Carrot cake with candied carrot curls
Another event that I always bake for is peoples’ last day in the office. This is an event that is certainly as important as a birthday, as it marks a turning point in my colleagues’ lives! It should also be noted that consulting companies tend to have pretty high turnover rates, so promising to bake every person’s favourite treat for their last day is actually quite the commitment. I enjoy baking like this though because when I cater to one person’s specific tastes, I often end up getting out of my baking “comfort zone” and doing something new. The carrot cake I made for a colleague here is a perfect example of that. I enjoy carrot cake, but to date can only think of ever having baked one once. (Honestly, desserts without chocolate? Use sparingly.) I remembered why the second I began grating the carrots for the cake and promptly grated my finger by accident. If you have a food processor, please use it. Grating is the most annoying. However, the final product is well worth it, so certainly a fun cake to make for a special occasion!
Carrot cake with candied carrot curls (from The Gallery Gourmet)
There are several parts to this cake, and I chose to go all-in and make these candied carrot curls, so since they can be stored in a container for several days, I made them first.
Ingredients for carrot curls
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C. Line baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper; set aside.
Peel long strips from carrots lengthwise until you begin to get wide slices. I found this slightly difficult to do and ended up with a bunch of fairly narrow strips instead. Oh well.
Bring water and sugar to a boil in small heavy duty saucepan. Add carrot strips and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Strain through a sieve, discarding syrup. Let stand 15 minutes.
Wind carrot strips, one at a time, around the end of a wooden spoon handle, then slip off each curl and place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. Do not underestimate the time this takes. Luckily I had a friend over who was able to help me out with this. Then, place in the oven and bake until dry and crisp (the original recipe said 60-75 minutes).
Simmering the carrot strips in the sugar and water
All curled and ready to go into the oven!
The finished product
My carrot strips were definitely quite crispy in 30 minutes, probably because the strips were fairly narrow. So make sure you check on them. Mine turned rather brown and aren’t as pretty and orange looking as the ones from the original recipe, but they taste really good and add an intriguing finish to the top of the cake! These can be made 5 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature. I would recommend making them a day or two ahead of the cake if you have limited time, so you don’t feel like you have to do everything at once.
Ingredients for carrot cake
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I didn’t have any so just used a bit more cinnamon)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (didn’t have this either…not really a problem)
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (I used ground)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound carrots, peeled – this is about 4 medium-large carrots
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (if you don’t have buttermilk, which I never do, just squeeze a slice of lemon into half a cup of milk and let stand for 5 minutes)
1 cup vegetable oil
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350F / 180 C. Lightly grease two 9 inch / 22 cm round cake pans, or one 9″x13″ pan (or in metric terms, one of those rectangular pans). I must admit that cake baking is not really my speciality – although I enjoy it, I don’t have
most of any of the tools required to make really prettily decorated cakes. So I went with the rectangular pan option because it’s way easier than making a multi-layered cake.
Now the hard part – grate your carrots. Or shred them in a food processor. In a large bowl, mix together both sugars, the eggs, and buttermilk. Then pour the oil in with one hand while stirring with the other until the mixture has blended together thoroughly. Then pour in all the carrots and mix again.
As you may know, most recipes call for all dry ingredients to be mixed together in a separate bowl, and then you add them all at once to the wet ingredients. Well, I don’t like making two bowls dirty, so I always just add the spices first and then the flour. It really has never made a difference in the quality of my recipes, I promise. Anyway, add all the spices, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and then gradually add in the flour and fold in until no streaks remain.
Scrape batter into prepared pan(s), and smooth it out. Bake cake until toothpick in the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes, rotating pan(s) halfway through baking. Let cake cool completely in pan(s) on wire rack, about 2 hours. Or if you are impatient like me you can put it in the fridge to speed up the cooling process.
Adding all the spices to the wet mixture
Looking nice and orange and ready to go into the oven
Test for doneness with a knife (it should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs)
Ingredients for cream cheese frosting
1/2 cup /110 g unsalted butter, softened
1 (8-ounce / 250 g) package cream cheese (do not use low fat or nonfat)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners / icing sugar
1 Tablespoon sour cream
FROSTING DISCLAIMER: For this to work properly, the butter and cream cheese REALLY need to be softened. As in, when you start making the cake, dump them in another bowl and just let them sit. Otherwise they will be impossible to work with. I don’t use electric mixers and enjoy mixing everything by hand, so I suppose it would be easier if you used a mixer. Anyway, cream the butter, cream cheese, and sour cream together until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until fluffy.
If you are like me and baked it in the easy rectangular pan, you don’t even have to remove it from the pan – just dump the frosting on top. If you baked it in the circular tins, then you’ll have to de-pan them, place on a plate, and frost that way. If you made the carrot curls, garnish those on the top. The cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, but wait until serving time to put the garnishes on the top. Bring to room temperature before serving. I chose to garnish it with a few raisins in addition to the candied carrot curls (happily eating the leftovers of course).
Voila – fancy looking cake achieved without actually having to use any cake tools whatsoever!