Could this Mini Carrot Cake be any cuter? No. No it could not. And it’s arriving at just the right moment — Easter weekend seems like the ideal time for a carrot-based treat.
Lindsey scaled this recipe down just for us, and promises that even though the cake looks like it could serve four people, it will easily be polished off by two. I’m going to trust her on that. I’m all for this addition to our Dessert for Two series.
Before we jump into the recipe, I’d love to know your take on carrot cake? Are you a lover or a hater? (I’m not sure I’ve met someone who was sort of in between.) At our house, Ben Blair is the biggest carrot cake fan — it’s often his preferred birthday cake. I can’t wait to try this one and see what he thinks. How about you? Any carrot cake fans at your house? Maybe this recipe will sway the whole family.
Here’s what Lindsey says:
If anyone had told me that I would come to love, not just like, love, carrot cake when I became an adult, I’d have said they were nuts. Carrots were definitely not my BFFs. I dutifully choked them down at dinner, because dessert. But never by choice. So why would anyone want to eat them in cake? And then one day I came across a carrot cake recipe on Epicurious that blew my mind.
My mom has long been carrot cake’s biggest fan and I wanted to make her a carrot cake from scratch. Usually, because of my aversion to carrot cake, I made one from a doctored cake mix. This Epicurious cake had rave reviews – four forks! That’s kind of a big deal. So I tried it, and yeah, never looked back.
The carrot cake recipe to beat all carrot cake recipes.
You may be wondering what makes this particular cake so special? Well, to be honest, I’m not sure except to say that it is the right amount of batter to carrots. It’s perfectly dense and never, ever dry. (I’m not saying that other word.)
Of course over the years I’ve made my share of small tweaks to get it to the point where my family likes it best. That includes more nuts (pecans are my fave), dried cranberries (no raisins, please), candied ginger, coconut, orange zest, and extra spices.
What hasn’t changed is the pillowy, tangy cream cheese frosting. With just a hint of maple and the perfect ratio of butter to cream cheese, it’s everything you expect frosting to be, and then some.
Carrot cake, for me, is one of those all-purpose, all-occasion kinds of cakes. Like chocolate cake. It’s great for holidays (perfect for Easter and Christmas), birthdays, Sundays (Mondays too!), game days, spring, summer, winter, fall, and everything in between. I’ve made wedding cakes with this recipe.
The recipe is adaptable for anyone’s dietary preferences — gluten free, non-dairy — you’re set.
Because this cake has come along with me for so many years and so many occasions, I’ve tried other little modifications here and there beyond the add-ins. For example, it’s great made with gluten-free flour. Ground flaxseed mixed with water can replace the eggs. A different non-dairy frosting can be used.
The recipe leaves a lot of room for playing around, is what I’m saying. I’ve found out that what is in one’s carrot cake is a very personal thing. (But really, no raisins. Go for the cranberries. Walnuts are okay, but pecans are maple-y. And always add the coconut.)
This cake is the only carrot cake recipe you’ll ever need again. Promise. And like that lovely Fluffy Lemon Pudding from a few weeks ago, I scaled this down for a darling, and oh-so-delicious carrot cake for two. (But if you’re in need of a crowd-pleasing carrot cake, please make the full recipe! It counts as breakfast, too, I’m told.)
Skip the grater and use the food processor instead.
Most people grate the carrots for carrot cake. I employ a different method. It’s not that I don’t like shreds of carrot in my cake, it’s that over the years, I’ll be honest, I’ve gotten a little lazier. Sometimes I want my cake dang it! I can’t be bothered with grating. However, I can be bothered with using my food processor. I finely chop the coconut, nuts, and carrots, in that order, in my food processor.
I want every bite of this dense cake to be full of all of those things. My dried fruit of choice is always cranberries. (Raisins are okay in a pinch. Dried cherries and blueberries will work too, if you feel like going for a different flavor.) To take the flavor up about a bajillion notches, I add freshly grated orange zest. I’m telling you, don’t leave that out. It takes the cake from great to fantastic.
My husband and I have been debating about how this little cake might look like it’s more like four servings instead of two. But I promise you, friends, it’s two. You can make yourself feel better by cutting it into four little slices if you want. But we all know you’ll be going back for the other half of your “piece” at some point. Better just save yourself the trouble and go big or go home.
Mini Carrot Cake for Two Recipe
Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 1999
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cardamom (optional)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
5 tablespoons oil (I like avocado or coconut oil)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup raw carrots, finely chopped or grated
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, finely chopped or shredded
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons crystallized or candied ginger, minced
1/3 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Toasted coconut flakes (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 6-inch round cake pans and dust with flour; tap out any excess. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom, if using. Set aside.
3. Place sugar in a medium mixing bowl along with the orange zest. Using your hands, rub the zest and sugar together to release the fragrant oils from the zest. It will look like wet sand. Whisk in the oil and egg. Whisk vigorously until well-combined.
4. Whisk in the dry ingredients.
5. Switch to a spatula and fold in the carrot, cranberries, coconut, nuts, and crystallized ginger until well-combined.
6. Divide the batter between the two pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes. When the cakes are done, the tops will spring back when lightly touched. These cakes aren’t fluffy, they are dense. When a toothpick is inserted into the center of the cake, it may not come out clean.
7. Place cakes, still in the pans, on a cooking rack. Let cook for about 10 minutes. Gently loosen the cakes from the pan and place on the cooling rack to finish cooling. Chill the rounds until ready to assemble cake.
8. While the cakes are cooking, prepare the frosting. Beat the cream cheese and butter together in a mixing bowl with a stand or electric hand held mixer until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and maple syrup all at once. Beat slowly at first, then as the mixture comes together more, turn the speed up to high. Beat until very light and pillowy. Refrigerate, if needed, before assembling cake.
9. To assemble cake – peel the parchment paper from the bottoms of the cake layers. Place one on a cake plate or stand. Top with about 1/3 of the frosting and spread almost to the edges. Place the remaining cake layer on top. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes, if desired. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. It benefits from at least 30 minutes in the fridge to allow the frosting to set up before cutting.
Thank you, Lindsey. I can’t get over how cute this is!
Okay, Friends. If you make this, you know we’re dying to hear what you think. I’m hoping it adds the perfect finishing touch to your Easter feast.
P.S. — Another mini dessert: Tiramisu for two.
Credits: Recipe adaptations and photos by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.