A good haircut. Grandma’s lasagna. Spring sweaters. We’ve got a thing for layers. So when we set out to find the best carrot cake recipe, it had to be a layer cake. What could be better than that, right? Then it hit us: mini layer cakes. We baked the batter in a rimmed cookie sheet, cut out tiny rounds using a cookie cutter, and then stacked them with dollops of rich cream cheese frosting in between. Everything can be prepared a day or two ahead, making assembling--and devouring—these tiny treats even sweeter.
Mini Carrot Cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ginger
Pinch of nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup whole milk
8 ounces carrots, grated (1½ cups)
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Toasted chopped walnuts, for topping
Cinnamon, for topping
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Then line the sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment with nonstick spray as well (see Finishing Touches, below).
2. Make the Cake: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk gradually, scraping well after they are combined. Beat in the vanilla.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Add these dry ingredients to the butter mixture, and mix just until incorporated.
4. Add the milk, carrots and walnuts to the batter, then mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet and spread to form a smooth, even layer. Bake until the cake springs back slightly when touched, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut out 24 circles using a 2-inch cookie cutter (or the mouth of a glass) while the cake is still slightly warm. Cool completely, about 30 to 45 minutes.
5. Make the Frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese with the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. Set aside.
6. Assemble the Cakes: Place a cake round onto a plate. Use a spoon to dollop a heaping tablespoon of frosting on top of the cake. Top with another cake round and press slightly. Repeat with another layer of frosting and cake. Finish each mini cake with a dollop of frosting, a sprinkling of toasted walnuts and a dusting of cinnamon.