An Adaptation of The Commissary’s Carrot Cake

Photos by Leah Belber.

I found this carrot cake recipe in The Frog Commissary Cookbook, created by chefs Anne Clark and Stephen Poses with recipes from their famously successful restaurants. The carrot cake is one of the most popular dishes at the Frog Commissary, their Philadelphia-based upscale American restaurant. This cake is a fairly classic, straightforward version, making it perfect for beginner bakers! The cake is packed full of carrot, and it is moist and dense, with a satisfying crunchy edge.

For my rendition, I used colorful carrots that gave the cake some vibrancy along with its signature flavor and texture. I do recommend a couple of adjustments to make this cake even more delicious and indulgent. When making this recipe my own, as I describe below, I substituted brown sugar for white granulated sugar to create a deeper, more molasses-like flavor. I also added more warm spices such as nutmeg, cardamom and cloves, along with the cinnamon called for in the original. Pecans and raisins are not my favorites, so I chose to leave them out and preserve the smooth interior.

The original recipe calls for a filling that uses a more traditional technique called ermine frosting where you cook flour, milk and butter to create a thick, sweet paste. Since I don’t especially love the resulting flavor of cooked flour with nothing to cover it up, I simply doubled the frosting recipe and used that for the entire cake. I decorated by frosting the outside of the cake and using a spoon to make swirls on top, and I finished off the rustic, fresh look with a grating of lemon zest! The product of this manageable recipe outlined below can be showstopping and delectable, and I would highly recommend making it for your next celebratory occasion (or maybe just for fun)!

The instructions and ingredient lists below are adapted from Clark and Poses’ original recipe and include my modifications.

For the cake:

  1. 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  2. 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  3. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  4. 2 cups flour
  5. 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  6. 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  7. 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  8. 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  9. 2 tsp baking powder
  10. 1 tsp baking soda
  11. 1 tsp salt
  12. 4 eggs
  13. 4 cups grated carrot

For the frosting:

  1. 12 ounces cream cheese
  2. 3/4 cup butter (1.5 sticks)
  3. 6 cups powdered sugar
  4. 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 pinch of salt
  6. Zest of half a lemon

Instructions for the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a bundt pan or three 8-inch cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together oil and sugars until well combined. 
  3. In another bowl sift together flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
  4. Add half of the dry ingredient mixture into the sugar mixture. Then alternate adding an egg and more of the dry mixture. Mix until combined with no streaks of flour.

  1. Pour batter into pan. Bake for about 30 minutes if you are using cake pans or 50 for a bundt pan, or until a toothpick comes out clean, the edges pull away from the pan and the top is a rich golden brown. 
  2. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Instructions for the frosting:

  1. Beat cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer or a hand-held mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add half of the sugar and beat for two minutes. Then add remaining sugar, vanilla and salt and beat until very fluffy.

To assemble:

  1. If you used a bundt pan, slice the cake in half or thirds, depending on its thickness. Stack the first level of the cake and then spread a layer of the frosting on each layer as you build the cake.
  2. Frost the top and sides with the cream cheese frosting. Finish with lemon zest on top.

Yields about 12 servings.