“The New Basics Cookbook” published 16 years ago, is still one that I turn to for reliable, delicious food. Authors Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins are also the authors of the well-known Silver Palate Cookbook. With 849 pages it’s a treasure trove of recipes. This carrot cake recipe was created by Sheila’s mother Berta, and it’s now one of my favorite desserts. You can prepare it a few days in advance which means it’s perfect for a party or potluck gathering. It seems everyone loves carrot cake.
Instead of using raw, grated carrots, the recipe instructs you to cook the carrots and purée them before adding them to the batter. Worth the extra step, it brings out the carrot’s natural sweetness and ensures the cake is going to be moist and delicious. To me, there is nothing more luscious than Berta’s carrot cake.
Drain the cooked carrots and with quick pulses finely mince the carrots. I don’t process the carrots to a fine purée as I prefer to keep a little texture to them.
A cup of shredded coconut is called for in the original recipe. I use a lesser amount, but go ahead and use a cup if you want to. The recipe doesn’t state whether to use unsweetened or sweetened coconut. I use the sweetened type. As you’ll notice in the photo above, the coconut I had on hand has some fairly long strips. I used my kitchen scissors and snipped the coconut into small, even pieces. Instead of adding the cup of chopped walnuts to the batter, I left them out but toasted some coarsely chopped pecans and sprinkled them over the frosting.
Best Carrot Cake
Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook
1 1/3 cups finely minced cooked carrots (about 3 medium carrots, 14 ounces)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 8 ounce can crushed pineapple in 100% pineapple juice (not heavy syrup), drained well
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used Green Valley lactose free cream cheese)
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
2 cups + powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
juice from 1/4 lemon
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, and grease the paper and sides of pan.
Cut peeled carrots into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Place in pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and cook carrots until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool carrots. Once carrots have cooled slightly, place them in a food processor and with quick pulses (about 17 pulses), finely mince the carrots scraping down the sides of the bowl now and then.
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a large bowl. Add the granulated sugar and stir to combine. Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla, mixing well. Fold in the carrots, coconut and pineapple.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Place it on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the edges have pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Check the cake to see if it is done after it has baked for 35 minutes. If it needs more time, bake a little longer, checking every few minutes to ensure it does not over bake.
Transfer cake pan to a cooling rack. Let cool completely. At this point, you may cover the pan tightly and refrigerate the cake until you are ready to frost it. When the cake is completely cool, transfer to a cake platter. I find it easiest to line a cutting board or other flat tray with aluminum foil, place over the cake pan, invert the cake on to the foil and discard the parchment paper. I then place my cake platter over the bottom of the cake, and invert right side up. Do this right away as the cake has a tendency to stick to the foil. Now you’re ready to frost the cake.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
Cream the cream cheese and butter together in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Do not over beat. Slowly sift in the confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until frosting is smooth. Stir in the vanilla and a teaspoon of the lemon juice at a time. Adjust consistency by adding more powdered sugar or lemon juice. The frosting should not be runny or it will not set properly. Frost top and sides of carrot cake. If you are not serving the cake right away, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.