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playing the bunny (lots o’ pics)

Recipe: carrot cake

The other morning as I hauled myself to the garage, I spied this lovely dawn from our driveway:

…because you have to get up early if you want to catch the powder on the big mountains. Beaver Creek is the fanciest up-scale ski resort I have ever had the privilege of sullying with my middle class presence.


first lift up – look at these lovely bumps

I’m not so much a ski bunny, more like a ski tele whore. The only reason we could ever consider skiing at such a posh resort (they have their own Ritz-Carlton on the slopes!?) is because we have Colorado Passes. Instead of $92 for a lift ticket, we paid $380 several months ago for unlimited access to Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, and 10 days between Vail and Beaver Creek. Waugh, bon marchΓ©! Living in Colorado rocks. While I didn’t score any of those fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies served by the Beaver Creek chefs (we didn’t hang out at the village much), my eyeballs enjoyed plenty of eye candy. The terrain is by far the loveliest I’ve ever seen for a ski hill.

prettiest combat skiing ever

the views are nothing to sniff at either

snow-capped peaks make me salivate

It was a bluebird day and it got downright hot (in the 30s) in my opinion. The few inches of powder were tracked up quickly, but it was great fun. Jeremy had himself the most indulgent $12 burger for lunch (he says it was good, but $12?!?!) and by mid-afternoon my legs were begging for the 2 hour drive home.

I paid the price for skiing above my station. I could barely walk around the house yesterday because I was so wiped out. But today I felt like my old self. Got my 2 hours of cardio and then decided it was time to make a cake!

rabbit food
I love carrots, but I hate baby carrots. When baby carrots first hit the market we thought, “What a great thing to bring on hikes or backpacking.” Well, I think they taste like ass. I mean, they’re whittled down from reject carrots and they have *no flavor*. I quickly reverted back to loose or bunch organic carrots which are sweet and delicious and good for you.

shredding carrots

Whenever I trim, peel, slice, or chop fruits and vegetables, Kaweah likes to sit by the compost bucket. She could easily plunge her schnoz into the bucket while we aren’t home, but she never does. She’s a good girl. However, if I chuck bits or peels into the bucket while she’s sitting there, she gets closer and closer until finally her little brain can’t help but instruct her chops to reach out and try to catch something as it flies past. Carrots rank high on her list of all-time favorites. Rather than shred my fingers into the carrots, I just give the pooch the butt ends and she loves it.

that’s a girl

I hadn’t made a carrot cake in about a year. It’s really simple to make and you get this dense, moist, full-of-goodies textured cake. It can be baked in a pan and frosted in said pan or layered up in a less modest presentation. I chose a small 6-inch, 4-layer version.

butter the pans

mix the cake ingredients

I found the recipe from a bed and breakfast website and added walnuts. The cake is chocked full of carrots, pineapple, walnuts, and wonderful spices. Can’t say I have tested any other recipe after I tried this one a few years ago. It’s a keeper, as is the cream cheese frosting.


beating the sugar into the frosting

like silk

The reason it’s important to cool the cakes completely is because slicing a hot cake is a recipe for a lot of swearing. They tend to rip up and crumb when they are still steaming, and this cake does plenty of that when it is cooled. I lop off the dome tops (save for snacking) and then slice four layers of equal thickness. Set a base piece on the bottom, then layer with icing and top off with another base piece, but inverted.

spreading the frosting between layers

Since the cake is crumb-y, I find it essential to spread a crumb coat on the sides before applying the real frosting layer. For presentation purposes, it’s unsightly to have a dark colored cake crumb suspended in a lovely sea of creamy white frosting. That’s just me though. The final cake is a heavy one, so don’t be fooled by the petite size.

just a small slice will do

oh my

a slightly fancier iteration of the same cake

Update [January 16, 2024]: Last year, on a whim, I tested a small batch of chocolate cream cheese frosting with carrot cake scraps and determined that this needed to be a thing. It is *such* a good thing. Usually I will use both vanilla and chocolate cream cheese frostings for some visual and flavor contrast. It works quite well.

