Truth be told, I’ve never liked carrot cake.
Maybe because I just don’t see carrots as something to eat with sugar after dinner. Maybe because I’d never had any carrot cake other than the gross kind that you can buy on the ferry to Nanaimo. Maybe because carrot cake tends to be loaded with raisins, and raisins give me the creeps.
Truth be told, when I made this cake for my mom’s birthday, I didn’t even know if she liked carrot cake either.
One way or another, I wanted to make a special cake for a special occasion and it was time to take a chance!
This recipe has definitely made me a carrot cake convert. It was rich and moist and full of sweet complexity, and everyone at the party definitely enjoyed it. I got a lot of compliments and my mom really liked it! Yay! I like it when that happens.
Since the making this cake is a little more time-consuming than I first expected, I’d recommend making it a day in advance. The great thing about cakes that are loaded with fruits and spices is that they tend to actually taste better after they “develop” overnight.
Also, definitely, definitely let the cake cool completely before layering and frosting it — in my panic to make it to the party on time I frosted a little prematurely and the icing sorta got a little drippy on me.
The following recipe will make two 9-inch cake layers.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
*adapted from Booze Cakes
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup dark rum
- 2 tablespoons carrot juice (or more rum)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 6 cups shredded carrot, loosely packed
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1 cup shredded sweet coconut
- 1 cup crushed pineapple
- 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup cream cheese (8 oz or 226 gram package)
- 3 & 1/2 cups icing sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons dark rum
- 1/2 cup almond paste (marzipan)
- red & yellow food colouring
- parsley sprigs
Uhh… yeah. Did you get all that?
Don’t be afraid. Cakes can smell fear. This may seem daunting, but the cake is worth it.
Preheat your oven to 350°F (or 175°C). Get out three bowls. You’ll need one for your dry ingredients, one for your butter+sugar+eggs+etc, and one for your carrots+fruit+nuts.
In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger. Set aside.
In your largest bowl, beat the eggs and sugars together until light and fluffy. Stir in your vegetable oil, yogurt, vanilla, carrot juice, and rum. Mix until smooth, then set aside.
In a third bowl, toss together carrots, pineapple, coconut, walnuts, and chopped ginger. Mix well.
Now, add the flour and carrot mixture to the egg+sugar+etc mixture in three alternating additions. I started with flour, added a bit, stirred. I add a bit of carrot mix, stirred. I added a bit of flour, stirred. You get the idea. Mix the batter until just incorporated — it’s okay if it’s a little lumpy.
Evenly divide the batter between two 9-inch round cake pans.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, whip up your frosting.
Make sure your butter and cream cheese are both completely soft and at room temperature — if either one is cold, it can make your frosting get all lumpy.
Beat the butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. Add carefully add your icing sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in your orange zest, vanilla extract, and maple syrup. Gently stir in the rum.
I recommend storing your icing in the fridge while you’re waiting to use it, since it was definitely easier to handle while cold.
This was one of the best parts of making this cake — not only do I adore marzipan, but making these little carrots kind of felt like playing with Play-Doh (only it tastes a lot better)!
All you need is a half cup or so of plain almond paste, and a few drops of red and yellow food coloring.
First, knead your almost paste a bit to get it soft and pliable. Smush it into a disc-shape and add 1 part red dye and 2 parts yellow dye. Fold up the almond paste over the liquid dye, and then knead like you’re 5 years old again!
At first it might seem like the colour isn’t distributing evenly at all — just keep at it. It’ll be a nice, even shade eventually. If you want your carrots to be a brighter colour, add more dye and knead it in. Once you’re satisfied with the colour you have, pull little bits off your marzipan ball and roll them into tubes with tapered ends. Take one clean sprig of parsley per “carrot” and poke it in the end of a marzipan roll.
Ta-dah! Carrots! Put them in the fridge until you need them.
Once everything is made and done and cooled completely, it’ll be time to put together your cake.
Simply place one 9-inch cake layer on a serving platter and generously slather frosting on the top, making sure to go all the way to the edges of the cake. Carefully place the second layer on top of the frosted first layer, and frost the top and side of the cake. Garnish the cake with marzipan carrots, sprinkles, candles, whatever, and enjoy the fruits of your effort (no pun intended)! Yum!
I wish I had a chance to take more photos of this cake coming together, but I was in a mad rush. Oh, well.
I’ll be making this again sooner or later!