First Birthday Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

When my son turned one year old last week, I wanted to make a delicious-but-somewhat-healthy treat for him and our guests, both little and big.  Nothing too grown-up and chocolate-y, but nothing plain and boring either!  This carrot cake fits the bill perfectly, it’s moist and rich-tasting, but it has 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables.  Fiber city!    I wanted to make a bumble bee-themed cake, because every day I take him to a garden near our house to see the butterflies, flowers, and “bizzzy bizzy bees,” so I tinted the frosting yellow and piped little blue dotted bee trails all over it.  My lovely and talented friend Sarah, author of “Organic and Chic: Cakes, Cookies and Other Sweets That Taste as Good as They Look,” made me the sweetest little bumble bees out of gumpaste, with parchment paper wings. 

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This recipe will make either 24 cupcakes (see Cherry Orange Carrot Cupcakes, an earlier variation) or 3 9-inchx1-inch cake layers. If you make the cupcakes, you will only need 1/2 recipe of frosting.

Carrot Cake

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup apple sauce
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease 3 9″ cake pans. Cut a circle of waxed paper to line the bottom of each one, then lightly grease the paper. Combine sugar, vegetable oil, and apple sauce in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift dry ingredients into the wet and stir to combine. Stir in carrots, pecans, and raisins. Divide batter between 3 cake pans. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean and the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 45 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes I add lemon or orange zest or chopped candied ginger for a more interesting flavor, but for a first birthday I thought the classic combination was just fine.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
4-6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 tsp vanilla extract

With the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, combine butter and cream cheese. Gradually add powdered sugar to taste — I like it less sweet, but sugar makes the frosting easier to work with, so use your best judgment. Add vanilla and combine thoroughly. Color frosting as you like. If you want to make more than one color, don’t forget to reserve frosting for your second color before you start tinting.

To assemble the cake, choose the plate or cake stand you will be serving the cake on. Place three small pieces of waxed paper overlaping around the edges like a camp fire, so that when you put the first cake layer down, there is a layer of waxed paper between the bottom of the cake and the plate or stand going all the way around. This will protect the plate from frosting messes.

Carefully place the bottom layer down in the middle of the cake plate or stand over the waxed paper. Frost the top of the layer, then place the second layer down. Repeat with the third layer. Frost the sides first, then frost the top generously, gently spreading excess frosting down the sides to blend with the frosting there. Decorate as desired — if you need inspiration, Sarah’s book is full of great ideas.

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