on a single layer square cake

one layer of chocolate cream cheese frosting with swirls of vanilla and chocolate on top (with sprinkles)

back to the four-layer 6-inch round

this was for jeremy’s birthday

cross-section view

Carrot Cake
[print recipe]
adapted from Ridge View Bed and Breakfast, Virginia by Eleanor Damico

carrot cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice
2/3 cup cooking oil
2 eggs
1 cup finely shredded raw carrot
1/2 cup crushed pineapple (with syrup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 walnuts, chopped

cream cheese frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsps vanilla extract
pinch salt
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar

chocolate cream cheese frosting (optional – make this instead of or in addition to the cream cheese frosting)
modified from Chocolate Covered Katie
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 oz. dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more), melted and cooled (but not solid)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Dutch-processed)
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional, but I love it)
pinch salt
1 1/2 – 3 cups confectioner’s sugar (I used 200 grams or just under 1 cup)

Cake: Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add remaining cake ingredients and mix until moistened. Pour batter into greased and lightly floured baking pan. For a 9x9x2 inch baking pan, bake at 350Β°F for about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean or with moist crumbs. I baked in 2 6-inch round pans at 375Β°F for 45 minutes (at elevation). Remove cakes from oven and when slightly cooled, invert onto cooling rack out of pan and let cool completely.

Cream cheese frosting: Cream the butter and cream cheese together until completely blended. Add vanilla and salt. Blend. Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar to desired consistency. Note: I usually make this into a layer cake, so I typically make 1.5 times the amount of frosting. If there is any leftover, the frosting works beautifully on cinnamon buns.

Chocolate cream cheese frosting: Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Stir in the melted chocolate until blended. Mix in the cocoa powder, vanilla, almond extract (if using), and salt. Slowly beat in the confectioner’s sugar until you reach the desired sweetness or consistency. Note: if you like your frosting really sweet and it becomes too stiff, loosen it by beating in a little milk (or plant-based milk).

49 nibbles at “playing the bunny (lots o’ pics)”

  1. amanda says:

    that looks amazing. but I don’t know if I’d trust myself around something that delicious. I’d probably eat the whole thing then pop out a food baby later.

  2. mimi says:

    wow, i don’t know what looks better … that delicious carrot cake or those amazing mountains! really great photos, for a second there i *almost* thought i like winter, cold, and snow! :)

  3. jen! says:

    Oh, yum. Out of all of the cakes you made on this site, this looks to be one of the most decadent and rich! I don’t suppose it’s just coincidence that the beautiful frosting job looks so much like the lovely bumps of ski-snow?

  4. manggy says:

    w00t! I love carrot cake with pineapple (I’m a big pineapple fan, obviously). I’m not a big fan of nuts so I’m glad this only has half a walnut, hahaha! :) (I’m just teasing.) Those 6″ pans are great. I don’t feel as pressured to finish huge cakes, height doesn’t count!

    And there is no way you can substitute anything else for cream cheese frosting for carrot cake! They just go together like pancakes and syrup :)

  5. cindy says:

    I want to move to Colorado. To ski. And bake. Right now. God.

  6. Mateo says:

    That cake looks fabulous. And the photos, I just love them. Especially the first one. At first glance it’s an out-of-focus photo of a tree, but then you see the moon, and the crisp mountain in the background. lovely.

    I stay up too late to stare at carrot cake. Is that sad or what?

  7. peabody says:

    Some killer look slopes.
    I give my pup the ends of the carrot too.
    Loving the carrot cake!

  8. Rosa says:

    Your cake looks wonderful! I wouldn’t mind eating a slice of it with my coffee ;-P!

    Thanks for sharing those great pictures of Beaver Creek! Wow, that’s a gorgeous place!



  9. a. grace says:

    i like your cake-to-icing ratio. the beauty of the finished product brings a tear to my eye and drool to my lips. :)

  10. linda says:

    It looks so luscious and delicious! And the first pictures make me want to go to France to ski :)

  11. Woolly says:

    I have a Lab and I used baby carrots to train him. Breeder suggested them over dog treats. I never went anywhere without a bag of them in my pocket. Worked like a charm. Only problem is now every time he sees or smells carrots he starts freaking out, thinking he’s getting a treat! If my dog were around while you made that cake he’s wouldn’t leave you alone.

