Although a carrot cake is undeniably delicious, it is not as exciting as it should be. When made the proper way, it can can give the red velvet some competition. My perfect carrot cake has to have moist, flavourful layers spiked with toasted nuts and a hint of spice then lathed generously with cream cheese frosting. How can that not sound so good?
When it comes to baking, Martha knows best. I followed this dead easy recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. The recipe was for cupcakes but could also be used to make a layer cake. For special occasions, there is nothing like an iced cake for a center piece.
I made three layers instead of two so I can have that extra space for my favourite part: the cream cheese frosting. I have used my own recipe for the frosting. This frosting is by far the best I've made. It spreads well, holds its swirl and tastes so good. The amount is quite generous but I had to reserve some for retouches during the photo shoot.
Although Martha Stewart's recipe is perfect, I had a few ideas on how I wanted MY perfect carrot cake to be.
A few changes turned a Mmmm into OMmmmmG! A glaze brushed on top of each layer turned a simple carrot cake into a a fabulous cake. Brown butter meets brown sugar meets orange juice; made into a syrup to glaze the top of each layer turned a simple carrot cake into a a fabulous cake. Instead of an orange cream cheese frosting, I opted for a creamy vanilla one because I've added a bit of orange rind (instead of Martha's grated fresh ginger) in the cake batter to add a dash of zing. I like carrot cake mildly spiced so as not to drown the freshness of the carrots. Aside from cinnamon, I added allspice for a more complex flavour. This carrot cake is still a carrot cake but the difference is unmistakable. Different nuances of deliciousness all merge into the best taste experience. Indeed so perfect.
This is by far the BEST carrot cake I've ever had. I am one happy bunny!
Recipe adapted from the Carrot-Ginger Cupcake recipe in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.
Yield: 8-12 servings
3 c. plain (all purpose) flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
2 1/2 c. finely grated carrots, about 1 lb.
1 tsp. grated orange zest
3 large eggs
1/3 c. buttermilk (or plain yoghurt)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. sugar (I used golden caster)
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
1/2 c. toasted walnuts, chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 180° C/350° F.
Grease and flour the sides of 3-8" cake tins. You can use non-stick baking spray instead such as Wilton's Bake Easy. Line the bottoms with non-stick baking paper.
The carrots should be grated finely so that they cook and meld into the cake batter. I used the finest microplane grater.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a mixing bowl.
In another mixing bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients except for the walnuts, until combined.
Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until combined. Fold in the walnuts.
Divide the mixture equally between the cake tins.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until the tops are nicely browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Interchange the position of the cakes in the oven at halftime so they bake evenly.
Note: You can also use 2-8" x 2" cake layer tins. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Transfer the cakes, still in the tin, to cooling racks. Leave to cool for 15 minutes.
Remove the tin and lining paper.
Leave the cakes to cool on the racks completely, right side up.
In the meantime, prepare the glaze and frosting.
Ingredients for the brown butter and orange glaze:
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. orange juice
Heat up small saucepan. Add the butter and let melt on medium heat until it bubbles up and brown flecks rise to the surface. The melted butter should be brown. Add in the rest of the and stir until the sugar melts.
Leave to cool until just warm. Use while warm.
Trim the tops of the cakes for more even layers.
Brush the top of one cake layer with the glaze. Brush the bottoms of the two remaining layers with the glaze. Leave to set.
Ingredients for the frosting:
1 c. double cream (substitute with heavy or whipping cream)
1/2 c. of soft, room temperature unsalted butter
2 c. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. confectioner's (powdered) sugar
Whip the double cream with an electric mixer in a mixing bowl until thick and fluffy.
In another mixing bowl cream the butter until light and fluffy then add the cream cheese and whisk again.
Add the confectioners' sugar a little at a time while whisking until combined.
Add in the whipped double cream and vanilla then whisk until the frosting is all combined, smooth and fluffy.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Use to frost the cake layers.
You will also need
about 1/2 c. of chopped toasted walnuts
carrot candy decorations (optional)
Set the cake layer with the glazed top right side up on the plate. Spread a generous cupful of frosting evenly on it.
Top with another glazed cake layer, this time glazed bottom side up. Repeat the process until you've stacked up the third layer.
Spread a thin layer of frosting to cover the whole cake, filling the gaps between the layers. This is called the crumb coat and will make a cleaner finished cake.
Poke three sticks or skewers to hold the layers in place.
Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
Set aside about 3/4 c. of the frosting for piping decorations.
Remove the sticks.
Frost the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the frosting.
Decorate the side of the cake with the toasted walnuts.
Decorate the top as you wish.
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