Best-Ever Homemade Carrot Cake

The best-ever homemade carrot cake decorated with cream cheese frosting and candied carrot peels.

This carrot cake is perfectly spiced, moist and unbelievably good! Using candied carrot peels as decoration (optional), cream cheese frosting and sweetened shredded coconut, this cake is simply the best — I make it all the time.

My Ultimate Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Peels recipe is one of my favorites from Zoë Bakes Cakes. I make it a lot. For birthdays, for Tuesdays, for family gatherings, it was the first cake my boys ate, because I could justify giving a baby cake, if it had carrots. I’m not suggesting it replace baby food, but for their first birthday cakes, it was my go to. I put this cake and many more of my all time favorites into my new book, Zoë Bakes Cakes: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Favorite Layers, Bundts, Loaves, and More:

Zoë Bakes Cakes, Zoë François's cookbook.

I was inspired to use the whole carrot after making Cenk Sönmezsoy’s Perfect Apple Pie, which uses every single bit of the apple to make the pie, core, peel, and seeds are all used to extract as much apple flavor as possible. I love that he didn’t waste a bit of the fruit. I usually peel the carrots and toss them away into the composter, which honestly doesn’t cause me too much guilt, but why not use them for the cake? I just washed the carrots, peeled them, and candied the peels. They go through several stages while baking. First they turn to carrot leather, chewy and soft, then they dehydrate fully and turn to a snappy, brittle, sweet, but earthy candy. Delicious.

A slice of homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, decorated with candied carrot peels.

You can watch me make the cake and carrot candy (plus a picture of my son eating his first carrot cake – 19 years ago) in my instagram video and find the recipe below. 

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Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake

Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you’ll know I am a tremendous fan of Dorie Greenspan. I’ve considered her a mentor in my own career as a chef and cookbook writer. She is the absolute top of the game and I look forward to every book she puts out with bated breath.

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Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake

Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

This Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake is inspired by Cadbury Crunchie Bar candy my husband ate as a child growing up in Montreal. He’s been asking me to recreate the chocolate covered honeycomb (sponge toffee) candy and I am finally getting around to it. Now that I’ve had it, I regret not making it decades ago. I made this banana cake with a coffee flavored honey meringue buttercream, the honeycomb candy seemed just the right garnish for the top. The name comes from the honeycomb look of the candy and not because honey is in the ingredients. I added a touch of honey, just because it seems like it should be in there, but that’s not the traditional way Cadbury Crunchie Bars were made. You can watch me make this cake and honeycomb candy in my instagram video.

Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François Read More

Blackberry Opera Torte (Diva Cake)

Blackberry Opera Torte (Diva Cake) | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

I set out to bake a traditional Opera Torte, but I ended up getting distracted and took off in an entirely different flavor direction. In the end I created this Blackberry Opera Torte (which I have named the Diva Cake) and I’m not sure I’ll ever go back. This cake has become one of my signature moves on Instagram (cake, meringue, blow torch- need I say more). It has way more layers than a traditional opera torte, which is not a bad thing at all. Instead of coffee-soaked Joconde (almond sponge cake) and coffee buttercream, this one uses blackberry preserves to flavor the buttercream and then has a layer of fresh berries separating the cake from the spiky meringue. In my book, Zoë Bakes Cakes, there are many buttercream flavors to choose from and you can create your own Diva flavors (just be sure to share with me on Instagram @zoebakes, so I can see what you’ve created). Those fresh berries turned out to be a brilliant layer of protection from the flamethrower I used to toast the meringue. Oh, that is no joke. I got ahold of one of Elon Musk’s Boring Company Flamethrowers and had a blast (see what I did there) torching the top of the cake. You can use a regular kitchen torch to get the job done too. You can watch me make the cake and wield a flamethrower in my instagram video.

Blackberry Opera Torte (Diva Cake) | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François
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Strawberry Charlotte Royale

Strawberry Charlotte Royale | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The truth is the last time I made a Strawberry Charlotte Royale was in culinary school and that was a very long time ago. I have been meaning to make one, but just never got around to it. Then I bought a copy of Soulful Baker, by one of my favorite bakers, Julie Jones, and she had the most beautiful Charlotte Royale in the book. I took it as a sign that I needed to make this regal (it’s in the name) dessert. Julie was my muse, but being incapable of leaving things well enough alone, I wanted to make the filling in two separate flavors. I made a Grand Marnier Bavarian Cream and then added Strawberry coulis to it for the second layer. It’s not quite as simple as a banana bread, so I’ve made a video on instagram to walk you through the process. The steps are not at all difficult, but they do require a bit of planning and some timing. Read More

Red Velvet Cake with Basket Weave

An Easter Basket made from Red Velvet Cake with Buttercream Basket Weave and Roses is a decidedly Southern treat. According to the NYTimes it originated in Texas in the 1940s, but red velvet cake spread to the rest of the south and then found its way north. I first heard about it from my stepmother, who is from Alabama. Her mom made it for her when she was young and now I make red velvet cake for her at her birthday. I always pair red velvet with cream cheese icing (which is one of the classics), and used it to fill the layers and do a crumb coat on the cake (way more about that in the book), but if you are going to attempt this basket weave finish (see my reel on instagram to watch how I did it) I would suggest going with a buttercream icing, which is much easier to pipe and less temperamental than cream cheese icing in a warm kitchen. You can use any of the buttercreams (there are many) from Zoë Bakes Cakes, but for this cake, I went with the simple American Buttercream.

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