The Ultimate Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting! (how to assemble the cake)
"This is the best cake I've ever eaten!" was the reaction from my husband Graham to my latest creation. He has tasted many cakes during our 21 years together, so I pay attention when he makes a proclamation like this. I have to agree, this one is a winner! The recipe comes from Carole Bloom's book The Essential Baker. I've made some minor changes to the recipe but for the most part it is hers. Too often carrot cake seems like a throw back to the 70s, when they were dense and tasted ultimately too good for you. This version is moist, sweet and has a complex combination of spices that all seem to come through. The cream cheese icing is bright and creamy. I added a bit of orange and lemon zest to the icing to bring out those flavors in the cake. I think it is an addition that is key to the success of this cake! Pretty soon I will be harvesting carrots from my very own backyard urban farm, until then I used really nice sweet organic carrots from my co-op, which probably added something to the flavor. Carolyn, whose birthday inspired me to try this recipe, is in the camp of people who don't like nuts in their carrot cake so I replaced them with shredded coconut. The raisins that Bloom suggests in the recipe were traded for dried cherries to tie in with the marzipan cherries that would adorn the top. Otherwise I followed this recipe from The Essential Baker: 1 pound coarsely grated carrots (I actually made mine finely grated, as you will see below.) 4 extra large eggs, at room temperature 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 1/4 cup canola oil 2/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar 2 teaspoons pure vanilla Finely grated zest of 1 large orange 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmegs 1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts (I used shredded coconut instead, which was one of the options Bloom suggested as well) 1 cup raisins (I substituted chopped dried cherries) Cream Cheese Frosting from Essential Baker: (I doubled this recipe to make sure I would have enough. Now I spread the leftovers on EVERYTHING!) 12 ounces cream cheese, softened 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened 2 teaspoons pure vanilla 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract (optional) 2 teaspoons lemon zest 2 teaspoons orange zest 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar Mix all ingredients together Prepare muffin tins with papers (about 60 mini or 48 regular cupcakes) or two 9" cake pans with parchment and oil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I coarsely grated the carrots in a food processor using the grater attachment. I then chopped them into finer pieces with the medal blade attachment in the food processor so that the texture of the cake would be a little bit finer. Mix together the eggs, sugar, oil, brown sugar, vanilla extract and orange zest. Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Add the finely chopped carrots, coconut, and dried cherries. Pour the batter into the prepared pans or scoop into cupcake papers (fill 3/4 full). Bake cupcakes for about 18-25 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Bake 9" cakes for about 35-40 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. To assemble the cake. Remove from pan and peel off the parchment paper from the bottom, place on a cardboard round. Put the cake on a cake turn table. With a Wüsthof Superslicer or other thin serrated knife slice off the very top of the cake. Do this by using a sawing motion. Then cut the cake in 2 or 3 equal layers. Slide the layers onto a cardboard round or any other flat surface. The false bottom of a tart pan works perfectly. Put about 1 1/2 cups of the cream cheese icing. Using an offset spatula spread the frosting evenly over the surface of the first layer. Repeat for the rest of the layers. Place about 2 cups of the icing on the top of the cake and spread evenly. Spread the icing onto the sides of the cake. Lift the cake off the turn table and place on the serving platter. Using the spatula spread the frosting and create swirls on the cake. This cream cheese frosting is very soft so you won't want to try for anything too exacting. I pressed coconut onto the sides and sprinkled the top. Here are the mini cupcakes I made for Carolyn's birthday. I got these great cupcake papers from Sweet Celebrations. Here they are adorned with marzipan cherries.