This tutorial is a little picture heavy. I wanted to attempt to show even the novice how easy this cake is to make. The final result is a cake that is beautiful, moist and delicious.
The first thing I like to do is read through my recipe to familiarize myself with the ingredients and with the instructions just in case I need to pick something up at the store or have a question on any of the steps. Once I've read through the instructions, I gather my ingredients. Once I have everything gathered, I start to do the steps that need to be prepped. With this cake, there is some initial prep work which will make the recipe go a lot smoother if you do this in advance.
Here's the ingredient list for the cake (cream cheese frosting will follow):
1 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 pound raw carrots (about 2 1/2 cups finely grated)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of one lemon
About 1/2 hour to 45 minutes before you are ready to start, remove the butter and cream cheese from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Sift your confectioners sugar into a bowl. You will need a small hand grater to grate the zest of your lemon. Make sure you grate only the yellow rind and not the white pithy part of the lemon. Set everything aside until you're ready to make your frosting.
Place oven rack in center of oven. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. You will need two - 9 x 2 inch cake pans. We will line the inside bottoms of these pans with parchment paper. Grab your cake pans and place the bottom on your parchment paper. Trace the bottom of your pans on the paper and cut out. Butter your spray your pans, line with the parchment paper and then lightly spray the paper.
Now let's go ahead and measure out 1 cup pecans or walnuts and toast them. Toasting nuts can be done in one of two ways: the oven or the stove top. I have done this both ways but for this recipe I chose the stove top. In a small frying pan on medium heat, place your pecans or walnuts in the pan. The toasting process can take approximately 8 minutes. You don't have to stir constantly, but you need to be careful they don't burn. So make sure you turn them a few times. You will know they are ready when they begin to toast lightly and become fragrant.
Grab your food processor or manual grater. I used a food processor which makes the job a lot faster. I have it fitted with the blade that is used for grating.
You want to have about 2 1/2 cups carrots. A smidge more or less won't make a big difference. Set them aside.
Now that the toasted nuts are cooled go ahead and coarsely chop those. I have a mini processor I bought years ago for $10 and have gotten every penny's worth out of it. You can use a large processor as well. Either one needs to be fitted with a chopping blade.
Set these aside for now.
Let's start making our cake batter!
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Set aside.
Time for your eggs. I like to crack each egg individually in a small bowl to make sure that they aren't spoiled.
(My eggs are from my daughter's chickens. They are totally free range and delicious.)
In the large bowl of your electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy (about 1 minute).
Gradually add the sugar and beat until the batter is thick and light colored (about 3-4 minutes).
Add the oil in a steady stream and then beat in the vanilla extract. (Couldn't show still pictures of this step - too blurry.)
Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. (Don't over beat, just want your dry ingredients moistened.) Remove the bowl from your mixer and with a large rubber spatula, fold in the grated carrots and chopped nuts.
Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. After about 10 minutes, invert the cakes on the wire rack, remove the pans and the parchment paper. Cool completely.
Let's make the cream cheese frosting.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on low speed, just until blended with no lumps.
Gradually add the sifted confectioners sugar and beat, on low speed, until fully incorporated and smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
Let's assemble our cake:
Place one cake layer, top (slightly rounded) side down, onto your serving plate. Take some small pieces of waxed paper and slip underneath the edges of the cake. I do this so that when I frost my cake my plate stays clean.
Spread about 1/3 of the frosting on your bottom layer. Gently place the other cake, top (slightly rounded) side face down onto the frosting. Spread the remaining 2/3's of the frosting on the top and sides of the cake.
After decorating the entire cake, remove your wax paper pieces. As you can see, this leaves your plate nice and clean.
The cake is very easy to make and guaranteed you will get ooooh's and ahhhhh's.
(Because this is a cream cheese frosting, you need to cover and refrigerate any leftovers.)