Carrot Cake

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Just in time for Easter!  I always thought that having carrot cake around Easter was a little weird.  I guess it’s cuz of the whole Easter Bunny thing and bunnies liking carrots (I read somewhere that they actually prefer lettuces and stuff like that, but can you imagine “lettuce cake”?). 

So here’s your cultural nugget for today.  There have been some carrot recipes traced back to around the 1oth century from the Middle East.  Those dishes eventually made their way to Europe from trade and wars and stuff like that.  Now what we think of carrot cake today probably stems from medieval Europe.  Back then, sweetners were expensive and not readily available so they used carrots in desserts and cakes and puddings.

The recipe that I use is a little different in that I use both butter and vegetable oil.  That way you can get the moisture that the oil provides plus, the flavor from the butter.  I frost it with an orange cream cheese frosting and some cardamom scented butterfly carrots.  This recipe makes 3 8-inch cakes or 2 9-inch cakes.  The pic above is using the 9-inch cakes.  Here we go…

For the cake:

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c. cornstarch
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. cinnamon (I like Vietnamese cinnamon, but use what you have available)
  • 1 t. galangal (use ground ginger if you don’t have any)
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • 1 c. light brown sugar
  • 1 c. honey
  • 1 stick room temperature butter
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 T. vanilla
  • 3 c. grated carrots
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped pecans (plus more for the outside of the cake)

Note — You can replace the honey with regular granulated sugar.  If you do, just omit the cornstarch.  When possible, I try to limit overly processed ingredients in my recipes, hence the whole wheat flour and the honey.  It’s a small step, but it’s healthier for you.

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degress.  Butter your pans and line with a parchement round.

2.  Sift together the flours, cornstarch, baking soda, and spices.  Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a mixer, mix together the honey and the brown sugar until the mixture is uniform and well blended.  Add the butter and combine.  Then add the oil and mix through.

4.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add your vanilla to the butter mixture and combine.

5.  Add your dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture all at once and mix until just smooth.  Stir in the carrots and the nuts.  Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 25-35 minutes until the center is set and springy.  Cool completely on racks before unmolding.  While the cake is baking and cooling, you can make the frosting.

For the frosting:

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 8 oz. packages cream cheese
  • 2 lbs. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • zest of one orange

Mix together the butter and cream cheese until well blended.  Gradually add the sugar. Then add the vanilla and mix.  Finally add the orange zest.  You can prepare this ahead of time and refrigerate up to 2 days in advance.  Just let it come to room temperature before you use it.  I recommend that you taste frosting before you add the zest and then after (maybe just let it sit for a few minutes to incorporate the flavors).  That way you can really see how one ingredient can really change the flavor of something.  You will have extra frosting so be careful how you store the remainder — I almost thought the frosting was leftover mashed potatoes.  That would have been an interesting dinner!

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