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RECIPE: This is the easiest carrot cake you can make this Christmas

Pumpkin carrot cake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting. Picture: Natalie Ward.

Pumpkin carrot cake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting. Picture: Natalie Ward.

Published Nov 19, 2021


With Christmas just five weeks away, many people will have already made their puddings and cakes. But not everyone is a fan of rich fruit cakes and puddings, especially after a big Christmas meal.

There are those who prefer something a little bit lighter and not so heavy to finish with – and a good alternative to the traditional Christmas pudding is carrot cake – one of the nation’s favourite bakes. It is comparatively light in texture, so will be easier on the stomach after your meal and can be made in advance, so all that is involved on the day itself is to serve it.

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According to history, carrot cakes first became commonly available in restaurants and cafeterias in the US in the early 1960s. Reports reveal that they were at first a novelty item, but people liked them so much that carrot cake became standard dessert fare, and in 2005, the American-based Food Network listed carrot cake, with its cream-cheese icing, as number five of the top five fad foods of the 1970s.

Here’s a quick recipe you can make.

Pumpkin carrot cake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting

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Yields: 12 pieces


For the pumpkin carrot cake:

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2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

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1 tsp salt

1 ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 ¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ cup oil, vegetable or canola

1 cup granulated sugar

¾ cup brown sugar, light or dark

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 ¼ cup pumpkin puree

½ cup buttermilk

2 cups shredded carrots

1 red apple, peeled and grated

For the brown sugar cream cheese frosting:

240ml cream cheese, room temperature (leave it at room temperature for at least an hour before making)

6 tbsp butter, room temperature

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted, plus more if needed

1 tsp vanilla


For the pumpkin carrot cake:

Line a 23 x 33 cm baking pan with parchment paper and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine the sugars and eggs. Stir in the vanilla and pumpkin puree, followed by the oil. Add the buttermilk alternatively with the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Stir in carrots and apples.

Pour the batter into the pan and spread it evenly in the pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for ten minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Once the cake has cooled, frost it with the icing.

For the brown sugar cream cheese frosting:

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter on medium speed for one minute until creamed and combined. Add the brown sugar and mix on medium for another minute. Mix in the vanilla, then turn the mixer on low and gradually mix in the powdered sugar.

Recipe by food photographer and recipe developer at Parsley and Icing Natalie Ward.

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