Alton Brown’s 18-Carrot Cake

While the name of this cake is 18-Carrot Cake, there are not eighteen carrots in here, nor does it refer to gold in any way, Alton Brown just liked the name.

Anyway, I know I was going on about eating too much cake on Facebook.  Well, this was the cake.  And it was good.

I make carrot cake every year for my husband’s birthday, it’s his favorite.  And every year, I make a different recipe for no other reason than to just try another variation.  Why not.

This one was quite excellent with a very refined texture.  I love Alton Brown and the science background he puts behind every recipe.  His cookbook goes into deep explanations as to how and why we mix, stir, beat etc.  If you are interested, it’s worth the read and gives you reason for doing the things we do in the kitchen.  I like that.

I have always believed many baking failures occur because of mis-measurement of ingredients and over-mixing errors.  I love that Alton’s cookbooks give a weight and volume measurement for every ingredient.  I decided to even weigh my spices this time around and it was eye-opening to see how “off” measuring spoons can be in reference to what a certain ingredient should weigh.

Needless to say I weighed everything and the cake came out delicious.  Even both my kids ate it.  Yes, both of them.  I was amazed, and my 10-year old has now requested this cake for his birthday.  I think I’ve entered the twilight zone.  What everyone liked was the absence of nuts and coconut on the inside (but I did put walnuts on the outside frosting).  My husband is not a fan of coconut so this really elevated the status of this cake for him.

This is a must try.

The first thing I did was grate my carrots.  Alton suggests using a box grater, utilizing the smallest holes but I used my food processor with the shredding blade.  The recipe indicated using 3-4 carrots or 8 ounces.  After shredding 4 carrots I had only 5 ounces.  Without a digital scale I would not have known this.  You will never regret purchasing a digital scale if you do a lot of baking, you will have a lot more successes come out of the oven.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and kosher salt by sifting them on top of the carrot mixture and stirring them together.  Alton recommends  using a food processor to sift the dry ingredients.  I did use the food processor but a sifter will also be fine.  Just know that sifting is a necessity no matter which method you use.

The recipe also indicated to mix the wet ingredients in the food processor until fully combined and slightly thickened, which I did; whole vanilla yogurt (I substituted sour cream and added vanilla extract until it tasted like vanilla yogurt), vegetable oil, granulated sugar and eggs.

Add the wet mixture to the carrot mixture and combine with a whisk.  DO NOT OVERMIX.  Drop the whisk and walk away 10 seconds before you think it’s done.  There will still be lumps in the batter but they will bake out.  If the batter is smooth, you have overmixed.

This recipe called for using one, round 9 x 3 pan and creating layers from one cake.  I only have 9 x 2 pans so I prepped them and divided the batter evenly. 

If you use a 9 x 3 pan bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, then lower the oven temperature to 325 and bake for another 15 minutes.

If you two, 9 x 2 round pans, bake for 15 minutes at 350, then lower temperature to 325 for another 15 minutes.  These will cook fast.  If you have a thermometer, you are looking for an internal temperature of 205-210 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer, make sure a toothpick comes out clean when placed in the middle of the cake.

Allow the cake to cool 15 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

While you are waiting for the cakes to cool, make the frosting.  Since I made a four layered cake, I doubled this frosting recipe.

Using the mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together at 50-percent power until smooth.  Add the vanilla and beat until it’s combined.

Drop the speed to 25-percent and slowly add the sugar in 4 batches, beating until smooth between each addition.

Split and frost the cake.

 I split each of my cakes to make a total of four layers.  I also placed walnuts around the sides of the cake which was not part of this recipe.

Simply Delicious.

Alton Brown’s 18-Carrot Cake
Adapted from Alton Brown, I’m Just Here For The Food

For the cake:
8 ounces (3-4 or more) raw carrot, grated
8-1/2 ounces (1-3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1/4 ounce (1 teaspoon) baking powder
1/4 ounce (3/4 teaspoon) baking soda
1/4 ounce (1 teaspoon) ground cinnamon
1/8 ounce (1/2 teaspoon) kosher salt
3/4 cup whole vanilla yogurt
(I substituted whole sour cream & mixed in vanilla extract (about 1 Tablespoon)
2 ounces vegetable oil
10 ounces granulated sugar
5-1/4 ounces eggs (3 large)
Walnuts for around the side of the cake are optional

For the frosting:

*I doubled this recipe because I made a 4-layer cake. The recipe below is not doubled.

