Every Birthday Carrot Cake

I had a long-distance running buddy back in the day – after the birth of my first child. This was before things got really crazy and a second little one came along. We trained together on the weekends and occasionally ran races together, too. While on the subject of weight gain, she piped “just eat some carrots and go to the gym.” For some reason, the comment was cute and funny enough to stick with me all these years. I must admit, I don’t go to the gym (though I own a beloved treadmill). But, I do love carrots: roasted, sautéed and especially on my birthday. Preferably inside of a sweet and scrumptious cake -covered with decadent, devilish Neufchâtel cheese icing – sprinkled with chopped nuts – shining brightly with candles. Not that I am picky or have any birthday cake expectations.

Speaking of candles, there 31 of those bad boys this year. That’s a bit of elbow grease for the cake maker – and a lot of light for one cake.

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I first made myself this carrot cake years ago. The original recipe, for a 13×9-inch sheet cake, came to my door in 2007 via a Cooking Light magazine. I have tweaked the ingredients a bit over the years – and transformed the one-layer cake into a small tower. Still, a taste of this carrot cake takes me back to the first birthday I baked (and devoured) it – and every birthday since.

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This is an almost no-fail recipe. I say almost, because it did fail me (once). It was January 19, 2012. I was “very pregnant” with my soon-to-be son, “Littlest Guy.” My sweet and precocious daughter, “Snu Magoo,” was two-years-old. The hubby, “Abba,” was working all day and overnight at the hospital – he wouldn’t make it home for my birthday. So, I loaded up “Snu Magoo” into the car, waddled with her into the grocery store and bought all of the ingredients for the cake. Then, we got to baking. At this point, a case of what I call “baby brain” struck. “Baby brain” is my excuse for making mistakes anytime I am pregnant or shortly after.

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Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was a distraction. I incorrectly measured the carrot, adding four cups instead of two. The baked cake emerged from the oven gooey and soupy. It was, literally, a hot mess. I may have even shed some tears (while eating the Neufchâtel cheese icing, which was completely edible). Back to the store we went to remedy the situation. I bought myself the best carrot cake sold at Whole Paycheck and called it a day. Honestly? It wasn’t have as good as a homemade carrot cake. Now I measure the carrots with a surgeon’s precision.

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This year,”Snu Magoo” gave me the best birthday gift a mom can receive – a homemade card. “Abba” helped with the art project – just a wee bit.

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The munchkins gobbled this cake down. They are a sucker for any form of cream cheese icing, like their Ima. The savour of Neufchâtel cheese icing, spiked with copious amounts of vanilla, can only be described as a cross between creamy ice-cream and rich, velvety cream cheese frosting. The cake itself is incredibly moist and laced with soft raisins, crunchy pecans and the essence of fruity pineapple.

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I hope that your family enjoys this special cake as much as ours does.

Warm wishes,

Shanna

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Click Here to Print Recipe

Light Carrot Cake with Neufchâtel Cheese Frosting

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut (not sweetened)
  • 1/3 cup pecans, roasted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups grated carrot, any excess water drained
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed pineapple, drained well
  • Canola oil cooking spray with flour

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • 1 (8-ounce) block Neufchâtel cheese, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Additional grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup pecans, roasted and chopped

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two standard, circular, 9-inch cake pans with the cooking spray.
  • Lightly spoon the flour into measuring cups and level with a knife.
  • Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl.
  • Add sugar, desiccated coconut, chopped pecans and raisins; stir well with a whisk.
  • Combine oil and eggs; stir well. Stir the egg mixture, grated carrot, and drained pineapple into flour mixture.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.
  • Bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out completely clean and the cakes are golden. My cakes baked for 25 minutes.
  • Cool pans completely on a wire racks, about 30 min.
  • Remove cakes from pans and cool directly on wire racks, about 15 minutes more.
  • To prepare the frosting, combine the butter and Neufchâtel cheese in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium-speed until smooth.
  • Beginning at low-speed and increasing to medium-speed, beat in powdered sugar and vanilla just until smooth.
  • Spread the frosting over both cakes. Stack the cakes and spread frosting down the sides.
  • Decorate the top of the cake with pecans and carrot. Serve and enjoy!

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©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, shannaward.com (2013-2014), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.

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106 thoughts on “Every Birthday Carrot Cake

  1. That is a cute piece of wisdom. For some reason, I picture your buddy as an energetic rabbit.

    I’ve never heard of Neufchâtel but I see that it is similar to cream cheese which I adore with carrot cake. In fact, I love cream cheese icing so much that sometimes I think it is the sole reason why I love carrot cake.

  2. Lovely story, Shanna. And what adorable kids you have 🙂 It is interesting how carrot cake is not popular at all around here. I have a hard time imagining what this cake would taste like, especially with the pineapple in there as well. Not surprised though it’s better than any store-bought cake, even when it’s from Whole Paycheck. Happy Birthday again!

