• 3 cups chopped pecans/pecan pieces (1 cup for cake, 2 cups for garnish)
• 1.5 cups packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
• 4 large eggs
• 3/4 cup smooth unsweetened applesauce
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2 cups grated carrots (about 4 large)
Cream Cheese Frosting
• 16 ounces full-fat (brick style) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
• 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Pinch salt
1. Preheat oven to 300°F degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spread the chopped pecans on the sheet and toast for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
2. Turn the oven up to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch cake pans* with nonstick spray. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla together until combined and no brown sugar lumps remain. Set aside. In another large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold the ingredients together until just combined. Then, fold in the carrots and 1 cup of the toasted pecans. The rest of the pecans are used for decoration.
4. Pour/spoon the batter evenly into the two cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack.
5. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tablespoons of cream. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1 more Tablespoon cream if needed to thin out. Beat on high for 2 full minutes. Taste the frosting and add a pinch of salt if it is too sweet.
6. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Decorate the sides of the cake with the remaining toasted pecans. Slice and serve.
Cake storage tips have been omitted in my blog, but are available at http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2015/03/23/my-favorite-carrot-cake-recipe/
She said you can store them in the freezer up to two months in advance of need. She also has a lengthy writeup about her choices in ingredients, etc.