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Carrot cake with a slice being lifted up.

High Altitude Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream

Heather Smoke
A classic carrot cake that's moist and full of fall spices, frosted with cream cheese buttercream

All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet.

5 from 13 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings16

Equipment

  • Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment

Ingredients
 

Cake

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and finely grated (9 ounces)
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg

Buttercream

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp meringue powder (optional)
  • tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Instructions
 

Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray the bottoms of three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until nutty brown solids form on the bottom of the pan.  Immediately scrape the butter and the browned bits into a large mixing bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Add the carrots, applesauce, oil, buttermilk, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla to the brown butter, and whisk until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and whisk for 10-15 seconds until combined.
  • Divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for about 25-28 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool completely, covered with a clean kitchen towel.

Buttercream

  • In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter for 1 minute until smooth.
  • With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and the meringue powder, mixing until combined.
  • Add the salt and vanilla; on medium high, whip for several minutes until light and fluffy – add a little more powdered sugar if the buttercream is too soft, or 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream if it's too thick.
  • Stack and fill the cooled cakes, then frost all over with a thin crumb coat of buttercream.  Chill for 30 minutes, then frost with a final layer of buttercream.
    Note: I spread the buttercream on fairly thin, for a "semi-naked" look, and used the rest of the buttercream to pipe the swirls on top of the cake.

Notes

Leftover cake should be kept refrigerated, in an airtight container or cake carrier, for up to 3 days.  Bring the cake to room temperature before serving.
Keyword Brown Butter, Carrot Cake, Cream Cheese Frosting, High Altitude
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