    1. Thank you, Stefan. What a kind note! I think that you will like carrot cake, judging from the recipes on your blog. Still, we won’t know until you try. I would send you some, but that may not work out so well! 😉 A belated happy birthday to you, as well – it seems that we (almost!) share birthdays. Best regards, Shanna

  3. Raw carrots I can deal with. Cooked and it’s pushing it. Excepting when it comes to carrot cake – something I haven’t had in years. I used to love it. And have been meaning to make one since last summer. Must, must, must!

    1. Let me know when you try a carrot cake (vegetables are great in cakes – zucchini is another example) – and your recipe. Anything from your kitchen will be outstanding, delicious, etc. etc. 😉 Thank you for the kind note, Johnny. Warm wishes, Shanna

  4. Carrot cake is one of our family classic favorites. I use my grandma’s recipe which she created…though she put nuts in. I am a purist and do not like anything in my carrot cake, no nuts, raisins or any other fruit. I will admit I am very picky, it is a cake I almost never have anywhere else because nothing compares. I don’t even try to lighten mine up, ah, the sinful indulgences! Happy birthday again!

    1. Thank you, Gretchen, for the visit and the note. Your grandma’s recipe sounds divine. Who doesn’t adore pine nuts? 🙂 Do give this recipe a try – it does not taste light in any way. And send me your recipe, too – yum! Best wishes, Shanna

  5. Happy Birthday, Dear Shanna! And what a lovely story! Carrot cake is certainly one of my absolute favorites. The handmade card is just precious. You are so right… Simply the perfect gift. Enjoy your day with your lovely family, Shanna! Best–Linda

  6. Next to chocolate, carrot cake is my favorite. Do you know in all my years of cooking and baking, I only made it a couple of times? Somehow my carrot cake never turns out as good as I hope! So I’m happy that you share your almost no fail recipe. Thanks, Shanna! And happy, happy birthday to you, blogger buddy! Love that card from Snu Magoo, what a treasure to keep. XOXO

  7. i hope these work as cupcakes! you had me at “spiked”…anything spiked must be devilishly good. ❤ happy birthday…again! (btw, the link to print doesn't come up)

    1. You are a complete genius, Vera… Cupcakes! Yes! They would look gorgeous with a bit of beautifully piped frosting. I appreciate the warm birthday wishes and sweet note. Have a wonderful Thursday. Best, Shanna PS Thanks for the heads-up on the link.

  8. This looks delicious! I have never made a carrot cake before and I think this will have to be my inaugural carrot cake! Happy (belated) birthday, Shanna! Many happy wishes for adventure and fun in the next year!

  9. What a cute story, Shanna! This cake looks delicious! My fiance doesn’t care much for sweets (sadly), but carrot cake is one of the exceptions. Bookmarking this recipe for the next time I bake him a carrot cake. Thanks for sharing! 😀

  10. Shanna, thanks so much for sharing your story and recipe for the gorgeous carrot cake. I can’t wait to try it! Since I’m not able to eat regular cream cheese, I may have to frost half of the cake with vegan cream cheese so that I can devour a few slices myself.

  11. What a lovely post! Being a parent of young kids has made me very emotional…. just seeing Snu Magoo’s card made my eyes well up 😉
    The cake recipe sounds fab – I bet with my trusted egg replacer I could whip up a vegan version of this easily. Next family birthday isn’t till April… I don’t think I’ll be able to wait that long!

    1. Chava, Thank you for taking the time to leave a heartfelt note. Yes, being a parent to young children is a special and joyous experience. Let me know if you make the cake vegan and how you do it! I would definitely be open to making more of my foods vegan. Warm wishes, Shanna PS My husband’s birthday is also in April; it will be here before you know it!

  12. So lovely for sharing your story Shanna. This looks like the best carrot cake I’ve ever seen, a great cake to celebrate your birthday. Lots of warm wishes, Sofia xxx

  13. so beautiful cake Shanna!and a beautiful birthday too, i think .. these are the things that you’ll remember in the years .. The decoration of the cake is just perfect! lovely!ah .. and .. soon you will receive another blog award .. (i’m sorry, but I’ve already decided :)!)

    1. Thank you so much, Melissa. It was so lovely to receive a birthday card from my eldest – she is just learning to write! 🙂 So, we have entered into an era where she can make special projects for her parents. Enjoy your day; it’s wonderful of you to leave such a sweet note. Best wishes, Shanna

  14. Happy birthday Shanna, I just commented elsewhere about the number of bloggers with January birthdays, myself included. I adore carrot cake too, I’ve even made a version like yours, with pineapple, but my favourite has preserved ginger included. I think I might have to bake carrot cake today, I’m salivating at the thought! Your children are gorgeous!

