Today is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 61! My Dad passed away suddenly almost 5 years ago, and I feel his absence from my life every single day. Although he is not here to share it with us, I still honor his birthday every year with a cake.
My Dad had a HUGE influence on my life and played a big part in shaping who I am today. As I’ve already talked about on my In A Nutshell page, I did not only get my blue eyes and a slightly twisted sense of humor from my Dad, I definitely got his snacking addiction too. He was always munching on something, and I’m the exact same way.
Dad also loved his sweets – he was pretty good about having a balanced diet, but I don’t think he ever met a pie or cake that he didn’t get along with. I asked my Mom the other day if Dad had a favorite type of cake, and she didn’t think so. I personally LOVE carrot cake, so Dad’s birthday was a good excuse to make one, with a little twist. Plus, it’s starting to feel like spring in the air these days (finally!!!!) and a cake bursting with vibrant, shredded carrots, toasted pecans and juicy orange just screams SPRING!
The cake is fairly similar to a classic carrot cake recipe, but with the zest and juice of one whole orange added in. Although fairly dense, this cake is still moist and flavorful thanks to the orange juice, brown sugar, oil and freshly shredded carrots. Please, do not use the pre-shredded carrots from the store, as you will need the moisture from the fresh carrots in this cake! You’ll need 3-4 large carrots. I use my food processor to simplify the shredding task, not just because I don’t feel like an upper arm workout, but because IT’S SO FAST! I use the “Fine” setting on the shredding attachment.
I like to toast the pecans for this cake; it only adds about 5 minutes to the total prep time, but so much extra flavor. Add some extra pecans to the pan for an easy way to decorate the cake. Trust me, it’s worth the added step!!
What sets this carrot cake apart from all other carrot cakes? I refer you to Exhibit A….orange!!
Not only does the zest of the orange round out the overall flavor of the cake, the juice of the orange adds more moisture and sweetness! And my friends, carrot cake is all about moisture.
I mix most of the ingredients of the cake in my stand mixer, but I fold in the pecans and carrots by hand at the end to avoid unnecessary overmixing of the batter.
NOW, can we talk about the cream cheese frosting? Carrot cake without cream cheese frosting is like Mickey without Minnie. This particular cream cheese frosting also gets an additional zing to it with more orange zest, of another whole orange to be exact. The smooth, luscious cream cheese mixed with the tangy orange makes me think of an orange creamsicle. So perfect!
I use 3 full bricks of cream cheese in this frosting recipe! There goes your hope for a healthy, vegetable cake. Sorry!! The reason I use so much cream cheese is to ensure the frosting is decorating-friendly. As this cake has 3 layers, you want the frosting to stay thick, pretty and pipe-able over the whole cake.
If you’re a big carrot cake lover, I urge you to shake things up just a wee bit, just enough to make you question that beloved classic carrot cake recipe, and try this orange carrot cake recipe. It might just be your new favorite spring cake!
Yield 8-10 servings
Your favorite carrot cake, with a hint of orange and smothered in a luscious, orange flavored cream cheese frosting. The perfect springtime cake!
- 2 cups pecans, chopped
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 cups grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 orange (zest and juice (about 1/3 cup))
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups finely shredded carrots (about 3-4 large)
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 - 250g packages cream cheese, room temperature*
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- zest of 1 orange
- Preheat oven to 375 F and spread the chopped pecans onto a baking sheet. Toast pecans for 5 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- Grease and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans; set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and salt until combined.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, or another large bowl, combine the oil, brown sugar, orange juice and zest, and vanilla extract until no sugar lumps remain. Slowly add in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the toasted pecans and carrots by hand.
- Pour the prepared batter into the 3 cake pans, and place in the oven for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for only 10 minutes, and then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
- Prepare the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract on low until the sugar is mixed into the butter, then turn the mixer to medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the cream cheese into cubes and add in stages to the frosting, beating for about 1 minute. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl by hand every so often. Once the frosting is nice and smooth, add in the orange zest and stir to combine. Refrigerate prepared frosting until ready to decorate.
- Frost and decorate your cake with any remaining toasted pecans or orange slices for garnish. Serve.
- Extra cake stores at room temperature, covered tightly, for up to 3 days or up to 7 days in the refrigerator. Cake freezes well for up to 2 months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
- Use full-fat cream cheese if you plan to pipe with the frosting, as light cream cheese has too much water content. Be sure to use the brick style cream cheese, not the spread.