Can we take a quick wee sec to talk about how AMAZING sheet cakes are?! Nothing on regular layer cakes, I love them too, but sheet cakes are the perfect combo of fancy and laid back (I like to think of myself as that, dreams are free right?!). There’s no stacking required, but you can still use a fancy buttercream, and you get the best buttercream to cake ratio, in my opinion anyway. You can also frost them directly in the pan, which makes them the best for transporting. When I offer to take cake places, I often will make a sheet cake if it’s a bit more of a casual situation. I’ve had my fair share of cake disasters in an uber in the NYC summer, so a stress free transport is a huge bonus for me too. Plus, you get to live your best buttercream swooping life, which is one of my favourite things to do.
Today’s recipe is one that I am so excited to share with you - it’s a brown butter carrot sheet cake, with a vanilla bean cream cheese german buttercream. I’ve teamed up with my faves at Heilala Vanilla to bring it to you - their amazing vanilla bean paste is in both the cake, and in the dreamy frosting. Not only is their product great, but they are run by the most amazing people, who are doing all kinds of incredible things by injecting money into the economy and providing jobs in the Kingdom of Tonga - you can read a little more about what they do here. They control the whole process from the growing to the processing of the beans, which results in an extremely ethical, high quality, organic product. I am super proud to be partnering with them again.
I started with a pretty simple cake - a fairly standard carrot cake, but upped my game a little by replacing some of the oil with brown butter, and adding some cardamom in along with the other spices. Cakes with both butter and oil are my new fave. You get the moistness from the oil, in this case a neutral oil, but you also get the richness and flavour from the butter, giving you a total win win situation. In this case I browned the butter, which gives it the most incredible depth of flavour to the cake, and plays perfectly with the spices.
And now let’s talk about the buttercream. Ohhhh my, this buttercream. Another thing that I love about sheet cakes is that you can load them up with buttercream that might typically be too unstable to stack a cake with - like soft peaks of whipped cream, or in this case, a German buttercream with a whole load of cream cheese whipped into it. I love cream cheese frosting, but I am not a huge fan of how sweet and gritty it can be from the powdered sugar, so instead I whipped cream cheese into a vanilla bean German buttercream. If you’re new round here, German buttercream is my absolute fave. It is custard or pastry cream (same thing) based, rather than the meringue base of an Italian or Swiss, or powdered sugar base of an American buttercream. This gives it a whole dimension of flavour that the others lack - a beautiful richness, with the pastry cream cutting the butter just perfectly.
Because this cake didn’t have to stack, the buttercream was able to tolerate much more cream cheese than it usually would. The cream cheese gives it a beautiful tang, and sits so nicely with the vanilla, and against the subtle spice of the cake. It is also pillowy soft, and impossibly smooth, making it the perfect pair for the slightly denser nature of a carrot cake. I know I say this a lot about a lot of things, but this buttercream might be my favourite so far. It’s just perfect.
This cake would make the most perfect Easter baking project - I can’t wait to see you enjoy it. Happy Sheet Caking! x
A few wee tips:
Heilala have given me a discount code for you to use on vanilla! You can purchase it here, and the code CLOUDY20 will get you 20% off any of their products! I love the paste, the extract, and also the beans (Affiliate link).
Both the cake and the pastry cream need time to cool, so I like to make the pastry cream either the day before, or just before I start the cake, to give it plenty of time to cool. Putting it in a shallow dish to cool in the fridge helps too by increasing the surface area, meaning it cools a bit faster. Make sure your cream cheese and butter is also at room temp.
If you don’t like nuts in carrot cake, you can just leave them out!
If you haven’t made brown butter before, here is a great tutorial. Make sure that you allow it to cool a little before using in your recipe. I like pouring it into my stand mixer then leaving it to cool, swirling occasionally to help distribute some of the heat.
I took the cake out of the pan to add the buttercream, but you can absolutely frost it in the pan if you like. Frosting it in the pan is perfect for if you are transporting it, as it makes it super, super easy to carry, because the pan protects it.
Carrot Sheet Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese German Buttercream
- Makes one 9” x 13” sheet cake -
Carrot Sheet Cake
450g raw Sugar
160g neutral oil
115g butter, browned and cooled
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp Heilala Vanilla Bean Paste
150g all-purpose flour
150g whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda.
360g carrot, grated
100g walnuts, coarsely chopped
Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese German Buttercream
12g corn starch
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp Heilala Vanilla Bean Paste
190g whole milk
340g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g cream cheese, at room temperature
- PROCESS -
CARROT SHEET CAKE
Preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c. Grease a 9”x13” (22x33cm) baking pan, and line with parchment paper (I like to cut a piece slightly bigger than my pan, then cut a slit in each corner which form ‘tabs’ and allow you to fold the parchment into the corners nicely).
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the raw sugar, neutral oil, cooled brown butter, and eggs, and mix on medium speed until well combined and slightly lightened in colour, 2-3 minutes. Add the Heilala Vanilla Bean Paste and mix until combined.
In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and baking soda. Add to the mixer and mix until just combined. Add the carrots and walnuts and mix on low until just combined.
Transfer to the pan, and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
VANILLA BEAN CREAM CHEESE GERMAN BUTTERCREAM
In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and corn starch, then add the egg, egg yolk and salt, and whisk together well. In a medium non-stick saucepan, heat the milk and Heilala Vanilla Bean Paste to just shy of a simmer. Remove from the heat.
Using one hand to whisk constantly, pour half of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. This helps to temper the eggs and stop them from scrambling. Whisk until incorporated, and then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan.
Heat the milk and egg mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. It will thicken quickly. Once it has thickened, cook for one minute, then remove from the heat. Pour into a shallow dish or bowl of a stand mixer and press some plastic wrap over the surface to avoid a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold. If you are in a hurry, you can speed up this process by placing the custard mixture into a bowl, and placing the bowl into an ice bath, stirring frequently.
Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip the custard mixture on medium until creamy and lump-free. Begin adding the butter, a few cubes at a time, until fully incorporated. Add in the cream cheese, and whip until smooth, then whip for a further 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat on low for 3-4 minutes to help remove any big air bubbles.
Carefully remove the cooled cake from the pan - I do this by turning it onto a wire rack, then using another wire rack with parchment paper on top to flip it up the right way - alternatively you can also put the buttercream on while it is still in the pan, which makes it super easy to transport.
Scrape the buttercream onto the cake, and spread using an offset spatula - swoop it on as desired.
Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature or the fridge.
Thank you so much to Heilala Vanilla for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own,.