Spiced Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Frosting


A warming blend of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg bring festive flavors to Hetal Vasavada's tender, moist spiced carrot cake studded with golden raisins and crunchy pistachios. Brown butter ghee does double duty in this recipe: It enriches and flavors the cake batter, and the caramelized milk fat left over from making it adds a nutty flavor to the cream cheese frosting. 

Spiced Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
Photo: Photo by Christopher Testani / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Kathleen Cook Varner
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs



  • 1 cup plus 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter (11 oz.)

  • Cooking spray

  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 ½ tablespoons grated orange zest

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger

  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 4 ½ cups shredded peeled carrots (from 1 lb. carrots)

  • 1 ¼ cups unsalted roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped

  • ½ cup golden raisins

  • 2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour (about 11 3/8 oz.)

  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1 cup unsalted butter (8 oz.), at room temperature

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar (about 10 oz.)

Additional Ingredients

  • Finely chopped pistachios and shredded carrots, for garnish


Make the cake:

  1. Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high, stirring often; gently simmer butter until white milk solids separate from butter-fat, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly, until butter is golden brown and spoon is covered in flecks of caramelized milk solids, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Line a fine wire-mesh strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth, and place strainer over a heatproof container. Pour melted butter through strainer and into container. Reserve caramelized milk fat (about 1 teaspoon), and set aside. Let strained ghee cool completely at room temperature, about 1 hour.

  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray; set aside. Combine brown sugar and orange zest in a large bowl. Rub orange zest into sugar using your fingers. Add eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and cooled brown butter ghee. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in shredded carrots, pistachios, and raisins until well combined. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Fold flour mixture into carrot mixture, stirring until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan; spread in an even layer.

  3. Bake carrot cake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool completely in pan, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the frosting:

  1. Beat butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and reserved caramelized milk fat with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce mixer speed to low; gradually beat in powdered sugar until combined. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

  2. Spread frosting onto cooled cake in an even layer. Garnish with finely chopped pistachios and shredded carrots, if desired.

Make Ahead

Frosting can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator; let come to room temperature before using.

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