A Surprise Carrot Cake (With Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting)

a surprise carrot cake

It’s Friday the 13th of October, the perfect time for a late night post! How spooky… 

This recipe, however, is not.

A few days ago, it was my sister’s birthday. One thing that my family always does on birthdays is bake for each other. In fact, it’s basically the end of the world if there is no homemade cake or cupcakes, and we find ourselves questioning whether or not the people we call “family” even love us. Is that weird? Anyway, my sister hinted for a carrot cake a couple of weeks ago and, having never made one before, I took to Pinterest to find the perfect recipe. 

I decided on Ali‘s “The BEST Carrot Cake” recipe for the cake, and Ramona‘s “Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting” recipe for the frosting.

The first thing you’ll want to do is get those carrots grated. I had a packet of small-medium-sized carrots (NOT baby carrots), and ended up grating 15 of them to make up one pound of fresh carrots! It took a while, which is why I recommend doing this first. Next, you’ll want to preheat the oven and mix the sugars and oil together in a LARGE bowl. Yes, large. This carrot cake recipe is enough to make three 8-inch cakes or two 9-inch cakes. Add the eggs into your mixture, one at a time, and the vanilla extract too. A smooth mixture is what you should have now. In a separate bowl, whisk all of the dry ingredients together and add it to the mixture. Lastly, carefully fold in the grated carrots and optional pecan nuts or walnuts. 

The batter may look highly unappetizing at this point, but it will all come together in the oven. 

My favourite part of the entire process was when the cakes were baking in the oven. I can’t even begin to describe how wonderfully festive the entire house felt due to the smell of the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.) in the air. Don’t worry, that whole pound of carrots baked away too! I put the cakes in the fridge after they cooled, and this made it easier to cut later on.

a surprise carrot cake

For the frosting, you can whip the cream until peaks form. In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla extract until just combined. I wouldn’t want to overmix the cream cheese mixture as you may end up with that infamous soupy frosting. Another way to avoid that is by ensuring that your ingredients are all completely cold, and by using a brick of cream cheese (like Lancewood). I added about a teaspoon of lemon zest to the cream cheese mixture as well, as I quite like the taste of lemon frosting with carrot cake. I highly recommend trying this! The last step is to carefully fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until just combined. 

The frosting is thick enough to spread in between layers of cake, and you can pipe with it too!

I didn’t add the nuts into the cake batter. Instead, I crushed them and sprinkled them in between each layer of cake. I decorated the top with whole walnuts, crushed walnuts and crumbs from the leftover cake. Just like adding lemon zest into the frosting, I highly recommend using nuts somewhere in/on this cake. 

a surprise carrot cake

Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
  2. 1 1/2 cups sunflower oil
  3. 1 cup castor sugar
  4. 1 cup brown sugar
  5. 6 eggs
  6. 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  7. 3 1/4 cups flour
  8. 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  9. 2 teaspoon baking soda
  10. 2 teaspoon salt
  11. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  12. 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  13. pinch of ground cloves (or a pinch of mixed spice)
  14. 1 pound (approximately 450g) finely-grated fresh carrots
  15. (optional: 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts)
  17. 1 (250g) brick cream cheese, cold
  18. 3/4 cup castor sugar
  19. pinch of salt
  20. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  21. 1 1/2 cups cream, cold
  22. (optional: 1 tsp lemon zest)
  1. For the Carrot Cake, preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Grease and line three 8-inch round baking pans with parchment paper. You can also use two 9-inch baking pans instead!
  3. In a large bowl, mix together oil, castor sugar, and brown sugar until combined and smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, and mix until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients until combined. Add the dry ingredient mixture to the mixing bowl, and beat on medium-speed until just combined. Remember to scrape down the pan to be sure that everything is well mixed.
  5. Fold in the grated carrots by hand, until combined. If you would like to add nuts, stir them in at this time as well.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Allow them to cool on a wire rack until they reach room temperature. Put the cakes in the fridge for a few minutes before cutting the dome tops off and frosting them.
  7. For the Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting, whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.
  8. In another bowl, mix the cream cheese, castor sugar, salt and vanilla together. You can add the lemon zest in at this time too. Do not over-mix!
  9. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until combined.
Love, Kaylyn http://lovekaylyn.co.za/
Which festively-spiced cakes do you recommend? 

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  1. Chelsea
    October 14, 2017 / 2:22 PM

    It really was THE BEST carrot cake i have ever had. Super moist, tasted amazing and the lemon zest brought out all the other flavours amazingly. Was truely the best!!!

    • October 21, 2017 / 10:38 AM

      Yes, that what I was hoping for! Thank you x

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