    And your pic’s of the mountain are amazing. if your looking for fresh power you can take all of mine. We had a foot of it last night and it is a blizzard out now expecting another foot or so!

  12. Curt says:

    You make me want to be in Colorado again… There’s just something about skiing on a real mountain… great shots.

    Even better are those shots of the carrot cake. I love love love cream cheese icing, and a good carrot cake is the perfect transport mechanism to get it all into my mouth! You didn’t get stingy with the icing, either… I think I just went into a visually induced sugar high!

  13. Bridget says:

    I hate baby carrots too! It seems like they’re always wet and soggy.

    I love the 6-inch pans. I try to be anti specialized baking pans, but the small, tall cake is so cute.

  14. brilynn says:

    Carrot cake is one of my favourites, this looks awesome!

  15. Nicisme says:

    I think I will have to get some smaller cake tins now! The cake looks fabulous!

  16. Lynn says:

    Gorgeous cake, gorgeous views. Glad you had such great skiing!

  17. Sheryl says:

    Beautiful photos, Jennifer. Your carrot cake is similar to mine, except I add golden raisins and coconut, too. It’s Dave’s favorite!

  18. Gabi says:

    Your bunny lovin’carrot cake is looking so good I may have to get one together myself. mmmm.
    So great to see you skiing and writing that you are feeling more like your old self! Yay!
    x x x

  19. Kevin says:

    Nice photos. Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts! Because it is so healthy and good for you. :)

  20. Tartelette says:

    Gorgeous carrot cake! Gorgeous pics of the snow…Oh how I miss my skis!! I tried the carrots on my sheltie and that was a no-go but carrot cake I am sure would be a “yes”!!

  21. White On Rice Couple says:

    Ok, here’s the good news….the delicious carrot cake we can duplicate… no problem!!!
    But those turns you guys do going downhill?? God!! No waaay can we duplicate those! We have been skiing off and on with our backcountry ski’s for the past 12 years….yes, 12 years. But everytime we go out, we FALL and FALL and FALL. We just went out 2 weeks ago and spent 95% of the time trying to remember how to be on the snow again, let alone try to remember how to turn.
    I tore my boots off the binder, got two huge blisters and got sunburnt like a raisin. Still, can’t wait to get out again in a few weeks. And can’t wait for the snow to finally melt so we can get into the backcountry without having to ski to it. We’re tired!!
    Maybe another 12 years of skiing will get us to ski like you guys!

  22. Susan at StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    Our one and only ski trip was to Beaver Creek 2 years ago. It was gorgeous, but ridiculously overpriced. Jeremy got off cheap with his $12 burger! Husband and daughter did great with ski lessons. I wiped out after 30 minutes and ended up with a mild concussion! I looked like a total dork in front of extremely cute Swiss ski instructor. After seeing your beautiful photos, I’d risk it again!

    The carrot cake looks wonderful! That is one of my favorite cakes. I always end up with Silver Palate’s recipe, but yours looks even better. I love all the layers. More room for frosting!

  23. Mrs.W says:

    What stunning photos! And your dog is such a sweetie–mine are heathens who don’t hesitate to defile the garbage and compost bins at their earliest pleasure.

  24. Shell says:

    That cake looks stunning. Now I may have to see if I have some 6 inch pans here.
    Someday I will learn to ski – it looks like great fun!

  25. jenyu says:

    Amanda – a food baby? ha ha – what a hilarious term!

    Mimi – if you give me 2 weeks, I can make you actually like winter :)

    Jen – hmmmm, good point! I never thought of it that way, but who could resist? hee hee

    Mark – silly. You can omit the walnuts (the original recipe doesn’t have walnuts, so perhaps it was someone after your own heart?). Don’t tell me you can’t find 6 inch cake pans in the Philippines ;) If not, I can send you some! Cream cheese frosting is dangerously wonderful. Dangerous for the Ass Reduction Plan (ARP).

    Cindy – there are a couple of houses on the market in my hood, lady! Come on over. I’m a great neighbor. Ask my neighbors.

    Mateo – not sad at all. There are worse things you could stay up late to stare at ;)

    Peabody – lucky puppers!! :)

    Rosa – thanks sweetie!

