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Carrot Cake with Orange Curd

Rich and dense, but not heavy, this twist on a traditional carrot cake introduces a bright pop of flavor with a layer of sweet-tart orange curd.

Recipe inspired by "Orange-Glazed Carrot Cake," Southern Sideboards

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 3 hours 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 3 minutes
Yield 12 servings
Calories 513 kcal

Ingredients

For the Orange Curd

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup orange juice , preferably freshly-squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into small pieces

For the Cake

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar , lightly packed
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 cups finely-shredded carrots (about 1 pound of whole carrots, peeled; use a box grater or the fine-shredding disc of a food processor to shred)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)*

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 12 ounces block-style cream cheese , room temperature
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter , room temperature
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
US Customary - Metric

Instructions

Make the Orange Curd

  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together all ingredients except for butter, until combined. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8-9 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, until melted and smooth. 

  2. Transfer curd to a non-reactive bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Make the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in the middle position. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch cake pans with parchment rounds and lightly spray the papers and sides of the pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugars until thick and smooth (you can also use a hand or stand mixer here). Slowly add the oil in a steady stream, while whisking, until fully combined and emulsified. Stir in carrots and pecans (if using). Fold wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until no streaks of flour remain.
  3. Divide cake batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake 30-35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cakes cool in the pans for about 15 minutes. Invert cakes from pans onto wire racks to continue cooling, peeling off the parchment rounds. Cool completely.

Make the Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add confectioner's sugar in 3 additions, scraping bowl each time. Beat until smooth.**

Assemble the Cake

  1. Place one cake layer on a platter. Spread the cake with the orange curd, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with the second cake layer. Decoratively pipe or spread cream cheese frosting onto the top of the cake. Serve, or refrigerate for storage. Cake is better on the second day. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving to allow frosting to soften a bit.

Recipe Notes

*My family enjoys a prominent pecan flavor in carrot cakes, so I generally use 3/4 cup chopped nuts. For a lighter density of nuts, use 1/2 cup.

**This recipe makes enough cream cheese frosting to decoratively pipe the top of the cake, as I've done here. To make rosettes, use a Wilton 1M tip, piping swirls in a circular pattern from the center of the cake, outward.

The entire cake can be made and assembled a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. If making ahead and storing, let the cake sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.