Recipe courtesy of Virginia Willis 

Yield: 1 (2-layer) cake


Cake:
Unsalted butter, softened, for cake pans
2¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for cake pans
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans
¾ cup golden raisins
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups canola oil
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 5 carrots, peeled and grated (approximately 3 cups)

Icing:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
½ cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1 (16-ounce) box confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
Garnish: 30 pecan halves
 


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Brush 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with butter. Line with parchment paper. Brush with butter again, and dust with flour. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Add pecans and raisins, tossing to combine and coat. (This will prevent nuts and raisins from sinking to the bottom.) Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and eggs. Beat at low speed until well combined. Add oil in a slow steady stream, pausing as needed if the mixture starts looking too greasy and unincorporated, until mixture is smooth. Add flour-nut mixture, vanilla, and grated carrots. Mix on low speed until combined. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.

4. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center of layers comes out clean and sides start to pull away from edges of pans, 35 to 40 minutes. Let layers cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks. Remove parchment paper.

5. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk or paddle attachment, combine cream cheese and butter for icing. Add vanilla and salt. With mixer running on low speed, add confectioners’ sugar. Blend until smooth and consistent. Set icing aside, or refrigerate until ready to use.

6. Once cake layers have cooled completely and when ready to frost, place first layer on a cake stand or a cardboard cake round, top side down.

7. Using a small offset spatula, evenly cover top of first layer with about 1 cup icing. Spread icing so that it extends beyond edges of cake. Place second cake layer, top side down, on top of icing, pressing to make it level. Using an offset spatula, spread top and sides of cake with about 1½ cups more icing, creating a “crumb coat,” a thin layer that seals in the crumbs. Spread until smooth. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, to remaining frosting add pecans (toasted, if desired), and stir until incorporated. Then, using a clean offset spatula, generously coat chilled cake with remaining pecan-studded frosting. Garnish with pecan halves, if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Note: Grate the carrots in a food processor instead of settling for the preshredded carrots that are too coarse and dry. Also, toss the raisins and pecans in the dry ingredients to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan during baking.