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Molly's Carrot Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 10 min (includes cooling time)
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
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Carrot Cake:

Nonstick cooking spray, for the cake pans

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 

1 teaspoon hawaij (see Cook's Note)

1 1/2 cups neutral oil, such as canola 

1 cup packed brown sugar 

3/4 cup granulated sugar 

4 large eggs 

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or extract 

2 cups shredded carrots 

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted 

Spiced Frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature 

3 cups powdered sugar 

2 tablespoons heavy cream 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon hawaij 

Pinch of kosher salt 

Rainbow carrots, peeled into ribbons with a peeler, to decorate

1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked, to decorate


  1. For the carrot cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment. Set aside.
  2. Combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and hawaij in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Whisk in the vanilla.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and mix until about 90% incorporated. Add the carrots and sesame seeds and mix to incorporate (and by this time, all of the flour mixture should be incorporated as well).
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. For the spiced frosting: Add the butter and cream cheese to a large bowl. Mix with a hand mixer until smooth and combined. Add the powdered sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Then add the heavy cream, vanilla, hawaij and salt. Mix until combined and smooth.
  6. Cover the cakes with frosting and stack. Use the carrot ribbons to roll into rose shapes and place on top of the cake. Decorate with the rosemary and serve!

Cook’s Note

Hawaij is a Yemeni warm spice blend that's heavy on the cardamom and can be used to flavor baked goods, frosting or even sprinkled in coffee! You can make a substitute by mixing 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1 tablespoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.