If you’re reading this in fairly current times, then you know we are all experiencing a global pandemic. While it’s easy to focus on the fear and panic, there’s also so much joy and beauty in the simplicity all around us. It’s always been there, but maybe we were a little too distracted, a little too busy to see it.
One thing we’ve done a lot of in our neck of the woods is play outside and eat (emphasis on the eat). And while a carrot cake like this is loaded with carrots and raisins, it still is pretty decadent. But as much as I’d love to write paragraph after paragraph of how delicious this cake is and the many ways to eat it, I’d rather share the reality of how it turned out and came to be because it somewhat speaks to current times.
I appreciate the recipes from the Great Depression and World War II baking due to all of the food rationing and shortages, and while food, for the most part, is readily stocked and available, there were a few ingredients I struggled to find. So with switch-ups and substitutions, this cake evolved into what I’d like to consider quarantine cooking, or COVID creation, the great pandemic of 2020 baking, or some catchy name. I know I’m not alone in lacking some essential ingredients to make my favorite things. But in all honesty, I feel like this cake turned out even better because of these little changes! Feel free to modify like I did or keep as is, but here were some of my substitutions:
***I didn’t have dark rum so I made a similar mixture using 2 T water, 1 T molasses, and 1/2 tsp almond extract.
***I couldn’t find buttermilk so I made my own using 1 cup whole milk and added 1 T of distilled white vinegar (or lemon juice works too).
***I didn’t have enough vegetable oil and couldn’t find it at our local store so I instead used olive oil (since olive oil cakes are delicious and moist). I swapped it 1:1 in the recipe.
So if you’re struggling to find things, a little change may not only suffice but make it even better! If you’re looking for something to create as a family, carrot cake is fun and something easily delegated to helping hands. Enjoy!
Olive Oil Carrot Cake
- 3/4 cups golden raisins optional
- 3 T dark rum optional
- 1 cup chopped walnuts optional
- 1 pound carrots coarsely grated
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg or freshly grated
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1½ tsp kosher salt
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar packed
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup olive oil or vegetable oil if preferred
- 12 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- ¾ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- generous pinch of sea salt
- 4-5 cups powdered sugar depending on desired thickness
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat two 9" pans, three 8" pans, one sheet cake pan, or cupcake pans with cooking spray or my preferred choice, butter or Crisco with an even dusting of flour on top. Cakes will never stick to the pan using the latter method.
- If using raisins and rum, heat together in a small saucepan over low heat just until warm, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit until iquid is absorbed and raisins are plump, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes; let cool. Combine carrots and buttermilk in a medium bowl.
- Whisk flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until pale and thick, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually stream in oil. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with carrot mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; mix until smooth. Fold in raisins and walnuts, if using with a rubber spatula. Scrape batter into prepared pans. For even, flat cake layers, I prefer to use Wilton cake strips while baking.
- Bake cakes until a toothpick tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer pans onto a wire rack and let cool, about 10 minutes. Run a knife around sides of cakes and invert onto a sheet of wax paper. Once cooled, wrap in wax paper and foil and store on an flat, solid surface in the freezer. Let cakes freeze completely.
Frosting and Assembly
- Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla extract and salt. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in powdered sugar. Add as much or as little powdered sugar to get your desired frosting consistency. Increase speed to high and beat frosting until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- To decorate, place one cake layer on your desired cake stand. Add frosting between each cake layer, and smooth out flat and evenly between additions. Once all layers are added and frosting is between each layer, decide how you want to decorate. If you'd like a raw, naked look as shown, you do not need to spread any additional frosting on the outside. Simply allow the frosting to hang and move naturally. If decorating all of the cake, smooth to your liking all around and place the cake in the refrigerator to harden before serving. Enjoy!