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My First Carrot Cake

yield: 1 9-inch cake
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Ingredients

For the Carrot Cake

  • 2 cups (16 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups (11 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup tightly packed (7.5 ounces) brown sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 7 cups tightly packed (24 ounces) peeled and shredded carrots (see baker's notes)
  • 3 1/2 cups (14 ounces) roasted and salted pecans, chopped into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (1.5 ounces) cornstarch
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

For the Carrot Cake

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 (F). Spray three 8-inch cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper circle; spray the parchment paper as well.
  • Place 2 cups cubed unsalted butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and melt over medium-low heat. Increase to medium and simmer, stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula; the butter will hiss and pop. Continue cooking and stirring, scraping up any brown bits that form in the bottom of the pan, until the butter is golden yellow and perfectly silent. Pour into a liquid measuring cup, along with the toasty brown bits, to cool on a wire rack while you work with the other ingredients.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine 2 cups granulated sugar, 1 cup tightly packed brown sugar, 6 large eggs, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Mix on low to moisten, then increase the speed to medium and whisk until fluffy and thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce to medium-low and stream in the brown butter (from the 2nd step), then add the flours. Once smooth, use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and fold any stuck ingredients into the batter. Fold in the carrots and the pecans.
  • Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans, pouring about 32.5 ounces of batter into each pan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with few crumbs attached. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack to room temperature before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1/3 cup cornstarch, and 3 large eggs.
  • Pour 1 1/2 cups whole milk into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and ladle 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the eggs, whisking to combine. Repeat with a second and third ladleful, then pour the warmed eggs into the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the custard turns thick and lumpy, about 3 minutes. Once it begins to bubble sluggishly, continue cooking and whisking for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Pour the custard into a baking dish to speed the cooling process and press plastic wrap directly against the surface. Refrigerate until thick and cool, about 1 hour. Alternatively (see baker's notes), pour into an airtight container and press plastic wrap directly against the surface. Refrigerate for up to 1 week, then let stand at room temperature for an hour until warmed to 68 (F) before proceeding to the next step.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat 2 cups cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the paddle and the bottom and sides of the bowl, then switch to the whisk attachment. Whipping on medium speed, add pudding a few tablespoons at a time, then drizzle in 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more and whisk for a few more seconds to ensure that no lumps remain. The buttercream should be light and creamy, but thick enough to hang upside down from a spoon.