I’m a carrot top who loves carrot cake! I’ve made many over the years, never quite as unusual as this one which has a cheesecake top baked right with the batter. I got the idea from the NYTimes, although they did theirs as a sheet cake. My version uses a favorite batter recipe–not too sweet, with pineapple and carrot in the mix, and has toasted pecans on the sides of the cake.
For fun and whimsy? I’ve included little candied carrot threads to put on top of the frosting doodles. After the party guests have gone, this cake keeps well wrapped and chilled. (I often slice and individually wrap the extra pieces.)
One tip: To make the cake easier to slice cleanly, lightly pulse the drained crushed pineapple with a hand-held immersion blender, or food processor before adding to the batter.
Carrot Layer Cake with Cheesecake Topper
- FOR THE CAKE:
- 2, 9-inch cake pans, greased well with vegetable shortening, and lined with parchment paper circles
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon (Saigon cinnamon is my favorite for potency)
- 1 tsp powdered ginger
- ¼ of a nutmeg, finely grated on a microplane OR ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup pure cane sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup canned shredded pineapple, juice drained, and shreds pulsed just a bit in a food processor, or with an immersion blender
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups grated carrots, medium to fine shredded
- FOR THE CHEESECAKE TOPPER:
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup full-fat sour cream
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- Pinch of salt
- FOR THE CANDIED CARROT THREADS:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- ½ carrot, peeled, cut into two chunks and very carefully shredded into very thin shreds
- FOR THE FROSTING:
- 2, 8-oz blocks of cream cheese to make 16 oz.
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- Pinch of salt
- 5 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted to ensure no lumps
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- For the sides of the cake: 1 cup finely and freshly chopped toasted pecans
- MAKE CAKE: With oven rack in center position, preheat oven to 350°. Grease pans with vegetable shortening and line with parchment circles; grease parchment a bit as well. In a sifter, combine flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices. Sift into a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment on medium low speed, mix sugars, vegetable oil, eggs, pineapple and vanilla until blended well. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients ½ a cup at a time, scraping sides of bowl and mixing just until no flour streaks remain. Stir in carrots. Set aside while you make cheesecake topper.
- MAKE CHEESECAKE TOPPER: Using an immersion blender or blender, blend softened cream cheese with egg and sour cream until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Sift in sugar and salt, whisk until smooth. Set aside.
- ASSEMBLE CAKE FOR BAKING: Spread a little less than half of the batter into one of the prepared baking pans, and the rest of the batter into the other. Carefully pour/spoon all of the cheesecake mixture over the batter in the little-less-than-half pan. Place both pans in oven and bake for 40 to 43 minutes until the layer without cheesecake topping is baked to a golden brown and springs back at the touch. Remove this cake layer from oven and continue baking the remaining layer for 10 more minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with bits of the topping, but no cake batter. Remove second pan from oven. Cool cake layers in their pans on a rack.
- MAKE CANDIED CARROT THREADS: Combine sugar and water in pan over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and begins to bubble. Turn heat to medium low; Stir in carrot threads and simmer for 15 minutes. Using a fork, lift threads from syrup and spread on a piece of parchment paper to dry a bit while you make the frosting.
- MAKE FROSTING: In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat softened cream cheese with butter and pinch of salt until smooth. Sift in powdered sugar and vanilla. Note: For a stiffer, sweeter frosting, you can add more powdered sugar.
- ASSEMBLE CAKE: Once cool, insert a knife around the rims of the cake pans to ensure a clean release. Remove un-topped cake layer and invert onto serving platter first, removing parchment. Spread with frosting. Remove parchment from second, cheesecake topped layer and place cover the frosted layer. Using an offset spatula, spread frosting around the sides of the cake, reserving a bit to pipe decorative dollops on top of the cake. Press chopped toasted pecans over the sides of the frosted cake. Pipe dollops of remaining frosting on top of the cake. Decorate each with candied carrot threads. Serve.