Yes, we like carrot cake
We may have ended up with a whole cake from Two Little Red Hens. Hey, everyone needs leftovers.
A well-regarded letdown. While the cake was pretty decent, with "strong, interesting spice" and an almost-moist crumb, the frosting was "inedibly sweet," with a "gritty, sugary texture." Our crowd of tasters has no problem with sweet, but when all you can taste in a frosting is sugar, it's not the greatest thing.
Little Pie Company
"Nicely moist, with little baby nut chunks," this cake had a "funky," "soy-sauce-like," "strange depth" that nearly every taster found off-putting. Partially rescued by a "creamy, tangy" frosting, though many found that frosting "just too sweet."
Good Enough To Eat
Well-spiced ("Tastes of cinnamon and nutmeg...") if not necessarily well-balanced ("...and nothing else"), this cake was called "tasty, but crumbly," and "syrupy and dense." But the frosting? "Too sweet, too thick, too heavy."
Cake Man Raven
Three layers of cotton-candy light brown cake with no particular carrot flavor, but plenty of spice—cinnamon, clove. Though not exactly moist, it's fluffy enough not to seem dry, and it's sweet, but not to a fault; the same can't be said of the frosting, unfortunately, which is sugar-soaked enough for a six-year-old's palate. Still, it's a tasty confection, and if you're down for sweet and homey, this might be the cake for you.
Lloyd's Carrot Cake
You can't do a carrot cake survey in New York without stopping by Lloyd's Carrot Cake, a Bronx institution. And the cake itself didn't disappoint; though it was a "tad oily," it had a "perfectly tender crumb," "wasn't too sweet," and was "equal parts spicy, carroty, and nutty." Naked, it'd be one of our favorites. Unfortunately, the frosting was super-sweet and a tiny bit gritty—like the stuff that might come from a jar.
This "dark, dense cake, with a mild spice flavor" had quite a few fans, while the "lemony," "incredibly tangy" frosting had both fans ("Love the tartness") and its detractors ("you taste more citrus in each bite than anything else"). And get ready for a mighty mouthful of frosting. But overall, it's a delicious, if pricey, pick.
For Crazy-Moist Fans: Billy's Bakery
If your idea of a perfectly moist cake is a tres leches—or something closer to bread pudding—this might be the cake for you. With generous chunks of carrot and all manner of additions ("Pineapple! Walnut!") it's probably the most exciting cake we tasted, even if the spice blend seemed somewhat one-note ("More of a cinnamon taste—what about the other spices?"). The frosting? Super fluffy, though a little too sweet for some.
Classic, If Not Quite Perfect: Two Little Red Hens
"Rich and actually carrot-tasting;" "Dense, moist, but still pleasantly edible." Nearly all of our tasters thought highly of the aesthetically perfect carrot cake from Two Little Red Hens. While some loved the dense, buttercream-like frosting, though, others found it "heavy" and "waxy." If you're looking for thick frosting that's not too sweet, with well-spiced, dense layers, this is your cake.
Artisinal Carrot Cake: Murray's Cheese
Call ahead before you stop by Murray's Cheese for this carrot cake—on our recent visits, the odds of finding it have seemed to run about 1 in 10. But consider yourself fortunate if it's there. The cheffiest of our carrot cakes, it was also one of the more expensive—$4.99 for a pretty modest slice. That said, it's two layers of gorgeous dense, carroty cake, studded with candied Spanish walnuts that have an appealingly bitter quality and lend the cake a certain depth. It's spread with two layers of velvety frosting made from Italian mascarpone—not cream cheese, true, but with the same gentle tang. Strange observation: on one piece we tried, the cake layers were thick and balanced the frosting well; on another, the frosting was almost as thick as the cake itself. Try to peek through the clear top to pick up your preferred ratio.
And the Winner: Amy's Bread
"This tastes homemade, in a way the others don't." "On the lighter side, despite all the spice." "A frosting that actually tastes like cream cheese!" Our tasters were almost all united in their praise of the carrot cake from Amy's Bread, which had a straightforward taste—carrot, spice, cream cheese—that many of the others lacked. Not a unanimous pick—but one we can all be happy with.
Frosting-Less Honorable Mention
It doesn't have frosting, it doesn't have a cute iced carrot on top, and it's nothing like the carrot cake we generally envision—but we're all fans of this naked cake from M&I International Food in Brighton Beach. Once said Kathy:
A thin, super crisp crusty surface and innards that will blow your mind. Thick forests of shredded carrots (not the thin shredded carrots you find in American carrot cakes, but thick shredded), handfuls of walnut chunks and tons of raisins, of dark and golden breeds. The cake itself? Incredibly moist with soft tender crumbs.
M&I International Food: 249 Brighton Beach Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11235 (map); 718-615-1011