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baking Southern
Three-Layer Carrot Cake Recipe-2502

Photo by: Shutterstock, stock photo of a similar dish.
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Carrot cake is fairly ubiquitous, but this one is a bit above the rank and file. Peanut oil, common in the Deep South, is the shortening and makes for an exceptionally moist cake. The cocoa and the large amount of pecans—another crop of the region—give a greater depth of flavor and more texture too. It will look like there’s a huge amount of frosting, but all of it will be used. No one has ever complained to me that there’s too much frosting on their carrot cake. Like many cakes, this one seems to develop more flavor if made several hours, or a day, before serving.

Yield: Makes one 3-layer cake, enough to serve 12–16



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted after measuring
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1¼ cups peanut oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups finely grated carrots
  • 1½ cups not-too-finely chopped pecans


  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
  • 24 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 1½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups chopped pecans


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and cocoa in a mixing bowl, and whisk together to blend. Put the sugars in a large mixing bowl, and whisk in the peanut oil. Then whisk in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. When fully blended, add the flour mixture all at once, and mix just until smooth. Stir in the grated carrots and the pecans. Divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans. Drop each pan sharply onto the counter from a height of about 6 inches to remove any air pockets. Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the center of the layers springs back gently when touched. Remove from the oven, and place on cooling racks until completely cooled, then unmold.

To make the frosting: Cut the butter into 2-inch pieces, and put in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium speed just until the butter begins to become malleable, about 3–4 minutes. Add the cream cheese in pieces, and mix until thoroughly blended. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and mix until blended. Increase mixer speed slightly, and continue mixing for 2–3 minutes, until the frosting becomes light and fluffy. Remove from the mixer, and fold in the pecans.

To assemble the cake: Place one of the cake layers, bottom side up, on a cake plate or pedestal. Spoon approximately a quarter of the frosting onto the layer, and spread it over evenly. Place a second layer, bottom side down, on top of the first, and spread with an equal amount of frosting. Place the final layer, bottom side down, on top of the others, and frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting. Store in a cool but not refrigerated area until serving.


Three 9-inch cake pans, lightly buttered and floured

© 2003 Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

Nutritional information is based on 16 servings.

719kcal (36%)
435mg (18%)
56g (87%)
18g (91%)
122mg (41%)
419mcg RAE (14%)
1mg (2%)
87mg (9%)
2mg (10%)

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