Maple Walnut Carrot Cake

September 26, 2009


Cakes, Cupcakes, Dough & Desserts, Fall, Local Eating, Recipes, Seasons, Summer, Winter

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I am predisposed to love September. There’s no better season than the onset of fall, I say, with its cool currents slipping in under the warm air; the sound of geese squeaking in the morning, shuttering in their bulbous bodies before they decide to fly away. And nothing beats wild grapes along the side of the road—I love their sweet, sour smell hanging in the air, ready to surprise two bicycling nostrils.

But what I love most about September is its people. My sister, my father, both of my grandfathers, my mother and father in law (to be), and me, too… all September babies. All of those lives coming into the world is really something to cheer about. Clearly our forefathers were having fun at Christmastime—and happened to make a long string of personal holidays nine months later.


This year I had a beautiful day, full of cupcakes, good wine and some twenty-five elementary students singing me the birthday song over a batch of recently baked zucchini muffins. It was quite blissful, especially since I’m currently anticipating a lot of wonderful changes…none the least of which is a trip down the aisle a week hence—followed promptly by a long drive down Highway 1.


But before once celebration is swallowed by another, I’d like to take a moment and pay homage to the homage recently paid to my sister Lily, who turned a year wiser this month. May she eat carrots in the form of cake for decades to come. And may I always be the one to bake them that way.

We started the tradition of carrot cake last year, when I made some cupcakes. This year, things got a little more serious with the addition of some key, New England ingredients, and an added layer to a full-grown version. Even though we abandoned the diminutive cakes, we stuck with some important elements, including toasted walnuts and classic cream cheese frosting, smoothed on top, over the sides, and in a thick layer between. It was a great way to mark a year’s worth of improved baking. Just a subtle, nutty and sweet hint of autumn’s favorite foods, folded into the batter and laced into the cake’s silky, white dress. God bless New England at the onset of fall—and hip hip hooray for all the lovers out there. The holidays are just around the corner.


Maple Walnut Carrot Cake

1.5 c chopped, toasted walnuts
2 ½ c grated carrots
½ c pure maple syrup
2 cups sugar
1.5 c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp kosher salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/2 cup soft, unsalted butter
16 oz cream cheese (2 regular sized packages)
4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
zest of 2 lemons
¼ c pure maple syrup


For Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Blend maple syrup, sugar, oil and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Beating in eggs one at a time.

In another bowl, sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

Gently blend dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

Fold in carrots and 1 c walnuts.

Divide equally into two 9 x 2” cake pans and bake 30 minutes.

Let stand on wire rack to cool completely.


For Frosting

With a hand or stand mixer, blend butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract, lemon juice and maple syrup until creamy.

Add confectioners sugar and mix to incorporate.

When cakes are cool, place one top down (so that the flat side faces up) on a platter.

Generously top with frosting—the layer must be thick enough to stand up once another layer of cake is placed on top. Sprinkle with half of remaining walnuts.

Place second cake on top of the first, also with the top down.

Spread remaining frosting over the top and sides of cake.

Garnish with leftover walnuts.

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