    A. Grace – ha ha, thanks! If you make a good icing, you’ve got to use it, right?

    Linda – mmmm, France… for both skiing and fooding. Something I have yet to try.

    Woolly – if it’s a lab then you should expect that reaction to just about anything edible (or inedible for that matter) :) Dude, I’d so love to have all of that snow!!

    Curt – awwww, why don’t you guys move back? :) I’d love to have a neighbor who BBQs like you!! I’ll trade cakes for BBQ ANYDAY!

    Bridget – I hear ya on the anti-specialized pans. I actually use the 6-inch pans a lot for my chiffon cake recipes because one batch makes 2 9×2 pans and 1 6-inch pan. Very handy instead of throwing out the extra batter.

    Brilynn – thanks!

    Nicisme – oh do! The small cakes are so much fun to make and they are also fantastic gifts.

    Lynn – thank you :)

    Sheryl – hey love! Good to hear from you. Dave’s got GREAT taste in cakes!

    Gabi – yay! Cake love is going around. xxoo

    Kevin – ha ha, that’s right, it’s Good for you :) I’d send you one in the mail if I could be sure it wouldn’t arrive in a heap, Kevin!

    Tartelette – how cute! My dog would eat both carrots and carrot cake. I think your dog has a more discerning palate than mine!

    White on Rice Couple – you guys crack me up!! Come on out to my neck of the woods and I’ll have you carving in ONE DAY. And then you can teach me to cook some of those amazing recipes I drool over on your blog :)

    Susan – hey, at least your ski instructor was cute! I dare say the customer service at BC is amazing as is the scenery. I feel for you on the concussion bit. I got slammed from behind by a rider at Breckenridge last year and wacked my head on the ground falling backwards. Craaaaazy. Layers are a vehicle for frosting :)

    Mrs. W – oh, I’m guessing your pups are smarter than mine! She’s not obedient so much as simple-minded. Makes it easy to put the fear of God in her ;)

    Shell – 6-inch pans are great fun… says the girl who loves small food :) hee hee. Skiing is definitely fun. You’ll enjoy yourself more if you overcome a fear of falling (that is, learn how to fall and it will be great!).

  26. manggy says:

    Oh we have them here, I just haven’t bought one yet… Dunno why… I should, though, I love petite cakes!

    I once had a carrot cake with chocolate icing. HELL TO THE NAW! It was just too much and blech. I have to tell my friends about the ARP as they keep fingering the cream cheese frosting when I make it!

  27. jenyu says:

    Mark – I try to avoid buying too many cooking gadgets since my kitchen is pretty packed to the hilt! I think you’re right about chocolate icing on carrot cake, it’s just wrong. *gasp* you can’t serve your friends food and them tell them to exercise!! ;)

  28. Christine says:

    I will enjoy the photos of your lovely carrot cake – something I’m craving a bit but since I ate 15 In N Out double-doubles recently, I have to refrain from staring at them too long :)

  29. jenyu says:

    Christine – 15!! I am so jealous! I would have gladly traded 20 carrot cakes for one of those burgers :(

  30. bookaholic_au says:

    What a beauty! I’m afraid my loyalty’s been taken already by my grans, but yours has better presentation. Maybe a combo????

  31. jenyu says:

    BA – it’s just cake, you can do whatever you want with a recipe.

  32. Rums says:

    Hey there… I chanced upon your beautiful website through a search engine query and I’m glad I did! I’ve blogrolled your page. I’m about to have guests this weekend and was going to try this recipe out. But all I’ve baked so far are some cinnamon chocolate muffins and a square cake and cookies! How will this turn out if I pour the batter into muffin trays? I don’t have any baking equipment except the basics!

  33. jenyu says:

    Rums – I think it should work out great in muffin-form. Just keep a close eye on them in the oven for cooking time. They will cook faster, so just start checking when the tops look ready and use a toothpick to check for doneness (if gooey, then continue baking until only crumbs stick to the toothpick). Good luck!