4 ounces (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eight-ounce bricks of cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 ounce (1/2 teaspoon) vanilla extract
9 ounces confectioners’ sugar

The first thing I did was grate my carrots.  Alton suggests using a box grater, utilizing the smallest holes but I used my food processor with the shredding blade.  The recipe indicated using 3-4 carrots or 8 ounces.  After shredding 4 carrots I had only 5 ounces.  Without a digital scale I would not have known this.  You will never regret purchasing a digital scale if you do a lot of baking, you will have a lot more successes come out of the oven.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and kosher salt by sifting them on top of the carrot mixture and stirring them together.  Alton recommends  using a food processor to sift the dry ingredients.  I did use the food processor but a sifter will also be fine.  Just know that sifting is a necessity no matter which method you use.

The recipe also indicated to mix the wet ingredients in the food processor until fully combined and slightly thickened, which I did; whole vanilla yogurt (I substituted sour cream and added vanilla extract until it tasted like vanilla yogurt), vegetable oil, granulated sugar and eggs.

Add the wet mixture to the carrot mixture and combine with a whisk.  DO NOT OVERMIX.  Drop the whisk and walk away 10 seconds before you think it’s done.  There will still be lumps in the batter but they will bake out.  If the batter is smooth, you have overmixed.

This recipe called for using one, round 9 x 3 pan and creating layers from one cake.  I only have 9 x 2 pans so I prepped them and divided the batter evenly. 

If you use a 9 x 3 pan bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, then lower the oven temperature to 325 and bake for another 15 minutes.

If you two, 9 x 2 round pans, bake for 15 minutes at 350, then lower temperature to 325 for another 15 minutes.  These will cook fast.  If you have a thermometer, you are looking for an internal temperature of 205-210 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer, make sure a toothpick comes out clean when placed in the middle of the cake.

Allow the cake to cool 15 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

While you are waiting for the cakes to cool, make the frosting.  Since I made a four layered cake, I doubled this frosting recipe.

Using the mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together at 50-percent power until smooth.  Add the vanilla and beat until it’s combined.

Drop the speed to 25-percent and slowly add the sugar in 4 batches, beating until smooth between each addition.

Split and frost the cake. 

Keep refrigerated.

One Year Ago: Gratineed Pineapple

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68 Comments

  1. Rosa 1

    A wonderful cake! So scrumptious looking!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Carrot cake has always been my favourite cake with a creamy cream cheese frosting…just nothing like it. We all have our preferences and I am a lover of coconut and nuts so mine would be laden with them.

  3. Janine 3

    Ok there is something wierd going on here. My husband’s favorite cake is carrot and I think I have tried every recipe known to man and make it every year for his birthday!!!

  4. I don’t have any of Alton Brown’s cookbooks, but now I think I need one. I like the idea of weighing ingredients instead of measuring them. It makes more sense when you think about it. Plus, I love carrot cake so that’s a bonus…

  5. Donna 5

    That is a most gorgeous site to see when I woke up today. My fav carrot cake is Ina Gartens but this one sounds amazing as well. I may have to do like you and try a new one a year.

  6. Lisa 6

    I’m a huge Alton fan. Obsessed almost, lol. I’ve made this cake before and you are right, it’s delicious. You can’t go wrong with Alton.

  7. June 7

    What a beautiful cake – and that frosting – oh my!

  8. Julia 8

    This cake looks great!!! I really appreciate all the baking tips, too — like using a scale and not over-mixing. So key in successful baking.

  9. This looks amazing! I also am not fond of coconut IN or ON cakes and don’t like nuts in my cakes. I’m definitely going to try this one and pick up Alton’s book!

  10. Barbie with a T 10

    NO DOUBT that is the most beautiful carrot cake I have ever seen. The texture is clearly seen in your photos. I would gobble it up in a minute! I also think the no coconut thing is especially clever, as it sets it off from most other carrot cake recipes. Thanks for this one. I bet you did not have many leftover pieces.

  11. Lena in VT 11

    That first shot of the cake is just beautiful. I love Alton too and weighing ingrdients for from scratch baking is a must for success.

  12. Fallon 12

    The cake looks beautiful!!

  13. Melynda 13

    Mmmmm, carrot cake. This one looks really good.

  14. dawn 14

    very nice cathy. layering is perfect. I use Alton as a go-to for a lot of recipes.

