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Recipe Makeover: Carrot Cake


Mirelle wrote in the Busy Cooks Forum about this fabulous cake in response to my requests for recipes for makeovers. She says, "I have made this recipe at least 3 times. It is wonderful. I portion and freeze a part as it is a very large cake, and it is as good afterward. I begin 3 days in advance and make the different stages in advance: frosting, candied pecans, etc..."

Towering Praline Carrot Cake

Prep Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 47 minutes


1 lb. (6 medium) carrots, sliced (3 cups)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2-3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/3 cup cooking oil
6 eggs, slightly beaten
8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup flaked coconut

Praline Sauce:
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Candied Pecan Halves:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. orange juice
1/2 cup pecan halves

Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Frosting:
8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
5-3/4 to 6-1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar

For Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, cook carrots, covered, in a moderate amount of boiling water until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain; cool slightly and chop in food processor using several on-off turns, or coarsely mash with potato masher (should have about 1-1/2 cups).

Grease and lightly flour three 9x1-1/2-inch round cake pans; set aside. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, granulated sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add oil, eggs, pineapple, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed about 1 minute to combine all ingredients. Fold in the 1 cup pecans, the coconut, and mashed carrots.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes before loosening edges and removing from pans. Cool cakes thoroughly on wire racks.

While cake is baking and cooling, prepare Praline Sauce, Candied Pecan Halves, and Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Frosting.

Praline Sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the 3 tablespoons butter. Add the 3 tablespoons brown sugar and the cream. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a full boil. Reduce heat and boil gently over entire surface for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool.

Candied Pecan Halves: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the 1/4 cup brown sugar and orange juice. Add pecan halves, stirring to coat. Spread in a lightly greased 8x8x2-inch baking pan. Bake for 12 minutes or until nuts are browned and syrup is bubbly, stirring once. Pour out onto a lightly greased baking sheet, separating into single nuts. Cool on wire rack.

Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large mixing bowl beat together cream cheese, the 1/2 cup butter, the 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and the 1 teaspoon vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually add about half of the powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually beat in enough of the remaining powdered sugar to reach spreading consistency.

To Assemble: Place one of the cooled cake layers, top down, on cake plate. Use about 1 cup of the frosting to pipe or spoon a rim about 1 inch wide and 1/2 inch high around outer edge of cake layer. Then spoon about 2 tablespoons frosting in the center 1-1/2-inch of that layer, leaving an unfrosted area or ring. Spoon and spread about half of the Praline Sauce into the ring (sauce will not fill ring). Add a second cake layer, top down, and repeat frosting and sauce as above. Add final cake layer, top up. Frost top and sides of layers with remaining frosting. Garnish top with Candied Pecan Halves.

Store cake in refrigerator. Makes 16 servings.

The Makeover

To makeover this cake, I first decided to make the cake two layers instead of three. This way I could use a standard cake mix. Carrot cake mixes are pretty good, but I thought that adding more carrots, pineapple, nuts, and coconut to the cake it could be even better. Some grated white chocolate makes the texture very tender and flavorful.

Purchased thick caramel sauce is substituted for the Praline Sauce. I just omitted the Candied Pecan Halves (they are simple enough to make as directed in the recipe if you like), and used canned cream cheese frosting dressed up with some additional cream cheese and sugar.

If you have a free weekend, try the two cakes and see if the makeover is an acceptable substitute. I know it won't be as good in a head to head comparison, but as a quick substitute for entertaining or just for your family, I think it's really good.

Go to the next page to see the updated recipe!

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