Add some citrusy zing to traditional carrot cake by adding orange zest and orange juice to the batter before baking. For an extra punch of flavor, try adding some zest to the homemade cream cheese icing as well.
Preheat oven to 375°. Spread chopped pecans on a sheet pan, and toast at 375° for 5 minutes; set aside to cool. Line 2 greased 9-inch round cake pans with wax paper, and set aside.
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Sift together flour and next 4 ingredients. Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed. Reduce speed to medium-low, and add eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Add milk and half of flour mixture; blend well. Add remaining flour mixture gradually for a smoother batter.
Stir in orange zest and juice, vanilla, grated carrot, and toasted nuts. Divide batter evenly into prepared cake pans, and bake at 375° for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into center of cake comes out clean. (Layers may sink a bit in the middle.)
Let layers cool in pans 10 minutes; transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool completely. Top 1 layer with Cream Cheese Frosting; add second layer; frost top and sides of cake.
Store the finished cake in the refrigerator to keep the frosting from getting too soft.