An easy and deliciously moist, doctor-the-box recipe for carrot cake! Perfectly paired with homemade cream cheese frosting!
We’re spending more time in the kitchen these days while we’re self-isolating at home. With fewer trips to the grocery store, I’m using what’s in the pantry (sometimes fun, sometimes not. :) I found a box of spice cake mix I had forgotten about purchased back in the fall that was fast approaching its ‘best if used by’ date. Eureka. . .I struck gold!
I’m a fan of ‘doctoring the box’ when it comes to a cake or cupcakes. The dry ingredients are measured and ready to go which cuts down on prep time. With just a few substitutions like buttermilk for water and an additional egg, your cake or cupcakes will taste homemade, especially topped with your favorite homemade frosting recipe!
I made this cake as a treat to enjoy over Easter weekend. It was hubby-approved, who prefers pie over cake and declared it ‘moist and delicious’. . .quite an endorsement coming from a non-cake eater! I baked it in an 8 x 4 loaf pan. The batter will yield two 8 x 4-inch loaves so you’ll have one to enjoy and one to share or freeze. If you don’t have two loaf pans, you can make this recipe as a 9-inch two-layer cake or skip the layers and make a sheet cake using a 13 x 9 inch pan.
For easy removal, I like to line my pans with parchment paper. Spray your pan and then line your pan with parchment paper that hangs over the edge of your pan. The spray will keep your paper in place and from slipping so no batter gets underneath the paper. Parchment is nonstick and you can lift the cake out of the pan using the ends of the paper. Parchment paper also helps regulate the oven temperature and can neutralize hot spots as a barrier between the pan and your batter.
Carrot Cake from Spice Cake Mix
Makes: (2) 8 x 4-inch loaves, (1) 2 layer 9-inch cake or (1) 13 x 9-inch cake
1 box Spice Cake Mix (I used Duncan Hines Deliciously Moist Cake Mix)
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple in juice, drained, reserving juice
Reserved pineapple juice + water to equal 1 cup
2 cups finely grated / shredded carrots (preshredded carrots from the grocery store will be too dry and hard. For best results use a box grater or food processor, removing any large pieces)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans + more for sprinkling on top of frosting if desired
Optional: Add 1/2 cup coconut and/or 1/2 cup chopped raisins to batter if desired (baking time may need to increase)
Cream cheese frosting, recipe to follow
Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare pan(s) by spraying baking spray with flour or by lining pans with parchment paper. Blend cake mix, water/pineapple juice mixture, vanilla, oil and eggs in large bowl with mixer at low speed until moistened, about 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
Stir in carrots, pineapple and pecans until incorporated throughout batter. Pour batter into pans and bake immediately.
Baking times will vary depending on pans and oven. Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and continue to cool on wire rack until completely cool before frosting.
(2) 9 inch pans and 9 x 13 pan: 23 – 28 minutes
8 x 4 loaf pans: 40 – 45 minutes
Cream Cheese Frosting
This is a delicious basic cream cheese frosting recipe for carrot cake and perfect for sweet rolls too. Adjust amount of sugar to your taste and for your preferred sweetness.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 – 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted so lump free
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Beat softened butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy.
Start with 3 cups of sugar, add more after tasting to desired sweetness. Use 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel) in place of the regular cream cheese if desired.
If you don’t have a boxed spice cake mix in your pantry, substitute a yellow cake mix and add 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
Fill your pan(s) only 3/4 full so batter is at least 1 1/2″ below the rim of the pan to prevent batter overflowing pan.
Oven temperatures vary, depending on brand, age, whether electric or gas. Make sure you preheat your oven at least 20 minutes. If you plan on baking more while we’re all hunkering down and self-isolating, invest in an oven thermometer. They’re inexpensive and you can order one on Amazon that will do the trick for around $7.