Carrot cake may never have been the flashiest dessert, but as countless dessert trends have come and gone, it still stands tall: an indisputable classic. Its perfection is in its simplicity, proving that not every dessert needs a gimmick to shine. The cream cheese frosting here eschews the norm of copious amounts of butter and powdered sugar, instead mounting cream cheese into a mix of sugar and half and half that’s been thickened to a paste with flour and cornstarch. This results in a frosting that’s not too sweet, allowing the tangy richness of cream cheese to really shine.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a mixer, combine carrots, sugar, brown sugar, and salt, and beat on medium speed until the mixture resembles coarse, wet sand—about 3 minutes. Briefly stir together the oil and beaten eggs; then, with the mixer running, slowly stream into the carrot mix. Continue beating for one minute until smooth.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Dump all at once into the carrot batter, and then mix on low until just combined.
- Grease two 8" cake pans and line the bottom with parchment. Divide the batter equally between them and bake in the center of the oven, rotating once, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean—about 40 minutes. Move to cooling racks and allow to cool completely before frosting.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and sugar to combine, then slowly pour in the half and half until well mixed. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it becomes a very thick, gelatinous consistency. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl if using a hand mixer. Whip on high until completely cool—about 10 minutes.
- Beat the cream cheese in one block at a time; add salt and vanilla. Turn mixer speed to high and beat frosting until light and airy. If the frosting seems too loose, add powdered sugar a bit at a time, beating continually, until desired consistency is reached.
- To assemble, trim the tops of the cake layers until even. Place one layer, cut side up, on a plate, and spread 1 cup of frosting over it. Top with the second layer, cut side down. Frost cake and garnish with roasted nuts, if desired.
Allison Robicelli is a D-list celebrity-chef chef, author, humorist, entrepreneur, general polymath, and all-around good time. You may remember her from such places as Food52, Eater, Food Network, VH1, and many other quirky corners of the food Internet. She is the author of the critically acclaimed cookbook/memoir Robicelli's: A Love Story, With Cupcakes, which has been called one of the funniest food-related books of all time. You should buy it.