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Three-Layered Carrot Cake

My mom loved carrots so much she put them in various dishes at least five times a week when I was growing up. Her specialty was a homemade carrot cake that was requested for every special occasion. When I made this for her 70th birthday, she cried with each bite. —Paula Marchesi, Lenhartsville, Pennsylvania
  • Total Time
    Prep: 1 hour + cooling Bake: 20 min. + cooling
  • Makes
    16 servings


  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1-1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, optional
  • 2 cups finely shredded carrots (about 4 medium)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 8 to 8-1/4 cups confectioners' sugar


  • Place egg whites in a small bowl; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottoms of three greased 8-in. square baking pans with parchment paper; grease paper.
  • In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk orange juice and sour cream. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars and orange zest until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. If desired, beat in thyme. Add flour mixture alternately with orange juice mixture, beating well after each addition.
  • With clean beaters, beat egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter. Gently fold in shredded carrots and pecans.
  • Transfer to prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to wire racks; remove paper. Cool completely.
  • For frosting, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese, orange zest and juice until blended. Gradually beat in enough confectioners’ sugar to reach desired consistency.
  • Spread frosting between layers and over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate until serving.
Editor's Note: To decorate cake with carrot ribbons, use a vegetable peeler to shave one large carrot into long ribbon-like strips. Reserve four of the longest strips for sides of cake; roll up remaining strips to make curls for the bow. Arrange long and rolled-up strips on a paper towel-lined baking sheet; let dry 30-45 minutes before placing on cake. Decorate frosted cake with carrot ribbons just before serving; if desired, add fresh thyme sprigs.
Nutrition Facts
1 slice: 744 calories, 35g fat (18g saturated fat), 145mg cholesterol, 420mg sodium, 104g carbohydrate (88g sugars, 2g fiber), 7g protein.

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  • Catherine
    Nov 27, 2020

    Ok this is a real has been made and eaten. We liked this cake. It's much lighter than those heavy pineapple versions. I remember my mom making 2 types..Love orange juice version as well. . It was moist and easy on the stomach. Since I'm not a cream cheese frosting fan. I added whip cream can also use mascarpone cheese to either and it will be great. The recipe with the egg whites is a bit on the challenging side; Hence have someone needs to whip up the egg whites.. so they don't fall and loose their purpose. My kitchen is big but counter space makes it hard for me to keep things close. I used fresh thyme ) and I was missing the added cinnamon and clove. My major concern to have it rise ..The first time I made this I believe I added baking powder to the recipe. ( similar recipe elsewhere had both) . This 2nd time I'm making it ..I forgot ..and I'm not seeing a better rise my egg whites started to fall. I don't have square pans I opted for 11 x 9. Also if using paper liner,. the brown one doesn't need extra grease; unless your flouring it-another mistake, as it keeps the cake from climbing. I say make this. it's enjoyable for sure and like me ..make it your own with the spices and frosting.

  • kathyhh
    May 22, 2019

    My husband loves carrot cake but not the frosting too much, hope he will at least try it, it looks so good. Thanks for the recipe!!!!

  • jmarana
    Jan 5, 2017

    Thank you for posting this recipe. I have been looking for a carrot cake recipe that has orange juice in it. I bought a mix one time and you had to add orange juice and it was the best carrot cake ever. Can't wait to make this. I gave it 5 stars without making it, as I know this is a very similar recipe. So happy to have finally found it.