I was busy making these carrot cake squares with cream cheese frosting.
Why carrot cake squares? Because I like bite size desserts, that’s why. I am such a salty / crunchy / carb-y food loving person, and desserts have just never been my favorite part of a meal. I am super open to trying any dessert you put in front of me, but chances are I’ll only have a bite or two.
Also, my dad’s birthday was just a week ago, and he loves carrot cake. Some years his birthday falls on Thanksgiving, so he’s stuck eating pumpkin pie as a birthday cake. While some people may be ecstatic about this, it’s just not as fun when it’s not really for you. It’s really for Thanksgiving, and it happens to be a cake, so you get stuck with it. 🙂
Although I couldn’t be in Kansas for Thanksgiving this year, I wanted to celebrate my dad’s birthday anyway. I scoured my collection of baking books, read endless recipes online, and finally honed in on the ingredients and methods I wanted to use. Most carrot cake recipes call for making a typical cake, but I wanted to step my recipe up a notch. Slicing a 9×13 carrot cake in half, lovingly spreading cream cheese frosting in between the layers, then topping the cake with more cream cheese frosting seemed like a perfect way to present my cake. 🙂
The carrot cake squares themselves are super moist. They’re also packed with a gorgeous layering of baking spices, and topped with a simple, homemade cream cheese frosting. I finely grate the carrots, as I’m not a fan of chunky carrots in a carrot cake. I also use corn oil, because its neutral flavor allows the other flavors to shine. Also, if you don’t have dark brown sugar, just use more light brown sugar. 🙂
Lately, I’ve been really into making some elegant dinners for two, and reinventing my blog. You’ll see a new style, new killer recipes for two, and lots of cocktails coming your way VERY soon.
Cheers to my dad, cheers to fall birthdays, and cheers to stepping up your own style. I can’t wait to remake these carrot cake squares when I go home to visit for Christmas!
carrot cake :
- 3 cups grated organic carrot
- 4 farm fresh eggs room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or greek yogurt
- 1 cup light brown sugar packed
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup corn oil or another neutral oil
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
cream cheese frosting :
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
to make the carrot cake :
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9x13 glass baking dish with baking spray, or line it with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. (Flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground spices, and sea salt.)
- In a separate large bowl, whisk the room temperature eggs until blended. Then whisk in the oil, then the sugars, applesauce, and vanilla.
- After all of these ingredients are fully combined, slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the bowl of the dry ingredients. Finally, gently fold in the grated carrots. Be gentle, and don't overmix, to ensure fluffiness. 🙂
- Pour the carrot cake mix into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 35-45 minutes, checking at about 35 minutes for doneness. (Using the toothpick method works ideally; insert into the middle of the cake, and if it comes out clean, the cake is done!)
- Remove the cake from the oven, and allow it to cool in the baking dish for 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the dish, and transfer it to a wire rack for another 20 minutes to cool. You can make the frosting in the meantime. 🙂
to build the cake :
- Remove 1/2" of crust from every edge of the cake to create an even cake rectangle. Cut the rectangle into four equal-sized rectangles, about 2" each in width. Using a serrated knife (or dental floss), cut through the middle of each rectangle to create a top layer and a bottom layer.
- Frost the bottom layer with 1/2 cup of cream cheese frosting. Replace it's top half, and also frost the top of that half, too.
- Cut each rectangle into eight equal pieces, creating 32 total carrot cake squares. Garnish with crushed pecans if desired, and serve at room temperature. These will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator!
to make cream cheese frosting :
- Combine cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Cream until smooth, about two minutes. Add vanilla and salt, and mix to combine.