Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper to just fit the bottom of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar and oil together until well blended. Stir in eggs and vanilla.
Stir dry ingredients together, add to wet ingredients and blend well. Stir in carrots.
Pour into greased 9-inch round cake pans and bake for 35-45, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.
Cream cheese frosting
In a large bowl and with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese.
Add the vanilla extract and salt, then carefully beat in the powdered sugar until you get to your desired sweetness level.
Place the bottom layer of the cake on a serving plate. Optional - skim off the top of the bottom layer to make it flat, then do a crumb coat (light layer of frosting) and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Frost just the top of the bottom layer. Add the second cake, then frost the top and optionally the sides as well. Garnish with chopped walnuts.
Chill in the fridge, covered, up to 2 days.
Make into one large cake instead of layers: Depending on the cake pan size, the bake time will vary. For a 9x13 inch cake pan, the bake time will be similar to the two layers. Use a toothpick to check for doneness.
Make Cupcakes instead: Add the cake batter to a greased or lined muffin pan and bake at the same temperature for about 14 to 18 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Raisins and Nuts are optional. This carrot cake recipe is great with or without them. You can add 1/2 cup chopped nuts to the batter itself or 1/2 cup raisins.