Easter is fast approaching, so it only made good sense to do an Overthinking Classics on the unofficial dessert of Easter – the carrot cake. I have no idea why carrot cake has anything to do with Easter. Growing up we were far more likely to indulge in a lemon meringue pie and carrot cake was more of a birthday thing. But I suppose I do have an idea. It probably has everything to do with the Easter bunny. In the video below I do dip into the origins of the cake but I don’t talk about the more fanciful trappings of Easter. I really should’ve because this holiday is strange. Stranger than a portly guy shoving himself down a chimney? I would still say yes. A bunny, a mammal, who leaves eggs is hella weird. But that’s not why we’re here, let’s talk cake.
Now, as usual, I’ve gone against the basic premise of this series and strayed from what is considered classic. I can’t help it. I am who I am. My slight alteration this time is the addition of pineapple curd. I don’t particularly like pineapple in my carrot cake. I find it makes the cake almost too moist. But I do like the taste of pineapple. So a created a pineapple curd to fill the cake with. And I liked it so much that it’s become carrot cake cannon in this house.
There is one aspect of this classic cake that I would never mess with and that’s the cream cheese frosting. I am not a frosting person. Most of the time I prefer my cake naked, except when cream cheese frosting is involved. Now, I won’t lie, I did think about swapping the cream cheese for goat cheese and/or adding a creme fraiche. But I put my bougie tendencies aside and delivered a true blue classic. The three classic ingredients that form the arguably best frosting in the world: butter, sugar, and cream cheese.
To finish the cake I went with a simple bluebell motif. You could just slap the frosting on the cake and serve it. If I were you, that’s what I would do. I love designing cakes but when I get halfway through the decorating process I also question my sanity. I nearly went blind placing the white sprinkles that make up the bluebells’ stems. I’m not saying this to discourage you, if you would like a weekend craft project this is a good one. Plus, you can eat it. I just want to be upfront and say this motif took me a couple of podcasts to complete and more patience than I was aware I had, so proceed with caution.
So that’s just about everything you need to know about this Carrot Cake with Pineapple Curd. If you’re new to decorating layer cakes, check out the video below. It covers the whole process step-by-step. And honestly, once you do it once it’s pretty much the same for any cake. So if you have a slew of birthday cakes in your future, this is a handy technique to have in your back pocket.
Carrot Cake with Pineapple Curd
- 3 6" cake pans
- 1 small saucepan
- 1 Stand or hand mixer
- 1 Large Piping Bag
- 1 large round piping tip
- 1 offset spatula
- 1 cake smoother
- 1 cup raw pecans
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- ¾ cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cups light brown sugar
- 1 cup neutral oil
- ¾ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2½ cups shredded carrots **
- ½ pineapple coarsely chopped
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ lemon juiced
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp cold unsalted butter cut into cubes
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 227g (8oz) cream cheese softened
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 3 cups icing sugar sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
To Decorate ***
- cornflower blue color gel
- white sprinkles
- small piping bag
- small round tip
For the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line 3 6” cake pans with parchment paper before setting them aside.
- Pour the raw pecans into a dry skillet and toast them until they emit a nutty aroma. Set them aside to cool.1 cup raw pecans
- Sift the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a large bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1½ tsp baking powder, ¾ tsp kosher salt, ½ tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- In a separate bowl place granulated sugar, light brown sugar, Greek yogurt, eggs, neutral oil, and vanilla. Whisk to combine.¾ cups granulated sugar, ¾ cups light brown sugar, 1 cup neutral oil, ¾ cup full-fat Greek yogurt, 3 large eggs, 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Coarsely chop the pecans you toasted earlier. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in thirds and mix until no streaks of flour remain. Finally, fold in the shredded carrots and chopped pecans.2½ cups shredded carrots **
- Divide the batter across the three prepared pans. Smooth the tops of the cake with a small offset spatula and pop them in the oven. Bake the cakes for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted in the center of the cakes and removed cleanly.
- Let the cake cool in their pans for 10 minutes before removing them. Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and let them cool completely. ****
For the Curd
- While the cakes are in the oven, make the pineapple curd. Start by adding the pineapple to a food processor. Blitz until smooth. Pour the puree into a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a bowl. Use a rubber spatula to force as much of the pineapple juice through as possible. Stop when you have about a cup’s worth. *****½ pineapple
- Add the egg yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Whisk to combine and set aside. In a small bowl place the cornstarch. Add the lemon juice. Whisk to form a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the pineapple mixture and transfer everything to a saucepan.2 large egg yolks, 2 tbsp granulated sugar, ¼ tsp salt, ½ lemon, 1 tbsp cornstarch
- Place the saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk constantly until it comes to a simmer. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens and becomes glossy. Take the pineapple curd off of the heat and immediately add the butter and stir until the butter melts. Transfer the curd to a bowl, cover, and chill for a minimum of 2 hours.2 tbsp cold unsalted butter
For the Frosting
- Place the cream cheese and butter into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. You can use a hand mixer for this as well. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth and no lumps remain.227g (8oz) cream cheese, ½ cup unsalted butter
- Sift in 3 cups of icing sugar and return the bowl to the mixer. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Start out mixing at a low speed so the sugar doesn’t go everywhere. Beat in the vanilla and set the finished frosting aside.3 cups icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract
- When you’re ready to assemble your cakes, slice the domes on top of your cakes off with a serrated knife. Place a cake board with a dollop of frosting on a turntable. Place your first cake layer in the center, cut-side-up.
- Spoon half of the curd in the center and pipe a border of the cream cheese frosting around it. Place another cake layer on top and repeat these steps. Finally place the final cake layer on top, cut-side-down.
- Next, use a large offset spatula to coat the entire cake in a thin layer of frosting. This is called the crumb coat. Chill the cake for 30 minutes before proceeding.
- Once the cake is chilled, pipe the remaining frosting all over the cake. Use a combination of an offset spatula and smoother to refine the final shape of the cake.
- From here you can serve the cake as is or you can try my simple bluebell-inspired design. Mix some of the leftover frosting with cornflower blue color gel and pipe little dots onto the cake using a small piping bag fitted with the smallest round piping tip you can find. Add stems to my flowers using white sprinkles.cornflower blue color gel, white sprinkles, small piping bag, small round tip