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Zoe Francois' Ultimate Carrot Cake

Ultimate Carrot Cake

byZoë François
Total 4 hours and 15 minutes
Active 60 mins
Makes One 8-inch cake, about 10 to 12 servings
This cake chock-full of carrots, shredded coconut, dried fruit, and spices is one of my most requested. It is moist and delicious. To make it a bit more elegant, candy the carrot peels and use them to decorate the sides.
Candied carrot peels
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) water
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Peels from 2 pounds (900 grams) rinsed organic carrots
Carrot cake
  • 4 cups (450 grams) loosely packed finely grated carrots
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (280 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (200 grams) lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 milliliters) mild-flavored oil (such as vegetable oil)
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of half a large orange
  • 1 3/4 cups (150 grams) loosely packed sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup (160 grams) chopped dried apricots
Cream cheese frosting
  • 1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) cream cheese, cold
  • 1 1/2 cups (330 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract, optional
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 5 cups (600 grams) confectioners’ sugar
    1. To make the candied carrot peels: Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
    2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, stir together the sugar, water, orange blossom water, and salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the carrot peels and then turn off the heat. Let sit until soft.
    3. Take individual peels out of the syrup, remove excess syrup with your fingers, and then lay each peel on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the carrot peels start to curl up, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on their thickness. Then turn the oven temperature to 100°F and bake until completely dry; this can take a couple hours. Transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 48 hours.
    4. To make the carrot cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease three 8-inch round cake pans with soft butter, then line them with greased parchment paper.
    5. In a food processor, chop the carrots finely and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg until well combined. In a separate large bowl, whisk together both sugars, oil, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, coconut, apricots, and carrots. Then add the dry ingredients and mix just until uniformly combined.
    6. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and spread evenly using a small offset spatula. Gently tap the pans on the counter several times to release excess air bubbles. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let the cakes cool completely before removing them from the pans.
    7. To make the cream cheese frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and paddle often. Add the butter to the cream cheese and continue mixing until smooth, scraping down the bowl often and making sure none of the cream cheese or butter is sticking to the paddle, or it may create lumps. Mix in the vanilla, lemon extract (if using), and lemon juice. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and continue mixing until smooth. If the frosting is thin and soft, you may want to chill it to give it more body and allow you to fill and decorate with more ease. Just cover the bowl and refrigerate until the frosting is firm, up to 24 hours, then return to the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until smooth.
    8. To assemble the cake, remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake layers and place one layer on a serving plate. Using a metal decorating spatula, spread a 1/2-inch layer of the frosting over the cake, making sure it goes all the way to the edge. Place the next cake over the frosting and top with another layer of frosting and then repeat with the last layer.
    9. Next, do the crumb coat. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides, then refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes.
    10. Decorate the cake with a smooth layer of the remaining frosting over the top and sides. Press the carrot peels vertically onto the sides of the cake. Serve the cake immediately once you put the peels on the cake.
      This recipe has been updated and may differ from what was originally published or broadcast.