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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
*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.