    1. Sandra (and Leah) – Thank you for the warm birthday wishes. And, Sandra, a very happy January birthday to you, as well. Yes, we certainly do have quite a few bloggers with birthdays this month! Your carrot cake sounds amazing with crystallized ginger. I will have to throw a large handful in next time; I adore ginger. I appreciate the kind words! Best regards, Shanna

  15. I love carrot cake, but cream cheese icing even more. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with cream cheese icing. 🙂 My younger daughter has already requested a banana chocolate chip cake with cream cheese icing for her birthday. However, MY birthday cake must always be chocolate!
    I’m glad you had a great celebration with your family!

    1. I am with you, Merril – it is all about the icing. The banana chocolate chip cake sounds divine… almost like a Southern hummingbird cake, but with chocolate. Happy early birthday to your daughter! I am also a huge lover of chocolate – it is my first, favorite dessert – in almost any form. You must share your chocolate cake recipe. Thank you for the lovely note! Best wishes, Shanna

  16. Shanna! This is such a charming and lovely post, I read it raptly and then while smiling without fail. Your little ones are so so so cute and adorable. Good job! 😉 And your carrot cake looks yum yummy. A very Happy Birthday!!! More stories and more recipes please!

  17. Happy Birthday, Shanna! Such a sweet post and I loved reading through the story of the carrots and your running partner. The cake looks lovely (I adore carrot cake) and your homemade card is simply the best. Your children are just adorable. 🙂

  18. Shanna, such sweet card from your little one. Precious. I hope you had a fantastic birthday filled with guiltless pleasure eating your decadent birthday cake! Carrot cake is my husband’s favorite and we usually have a carrot or carrot-inspired cake for him every year. 🙂 Thanks for your lovely post!

    1. Thank you, Martine, for the warm birthday wishes. I hope that you share your recipe for carrot cake soon. I know that your family only eats the very best, especially when it comes to your homemade cakes. They really are masterpieces. Have a lovely day. Best regards, Shanna

      1. Thank you for that note of confidence in my cake baking skills but I think I’ve only made carrot cake once, and that was so many years ago that I can’t even remember much of it. I’ve been collecting recipes over the years and I think this year I’ll finally make a homemade cake for my carrot cake loving husband! 🙂 Thank you for sharing, it’s given me a little more motivation to try making it again! 🙂 Best!

    1. I think your husband will love this cake, Jillian. I am still surprised that the original recipe is from Cooking Light – it doesn’t taste light in any way! 🙂 Thank you for your sweet note; have a great day! – Shanna

  19. Nice! I agree “Whole Paycheck’s” carrot cake is not half as good as a home made. I have had a few of them for my birthday, in the past! I like the idea of baking yourself a cake. I’ve never done that before!

    1. Thank you for the fantastic note, Seana. You can bake your own cake – or recruit a friend to do it for you. 🙂 There is nothing more special for a friend on their birthday than making their cake (hint, hint to all of your pals!). 🙂 Have a great weekend, Shanna

  20. Omg Shanna, it WAS your birthday and I didn’t wish you a Happy Birthday on time. I have just read this post, been struggling to finish my backlogged messages for days. Belated Birthday Greetings to you. I hope you enjoyed the carrot cake because it looks very delicious. I love carrot cakes. I love eating carrots too..they are great for weight losing. I hope you use that treadmill of yours. I have an elliptical that I probably used three times in 2013. What a shame! Don’t worry about failures, one morning I made muffins and forgot to add the sugar. They stuck on the paper cases, apparently the sugar forms the crunch that keeps them from sticking on the paper. The card from SM looks fabulous. I have had a long day and now I’m off to the mall to treat myself to a cup of coffee and to do some window shopping. The mall closes at 9pm. I’ll probably eat my dinner there. I wish you a wonderful weekend. Xoxo to SM and LG. Best….Liz

    1. Hi, Liz, Thank you for the sweet note and the warm birthday wishes. I pulled a wrapper off of a cupcake last night and thought “it comes off because it has sugar!” Haha. I hope that you have a lovely weekend, as well! Warm wishes, Shanna

  21. This brought back memories for me, Shanna. Carrot cake, the very cake I was first introduced to when I was living in Hawaii. The cream cheese frosting was out of this world; very delicious! I hope you had a great birthday this year. The card from your children is priceless; so artistic and original. Yes, nothing beats homemade. You can eliminate all the junk ingredients and adjust the sweetness. Looks delish, Shanna. Best regards to Abba, the beautiful Snu Magoo and LG. 🙂

    ~PRCCSS 🙂

    1. Hello, PRCCSS! I am glad that you stopped by. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memory. The first bit of carrot cake sticks with you – it must be the cream cheese frosting! I hope that you and your family have a beautiful Sunday. Warm wishes, Shanna

      1. The pleasure is all mine, Shanna. Yes, the cream cheese might have something to do with it, but the cake was just delicious! I bet yours as well. Thank you. I hope you are all well. Warm regards, Anna 🙂

  22. Darlin’, you will never catch up with my antiquity, so no worries about the number of your candles! After all, carrot cake will surely keep you young forever. 😀
    xoxo! May you have many, many, many additional and very joyful years following a delightfully happy birthday this time.
    Much love,
    Kathryn

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