During the Middle Ages, sugar was expensive, and carrots provided a fix for those with a sweet tooth. Moist and luxurious, however, this carrot cake is far removed from barbaric association with the Dark Ages. A favorite of King Louis XVI in the 19th century, it is clear that the humble carrot climbed in stature when it was served to European kings. Velvety textured on the inside with a rich, tangy ubiquitous cream cheese frosting, this cake, with a multi-century rags-to-riches history, makes a celebratory dessert for any occasion. More rustic in appearance than most frosted cakes, the frosting actually looks best when minimally fussed about—simply dollop on and with a quick wisp of an off set spatula, both layers of the cake are frosted in under two minutes. Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 10th—how about making this cake for her?
Ingredients2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil 4 large eggs 2 cups sugar 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 3 cups grated carrot 1/2 cup golden raisins 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
For the Frosting8 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 /2 cup unsalted butter, softened 1 pound confectioner’s sugar 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For The Candied Carrot Ribbons2 large carrots, peeled 1 cup water 1 cup sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Prepare 2 (8”) cake pans
- In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients (the batter will be pasty and thick).
- Fold in the carrots. The carrots must release some of their liquid for the batter to come together. It takes about 5 minutes. Fold in the raisins and the nuts.
- Divide the batter equally into the two pans. Place the pans on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and when you tap the middle of the cake with your finger it bounces back.
- Put the cakes on a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, place the cakes in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before frosting them.
For the Frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixture fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese and the butter, and mix until combined.
- Turn off the mixer. Add the vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar. Mix until all of the ingredients are combined and the frosting is smooth.
For the Candied Carrot Ribbons
- Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly spray with cooking spray.
- Use a vegetable peeler to make long strips of carrot; the strips will get wider as you get close to the core of the carrot.
- Bring the water and the sugar to a boil in a large pot. Lower heat to medium-low heat. Add the carrot strips, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook the carrot strips for 15 minutes. Drain in a wire-mesh strainer, and cool for 5 minutes.
- Place the cooked carrot strips 1 inch apart in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. As the carrot strips bake, they will begin to look translucent. Remove from oven. (Strips will be warm but cool enough to handle.)
- Working quickly, wrap each carrot strip around the handle of a wooden spoon, forming curls. Gently slide off spoon. Lightly sprinkle with sugar. Let curls sit at room temperature until completely dry, about 30 minutes.
- Place one layer of the cake on a cake stand. Add 1 1/2 cups frosting to the top of the cake. Use an off set spatula to spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cake, making sure the frosting goes all the way to edge.
- Place the second layer of cake on top of the frosted first layer and press down until a bit of the frosting goes over the edge. Add a large dollop of frosting to the top of the cake. Use the off set spatula to spread the frosting evenly over the top layer of the cake and again spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cake, making sure the frosting goes all the way to edge.
- Use a bench scraper to spread a bit of frosting around the perimeter of the cake.
- Drop the carrot ribbons and candied walnuts (if using) on the top of the cake and serve the remaining carrot curls along slices of cake.
Chilling the cakes before frosting them helps the frosting adhere to the layers and sides and of the cake. The cake layers freeze well and may be made one month in advance. Frost just before serving and store leftover cake in the refrigerator for up to three days.