Recipe (slightly) adapted from The New Best Recipe. [Recipe makes (1) 9" x 13" sheet cake or (2) 8-inch rounds].
I don't know if I could pick out my favorite cake, but if forced to, carrot cake may just take the ribbon. My top three complaints with most cakes are (1) that they're too dry and crumbly, (2) they lack flavor, and (3) that the frosting is too sweet and heavy. With this recipe, the moistness that the carrots provide combined with the warmth from cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, along with the tanginess brought out through the homemade cream cheese frosting avoids these common faults, making for the perfect combination.
12 1/2 ounces (~2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound carrots, peeled
10 1/2 ounces (~1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
3 1/2 ounces (~1/2 cup) light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups canola or vegetable oil
Cream Cheese Frosting: (double if using (2) 8-inch rounds)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 ounces (~1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease your 9" x 13" pan (or two 8-inch round cake pans), line the bottom(s) with parchment paper, and spray the bottom(s) once more.
For the cake, begin by whisking the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. In a food processor, use the shredding disk to shred the carrots. Add the carrots to the dry ingredients and set aside. Clean out the processor, and add the sugars and eggs. Process until frothy, about 20 seconds. While the machine is running, gradually add the oil, roughly another 20 seconds. Scrape the mixture into your carrots, and stir with a rubber spatula until combined. Portion out the batter into your pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for several hours.
Once the cake is cooled, release from the pan(s). Although not necessary, I recommend freezing the cake for an hour or two. This will make it easier to spread the frosting when the time comes.
For the frosting, add the cream cheese and butter to a stand mixer bowl, and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until combined. Lastly, add the powdered sugar and beat on low until uniform. Scrape down the sides and beat on high for 10 seconds. If the frosting is too thick for your liking, beat in some milk, a teaspoon at a time.
Pull the cakes from the freezer, frost, and let sit for an hour (to let them come back to room temperature) before serving. If desired, garnish with toasted walnuts.