  15. That’s one gorgeous cake, Cathy. Thanks for the reminder that accuracy is so important in baking. It’s so easy to get sloppy about measurements.

  16. elra 16

    If the carrot cake as good as yours, I would request this for my birthday cake too. And oh, 4 layers will be good.

  17. Katrina 17

    Wow, that DOES look de-lish! I so wish I could “afford” that cake. Wait, there’s veggies, so it’s healthy, right? Right?….hello? ;)

  18. Tammy 18

    I would enjoy Alton Brown’s cookbook. I have no doubt that over mixing ruins some recipes. I’m constantly telling my daughter not to over mix, mixing and fiddling with dough and batter is her favorite part! She’s made many “heavy” biscuits because of her obsession.

    I never gave much thought to measuring devices being inaccurate, but I do have a set of cups that I’m sure are not correct, as I’m always having to add more flour, because I know how the dough is supposed to “feel”. New bakers would never know that and wonder why stuff isn’t turning out. Fascinating stuff!

    That cake looks delicious, btw!

  19. Gorgeous! I would love a piece right now.

  20. Mary 20

    Cathy, this looks and sounds delicious. So does the fennel recipe below.

  21. Dawn 21

    What a beautiful, beautiful cake picture. I could just eat it up. Thanks for the baking tips, I need a digital scale.

  22. Lisa 22

    WOW! That carrot cake looks amazing!

  23. Paula 23

    I’ve learned a lot from watching his show; I’ll have to check out his cookbooks. Your carrot cake looks amazing. I love the photo showing all the layers. YUM!

  24. Steph 24

    I completely agree! I don’t know what I would do without my scale. I can’t not measure whenever I bake now. Plus, it’s a lot faster!!

  25. Jim-49 25

    That is one,wonderful looking cake!! “If it comes with wheels,please roll it my way”!! “LOL”!! You ladies,on these blogs,turn out some wonderful recipes! I love the site and try many of your recipes,and they turn out pretty good,you can’t even think,about the number of homes,you bless!!Thanks So Much!!

  26. Flea 26

    Oh thank you! I’m thinking of incorporating pineapple in my next carrot cake.

  27. Laura 27

    That is a masterpiece. All those gorgeous layers. And I love plainer carrot cakes (no coconut, nuts, raisins, etc).

  28. Julie 28

    It really came out beautiful with all those layers.

  29. Donalyn 29

    Looks fantastic Cathy – love carrot cake!

  30. I love Alton Brown. I use many of his episodes in my class. Great cake. Guess that we all need to purchase scales!!

  31. Cheryl 31

    Okay, Cathy—-I have to admit, I am now wigging out a bit. MY husband’s favorite cake is carrot cake, and I make it yearly for him on his special day. Although I have to admit (shamefully) that after attempting his grandmother’s much loved version (and botching it horribly) Duncan Hines has proven more reliable. HOWEVER, as I too love the Alton-ian science…AND 18 carrots isn’t anywhere near the titular draw as the image of the 4 layers of frosting…hubby may just get this BEFORE his next birthday….

    Thank you!

  32. Krista 32

    I make carrot cake for my husband every year on his birthday too. He doesn’t really like dessert, but he LOVES carrot cake. This looks delicious! I’ll have to give it a shot.

  33. Memoria 33

    What a BEAUTIFUL cake!!!! Carrot cake is my mom’s favorite cake. I’ll have to make this for her.

  34. jamie 34

    hi cathy,
    would you share with us how to split the cakes layers so they are beautiful like yours.
    thanks!

  35. megan 35

    I’m beginning to really like carrot cake and this looks delicious.
    Since I’ve been weighing ingredients for the HBin5 loaves, I’m liking it better then measuring, plus it saves on a few cups to wash.

  36. Sook 36

    This looks absolutely amazing!!

  37. Such a lovely cake! Great idea substituting the sour cream and vanilla! I really need to get a scale. Someday. BTW, I love your whisk. The handle looks fun and it looks really sturdy!

  38. This looks luscious! I like the addition of the vanilla yogurt (or sour cream). I also like when carrot cake recipes include pineapple.

  39. Noble Pig 40

    I just cut them in half with my bread knife. No fancy turntable or measuring technique at all.

  40. Bob 41

    It looks wicked good. I love carrot cake but I also prefer it without stuff inside.

  41. Lisa Sipple 42

    I have to get a scale, I’ve heard it too many times. The cake is a beauty.

