Carrot cake is the perfect Easter dessert. This cake is super moist and the icing is particularly FANTASTIC. Fresh lemon juice in the icing and the sprinkle of orange zest between the cake layers adds brightness. This recipe is from More from Macrina: New Favorites from Seattle’s Popular Neighborhood Bakery by Leslie Mackie with Lisa Gordanier. I didn’t make the baked shredded carrot and edible flower garnish- it undoubtedly would have made the cake prettier- but mine tasted just as good!
For the Batter:
- 3/4 cup walnut halves and pieces, toasted and finely chopped
- 2 1/4 cups packed grated carrots (5 to 6 medium), divided
- 2 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 3/4 cup canola oil
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 T granulated sugar, divided
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup applesauce (preferably organic)
- 1 T orange zest (from 1 orange)
- 3 or 4 edible flowers, for garnish (optional)
For the Frosting:
- 1 pound (2 cups) cream cheese, at room temperature (I used light cream cheese)
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Yield: Makes One 9-inch Cake
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans with canola oil. Cut out two 8-inch parchment paper square and place them on the bottom of the pans to prevent the cakes from sticking. Line a wire cooling rack and a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- To make the batter, toss the walnuts with 2 cups of the grated carrots in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the canola oil, 1 3/4 cups of the granulated sugar, eggs, and applesauce. Start on low speed and increase to medium for a total of 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is lighter in texture and slightly lighter in color. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula to fully incorporate the ingredients. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and incorporate it fairly quickly (about 20 seconds), then scrape down the bowl again. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use the rubber spatula to fold in the carrot mixture.
- Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans; they will be about one-third full. Using an offset spatula, smooth and level the batter for even baking. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cakes are deep golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the pans and invert the cakes onto the prepared rack. Carefully remove the paper and cool completely.
- Meanwhile, to make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter for 5 minutes on medium speed to throughly smooth an aerate the frosting. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl and gradually add it to the cream cheese mixture. Add the lemon juice and mix for another 2 minutes, until the frosting is smooth and light. Hold it at room temperature until ready to use. (If it seems too warm and loose to hold its shape, refrigerate it, checking every 5 minutes and mixing with a rubber spatula until it looks spreadable.)
- To make the garnish: (optional) Spread the remaining 1/4 cup carrots on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 3 minutes to slightly dry them out, then toss with the remaining 2 T granulated sugar. Bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the carrots are crisp but not browned. (As they cool they will crisp up more.) Set aside to cool.
- To assemble: Trim the top of the cakes with a serrated knife, leveling the domed tops. (Because my cakes were fairly flat, I just put the tops face to face in the middle of the cake.) Place one cake cut side up on a plate or cardboard cake round. Place 1 1/2 cup of frosting in the center of the cake and spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch unfrosted border around the edge; the frosting will be about 3/8 inch thick. Sprinkle the orange zest over the frosting. Set the other cake on top and level by gently pressing down on it with the bottom of an empty cake pan.
- Cover the entire cake with a tin layer of frosting about 1/8 inch thick. This is the crumb coat, so the cake will still be visible through the frosting. Refrigerate the cake for 20 minutes to firm it up, holding the remaining frosting at room temperature.
- For the final coat of frosting: First cover the sides of the cake; the frosting should be evenly distributed on the offset spatula so that you can coat the sides (top to bottom) all at once. Then frost the top, placing a dollop of frosting in the center and smoothing it out, squaring up the edges. Garnish by placing a 4-inch ring of baked carrots in the center of the cake and fill with the edible flowers. (optional)
- You can store the baked cakes, unfrosted and well wrapped, int he freezer for up to 2 weeks. The frosted cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Bring it to room temperature (about 2 hours) before serving. (I prefer it slightly cold!)