  34. Rums says:

    Oooh Jen, I was looking out for a response from you. I was going to bake the day after I posted here. I did go ahead and try out a recipe from ‘Joy of Baking’ – it is so so similar to yours. Thanks a million, I guess I’ll make carrot cup cakes for my husband’s office party sometime later. It did come out real well :) Women like you inspire us to bake :D – here’s my cake –

  35. jenyu says:

    Rums – great job!

  36. Carrot Muffins « The Constant Physicist says:

    […] based off of this carrot cake recipe from userealbutter, which I first made as a cake — and it makes a great cake, even subbing half the white flour […]

  37. Susan says:

    At home today, not at work as usual and after making the decadent bakers’ pizza dough for later…I’ve tried yours before and it’s GREAT! I think I’ll make these into cupcakes. Last time I made a cake (red velvet) I used 8 in. pans for a 9″ recipe and had cake volcanoes in the oven :( I like your carrot cake recipe due to the pineapple addition which I used to use….can’t wait to consume the results. My cats watch and seem to want the veggies, but then they just bat them around the house for a while!!!

  38. impel says:

    Hello! I am from Russia and yesterday I discovered your blog! it’s great!!! I like your photjs very much and your recipes – they are something!
    I decided to start with a carrot cake/ I am going to bake it on Sunday – it’s my day off and then i’d like to write about the results/
    Thanku for such interesting, tasty and beautiful ideas!

  39. Sophie says:

    I found this page via google, searching for “carrot cake recipe real butter”. It looks delicious, but I have to point out you used cooking oil, not real butter. What?

  40. Juliana says:

    I just want to say, This is my go to recipe every year for the hubby’s birthday. Here I am again this year. Best carrot cake recipe ever. I get rave reviews all the time, and am now known for my amazing carrot cake, and I finally had to leave a comment to let you know. Thanks so much.

  41. Marggie says:

    Hi. I live in northern ireland. Can upon tell me how many ounces to a cup. Dying to try this

  42. jenyu says:

    Marggie – 8 ounces to a liquid cup, but for a solid measure cup, you would do well to google the ingredient in ounces per cup. Hope that helps!

  43. Heather says:

    Hi there, I have been quietly make frequent use of the glorious rows of recipes on userealbutter. except for this carrot cake – I have been looking at it all this month: I want to make it, but haven’t been able to work out THIS recipe without the pineapple – (pineapple allergy)- I know it must be perfect or you wouldn’t have posted it! In order to substitute I was thinking that I should slightly increase the oil and the shredded carrot – or simply omit pineapple and leave the recipe be – —- if youve got time: what do you think?

  44. jenyu says:

    Heather – I wonder if you can sub chunky applesauce (or even regular applesauce) in place of the pineapple? That would be my first instinct. If not that, then perhaps increase the carrot with a tiny bit of juice (like apple juice?)

  45. Heather says:

    Jenyu – Ah-ha! marvelous idea , much appreciated :)

  46. evie says:

    I love carrot cake, and wishing I can make some.
    like yours
    Don”t have oven at home. I only have
    turbo broiler and microwave.
    Pls. Help, I want to try your
    so yummy carrot cake..Can”t wait..

  47. jenyu says:

    evie – maybe you could try to use a friend’s oven.

  48. ohthelights says:

    I a newbie in the kitchen. I don’t find an oven that often. But after making this I have to ask. Do you really put in the frosting 1lb confet. sugar?I have never made frosting before. I had 200 gr of cream cheese so I thought cutting down the sugar but in the end -by tasting and tasting- 200 grms of sugar seemed good if not too much. I think the combination with the cake needed sth more refreshing. Well next time I ll try mascarpone with heavy cream. [But, really now, don’t you find 1 lb ofconfect. sugar too sweet?]
    On another note, (after given advice) I replaced the cooking oil with butter because I only had olive oil.Would have it been okay if I had used olive oil still? My result was not bad but it wasn’t anything excellent either. I used a 9 inch pan so in the end I didn’t have layers. Maybe the butter I used made it a bit dense? *sigh*well I look forward to making the pumpkin tea cake.this time Ill just put olive oil. My pumpkins await!

  49. jenyu says:

    ohthelights – it is indeed 1 lb. of confectioner’s sugar, but you can adjust it accordingly and it shouldn’t be a problem.

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