Now is around the time I start getting really tired of winter. January and February are probably the two most mediocre months out of the year if you ask me. The holidays are over, discarded pine trees line the sidewalks—simply thrown away like yesterday's news, and it's always cold cold cold. Every year I toy with the idea of moving back to Texas, and as fleeting as those thoughts are, I do miss the 40 degree "winters" we had there.
April, on the other hand, is a month I like. April marks the beginning of a cascade of happy events. Game of Thrones comes back (!!!), wonderful items such as garlic scapes and squash blossoms hit the market, the sun will still be out when I leave work, and I can buy peonies without paying $15 a stem. But until then, I might as well make use of the ridiculous amounts of root and cruciferous vegetables that beg their way into my shopping cart. I've already made these beet burgers twice this month, I've made cauliflower pasta every single week for the past six weeks, and of course I couldn't go without making a carrot cake...or two...or three. I've been going absolutely cuckoo for old ass (some would say "vintage") bundt pans, and it would have been irresponsible of me to not test them all.
For the most part, they turned out beautiful, though some more tasty than others. But before I tell you what I think makes the best carrot cake, I must first inform you of a most stringent requirement they all need to meet. You see, I have this thing about carrot cakes; for it to even be considered for consumption, I must always first ask if it contains raisins. Answer: yes? Get OUT of my face!" Answer: no? "Gimme, gimme gimme!" It is in my strong opinion that raisins should stay far away from these otherwise delicious slices of gold. Finding out a carrot cake has raisins is almost as disappointing as finding out what you thought was an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie is really an oatmeal raisin cookie.
Ahem, with that out of the way, here is what I think makes the best carrot cake: it has to be very carroty, with a little walnut for texture, not too sweet (which is why we're getting rid of the traditional cream cheese frosting entirely), slightly fluffy and not too dense, not too oily, and with just the right amount of spice. But I get that we can't all have the same opinion, so if you absolutely must, I guess you can throw in some raisins, just don't tell anyone you got the recipe here okay? It will be our little secret ;).
Yields one 8 to 9 inch bundt cake (about 10 cups in capacity) or two smaller 6 to 7 inch cakes (about 5 cups each in capacity).
1 tbsp softened butter for greasing pans
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup neutral oil such as canola or vegetable
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (150 grams) packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 lb carrots, coarsely grated
1 cup walnuts
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk, plus more to taste
Prepare your cake pan(s) by greasing the inside with butter using a pastry brush, making sure to get every crevice, then dusting the pans with a thin layer of flour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside while you prep your wet ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add oil, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat with the paddle attachment for 2 to 3 minutes until well incorporated and no visible chunks of sugar remain. Add eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer, add carrots and walnuts, and fold them in by hand with a spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour if using one large bundt pan, or 30 to 35 minutes if splitting the batter between two smaller pans. The cakes are done when a thin skewer (or spaghetti noodle) inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in the pans for 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, gently turn the cakes onto a serving plate. Let cool completely to room temperature.
Make the glaze right before serving (the cake stores much better un-glazed if you don't want to serve it immediately). Combine powdered sugar and 1/4 cup milk in a mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. If you would like a thinner glaze, add milk a teaspoon at a time and whisk well after each addition until you reach your desired consistency.
Drizzle glaze over cake and serve immediately.