Although deemed "naked" by today's cake-naming guidelines, this cake still has plenty of cream cheese frosting among its layers, enough to make up for all that's been lost. It therefore feels wrong and deceiving to call it naked, hence its new, more fitting name.
And by the way, this new over-Pinterested frosting style is really the only way to do it—I'm a convert. It allows for an even amount of frosting with every bite, as opposed to getting to the end of a slice of cake and being left with a huge chunk of hard frosting that, if you're like me, you leave behind. How genius! It also makes for a much prettier cake, if I do say so myself.
This is another recipe from my grandma and, in fact, one whose story I love. Many years ago, my mom was working at a restaurant in Syracuse, and my grandma used to make this carrot cake for the restaurant's dessert menu! How awesome is that?! If I could order dessert out today and know that my grandma was the baker behind all of it, I'd weigh 500 pounds due to never passing it up. As I've proven before (here, here, and here), she's the best GD baker around and completely self-taught. This carrot cake is, of course, no exception. It's perfect for Easter time, or just craving-it-on-a-Monday-during-the-Bachelor time. There are no rules to this rich, delicious, not-too-sweet carrot cake.
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut
Yields two 9-inch cakes
Two 9-inch cake pans
Parchment, softened butter, and flour for preparing cake pans
2¼ cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1½ cups vegetable oil (canola would be fine too)
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots (smallest grate)—this was about 10 thin carrots for me
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
Cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
Toasted coconut (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the middle of the oven. Prepare cake pans by buttering them, then placing parchment rounds in the bottom, and then buttering and flouring them (tip: place pans onto parchment paper and trace around them with a pen or pencil; then cut out with scissors and flip them over into pans). Tap out any excess flour. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate larger bowl, combine oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients together with a wooden spoon until well incorporated and smooth. Then add dry ingredients to wet, and use wooden spoon again to mix together until just combined (do not overmix). Fold in carrot and coconut. Now pour batter into cakes pans, dividing batter evenly between each one.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center just comes out clean. Let cakes cool in their pans on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes, and then carefully invert them onto rack to remove from pans and let them cool completely. At this point you can peel off the parchment that will be sticking to the bottoms of the cakes. Make sure cakes are completely cooled before frosting them and sprinkling with toasted coconut, recipes and directions for which can be found below.
PS: you could bake the cakes the day before, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and store in the fridge until assembling/frosting them at go-time
PPS: After being assembled and frosted, you should still store it wrapped in plastic wrap or in a cake carrier in the fridge if it's going to be more than a couple of hours
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz butter (I actually like to use salted, but unsalted would be fine too), room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner’s sugar (or more if you like a sweeter frosting)
In the bowl of an electronic mixer, whip cream cheese and butter together for a couple of minutes until smooth. Then add vanilla and mix again. Add sugar, small amounts at a time to avoid a sugary-cloud mess in your kitchen, beating each time until well incorporated.
When ready to frost, place first cake upside down on serving dish. Frost it using an offset spatula if you have one (or regular spatula), plopping a large amount of frosting into the center and dragging it outward all the way to the edge (make sure there’s a thick even layer—you want it to be pushed out a bit when you place the other cake on top of it). Place second cake, right-side up, on top. Repeat frosting technique with this layer. Top with toasted coconut (keep scrolling for recipe!).
1 cup or so sweetened shredded coconut (or whatever amount you want)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees with rack in the center of the oven. Spread coconut onto a baking sheet into one even layer, breaking apart any little clumps. Place in oven and bake for 5-10 minutes until toasty and golden brown, shaking/stirring coconut every minute or so after the first 3-4 minutes to ensure it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and let cool before using. When ready to use, sprinkle small handfuls around the outer edge of the top of the cake, leaving the center plain, or however you’d like.