An all-time classic from an iconic Philly spot.
There are no bad cakes, but let’s face it: Some cakes taste better than others. Of all the cakes in all the land, carrot cake is my personal favorite (tied with my mom’s Jewish apple cake recipe — make it). Because I like carrot cake so much, I am very particular about it. So when I say that the Frog Commissary carrot cake recipe is the best around, believe it.
Sweet but not cloying, this carrot cake is the moist, tender carrot cake ideal: folded with fresh carrots, raisins, pecans, and just a whisper of cinnamon.
All About Philadelphia’s Frog Commissary
If you lived in or visited the Philadelphia area in the 1970s and 80s and liked nourishing, unpretentious food, chances are you found your way to Steve Poses’s Frog Commissary. The Commissary, on a narrow street in Center City, served upscale but accessible food (cafeteria style) that would have been at home in Berkeley’s burgeoning California cuisine scene. In other words, Poses knew about — and served — sunchokes and lentils before they were a thing. The food still feels fresh and current.
The Frog Commissary closed in the 1990s, evolving into The Frog catering company, but the recipes live on. You can still buy the bestselling Frog Commissary Cookbook, from which this carrot cake recipe is adapted.
The Frog Commissary Carrot Cake Recipe
The original Frog Commissary carrot cake recipe calls for baking this cake in a 10-inch tube pan, with a sweet pecan cream filling, topped with cream cheese frosting. The pecan filling is fantastic, but not necessary. I have not included it here. The cake stands on its own. (If you would like to include the pecan cream filling, however, you can get the recipe from Poses’s old blog post.)
My favorite part of Frog Commissary carrot cake recipe, other than the moist, sweet flavor, is its flexibility. This cake can be made in:
- A 10-inch tube pan
- Two 9-inch round cake pans
- A 9 x 13-inch rectangular cake pan, or
- About 24 muffin cups, give or take
Whether you make muffins, a layer cake, a sheet cake, or — as I have done here — mini round cakes cut from round cutters, you’ll want to follow a few guidepost rules.
- Grate the carrots fresh. I find that pre-grated carrots have a bitter, dry flavor that is sometimes metallic, likely from the factory grating machines. Yuck. Use the wide holes of a box grater, the same holes you use to grate mozzarella cheese.
- Soak the raisins. Soak the raisins in warm water for about 15 minutes or more before adding them to the cake batter. Raisins want to rehydrate. Soaking them pulls moisture from water instead of your cake batter.
- Add the cinnamon to the oil and sugar. Many recipes want you to add cinnamon or other spices to the dry ingredients. Don’t. As a general rule, adding cinnamon to the liquid ingredients helps bloom the flavor. (My pro tip for the day!)
- Save some peels for decoration! Just swish them in warm simple syrup for about 30 seconds and wind them into rosettes.
So enjoy the fantastic Frog Commissary carrot cake recipe, a recipe that has stood the test of time, and always will.
You’ll also love these desserts:
The Famous Commissary Carrot Cake
- 1 1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups peeled, grated carrots (about a one-pound bag)
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup golden raisins
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 1 pound powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk
- generous pinch of salt
For the Carrot Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease or line a 9 x 13" rectangular cake pan, two 9" round cake pans, a 10" tube pan, or 24-ish cupcake tins. Soak the raisins in warm water for about 15 minutes. Drain before using.PRO TIP: Instead of cupcakes, you could bake the cake in a 9 x 13" rectangular cake pan, then use round cutters to cut small round cakes. A classy alternative to cupcakes (pictured here).
- Peel the carrots and reserve some of the long peels if you would like to make rosettes to decorate the cake. Cut the top and bottom ends and grate the carrots on the large holes of a box grater. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the oil and sugar until well mixed. Add the eggs, cinnamon, and salt and beat until light and well mixed.
- Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, flour, carrots, nuts, and raisins. Stir on low, just until combined.
- Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan(s) or cupcake tins and bake until a cake tester comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed. TIP: Approximate baking times are 40 minutes for a 9 x 13" rectangular cake pan, 30 minutes for 9" cake rounds, 70 minutes for a 10" tube pan, and 20 to 25 minutes for cupcakes. These are just approximations.
- Turn out onto a cooling rack while still warm. Cool fully before decorating.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Combine all ingredients, starting the mixer on low to not cause a powdered sugar explosion. Gradually increase the mixer to medium-high and beat until fluffy and smooth.
- For Carrot Peel Rosettes: Heat 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved. When cool enough to work with, dip the reserved carrot peels into the warm simple syrup for about 30 seconds, then twist into rosettes by winding each peel around a skewer or your finger.
- Sweetened Shredded Coconut: Spread frosting on top of the cake or cupcakes and sprinkle generously with sweetened shredded coconut.