  42. I made Alton’s cake too in December, but look at how ugly mine came out!
    I am a lousy baker, though I loved the flavor of this cake!

  43. HoneyB 44

    Ok, you just gave me the recipe to make for Grumpy’s birthday (coming up in February!). Every year I make him a carrot cake also because that is his favorite and he always requests it. Like you, I never make the same recipe. I guess because I have never found one I consider so awesome that its a keeper. This looks delicious and pretty and I love that it only has 2 tablespoons of oil in it!! Thanks!!

  44. I LOVE carrot cake. I would use pecans on the outside…and they would not be optional

  45. I love alton Brown, and that cake looks great… My birthday is in March

  46. Carrot cake is the one non-chocolate dessert I’ve been seen buying or ordering–don’t make it because of the pull to chocolate. This looks like a beauty!

  47. One can never have too many cake recipes or too much cake. This will add nicely to recipe collection and inevitably my waistline. Thanks, uh I think!

  48. grace 49

    the frosting-to-cake ratio is absolutely perfect. oh, alton, you are an epicurean genius. and cathy, you do good work–happy birthday to your husband!

  49. I love carrot cake! But no one else here will eat it. So I don’t make it for fear of eating the whole thing myself.

  50. Wanda 51

    I love carrot cake and this one sounds superbly divine. Drooling over the frosting recipe.
    Great tip on using digital scales, makes me wonder how many of my not so great attempts have been because of inaccurate scales.
    Nice photos, really show the cake off in all its glory.

  51. pamela 52

    WHOA!! That cake looks extremely fantastic!! The frosting is so inviting.

  52. wow….wowwwwwww!
    I need to bookmark this and bake it for my mother in-law’s birthday!

  53. LilSis 54

    I’m not a sweet eater at all, but I’ve never been able to pass up a slice of great carrot cake. Your four layered cake looks just perfect. I wish I wasn’t trying to lose weight!

  54. Cindy 55

    I accidentally found your blog and am SO thankful. I have perused through older entries and saved a bunch of recipes. Love the recipes, love the pics, love the photos and am inspired by your chutzpah! A vineyard! Wow. Amazing! I can’t wait to make this recipe. I love Alton Brown, too and all his science-y ways!

  55. This looks delicious! I’ve been wondering when I should break down and purchase a food scale. Clearly, the answer is NOW!

  56. sheba 57

    Awesome blog u have here and this recipe sounds real good..wonderfully written instructions..

  57. I love using my digital scale for baking, and I love carrot cake. The frosting between all those layers looks amazing!

  58. Yes, I agree, this cake looks FANTASTIC!

    One note of interest on grating carrots for carrot cake:

    According to Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, it is best to grate your carrots for carrot cake by hand rather than with your food processor. Evidently the carrots get too “wet” when grated with a food processor.

    Who knew!

    Cheers,
    Kathy Maister

  59. clare 61

    wow this looks beautiful !! I’ll book mark this one for sure!!

  60. Kayola 62

    My ALL TIME FAVE CAKE is carrot cake….this looks so stinkin’ good….my mouth is watering…I have to go to Weight Watchers first tonight and then I want to try it so I have a week to burn it off!!!!

  61. I love carrot cake! This is one I will have to try out. Why did you use sour cream w/vanilla instead of van yogurt…just because that’s what you had in the house? Just wondering. I will however have to get my oven fixed first. I am tired of fiddling and adjusting to get everything cooked properly…it’s not right I tell you!

  62. Louise 64

    Hi Cathy! I was here the other night ooogling your Carrot Cake and just had to share the link on my National Carrot Cake Day post. Hope you don’t mind. It just looks heavenly!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing…

  63. Elaine 65

    I’m a big lover of carrot cake and this looks beautiful.

  64. Amy 66

    Good taste and texture…. not the same cake that Alton Brown has listed on the food network which I prefer. He uses brown sugar as well as nutmeg and all spice.

  65. Essie 67

    As a mother of four picky eaters, I’m slightly amazed at the idea of a 10-year old asking for carrot cake for his birthday, but if your cooking is half as amazing as your photography then I don’t blame him. It’s late here in the UK, but this post is such a visual treat that I’m bookmarking your blog so that I can come back for another look some time.

  66. Jenn 68

    Hey stumbled onto this recipe looking for a different recipe for my son’s birthday. This looks AWESOME. Great pics too, I’m sure this carrot cake is going to come out superb :)

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