How do you guys feel about carrot cake?
Growing up, I was not a fan. I simply didn’t understand the point of mincing and baking carrots into a flour-butter-sugar combination that could just as easily be packed with, oh, I don’t know, shall we say chocolate or mocha? – both much more acceptable flavours to the below-13 palate? My mother made carrot cakes on and off but the lack of hit-you-in-the-face sweetness and rich frosting put me off completely.
When I first started baking, I was too enamoured by all the pretty possibilities that cakes presented – has anyone seen this, or this? Stunning – and didn’t really bother with earthy, carroty goodness. For some reason, carrot cake does not, in my mind, represent glamour. If anything, it represents mild weather and perhaps a game of Rummy over tea.
All of this changed when I came across this blog post, which sort of elevated the definition of carrot cake in mind. Yes, carrot cake can be sexy – it just needs the necessary trimmings. I adapted the recipe to include some of my favourites – dried figs, which work wonderfully with the chewy carrot base, handfuls of currants, walnuts and pecans, a dash of toasted coconut – and the result were three layers of some pretty good cake.
Which I left out on the kitchen counter to cool. When I returned half an hour later, it turned out that our dog had been as appreciative of carrot cake as me and all that was left were a few crumbs and the empty cake pan.
Obviously, I was too lazy/tired/disgruntled to bake up another one right away but I did manage to do so after a couple of weekends and the result was everything you’d want in a carrot cake – one that’s undeniably sexy. This one is packed with flavour from the oils, nuts and touch of coconut, has a moist, dense crumb and is topped with a rich cream-cheese frosting that manages to seem more creamy than sugary. It’s a favourite as a not-too-sweet dessert, an accompaniment to tea, and with dogs.
(I halved the below recipe and got a two-layer, 8-inch cake that was more than enough for five of us).
2 cups wholewheat flour
1 cup toasted and shredded coconut (follow this recipe if you want to make your own)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 pound carrots
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried currants
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 banana, mashed
1 cup dried figs
Frosting: (refer to original recipe)
Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease 4 8-inch pans.
Line the dried figs at the bottom of one of the pans (this will be the top-most layer). You can also sprinkle some dried currants on the base.
This cake follows a regular wet ingredient + dry ingredient approach. Start with the wet ingredients: finely shred your carrots, with a grater (if you have the willpower and knuckles of steel) or with short pulses in a blender until they are torn into shreds. Keep aside.
Whisk together all the wet ingredients (olive oil, coconut oil, banana and eggs) with the sugar until well-combined and fluffy.
Add in the dry ingredients (wholewheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg) and give the batter a brisk beating to combine the two. Then, stir in the nuts, dried currants and coconut.
Divide the batter into four greased 8-inch pans (or two, if you’re halving it) and bake for around 45 mins. You might need to keep it in the oven for an additional five minutes (I did) – you can check whether the cake is done with a toothpick.
Prepare frosting as per original recipe (halving if you are halving the cake batter) and slather it between the layers – it isn’t too sweet, so too much shouldn’t be a problem although carrot cake-enthusiasts might find it detracts slightly from the earthiness of the actual cake.
Keep well away from dogs, please.
This is one well-fed, carrot cake-stuffed labrador