I love carrots just as much as the next person. They are particularly delightful to dip into hummus, along with fresh bell peppers. However, I would say hands down my favorite way to load up on all the beta carotene, fiber, antioxidants and minerals in these crunchy taproots would be via the delicious vehicle that IS carrot cake. And what’s all the better is that a cooked carrot provides more of these nutrients than an uncooked carrot. So really, you’re just bringing out the best in this yummy veggie. And who could fault you for that?
This recipes is particularly delicious because it’s filled with carrot, dried apricots, and pistachios and you could probably leave it out for several days and it would not become dry. We sort of tried this by default. This may sound disturbing at first, but really it’s a function of the olive oil content..which is ALSO good for you. So this is BASICALLY a health food snack…at least, until you add the frosting..but who’s counting? In moments like these I like to think of Mitch Hedberg‘s great joke about an onion ring and a carrot – he said he wished when they both got into his stomach the carrot could say “It’s cool, he’s with me.” So, we’ll just let the carrots do the talking for the frosting and call it good.
So, onto the ingredients:
3 cups AP flour
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used light brown)
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/2 or 2 teaspoons cinnamon (use 2 if you like a little spice in your carrot cake)
1 teaspoon or 1 and 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (probably just the one if its not fresh)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 cups grated carrots
1 and 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots
1 and 1/2 cups chopped pistachios (you’ll need a little extra set aside time for this part, unless you can find the magical fountain of unshelled pistachios…)
4 large eggs
1 and 1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
2 x 8 ounce packs of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional, if you like a tangy cream cheese frosting)
Geez. I just have to say right now that it’s been a couple months since I made this fine cake, and even though I JUST made a batch of Orangette’s AMAZING whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, I am thinking of giving them all away so I can make this one again. My mouth is literally watering.
Ok, now that I got that off my chest, and now that you are familiar with the long list of cake ingredients (I promise it’s WORTH it) I realize I forgot to tell you the bonus to this recipe…there is enough for 8-12 cupcakes in addition to the two layers of cake. So you know when you bake a cake and you really want to try it, but you can’t break into it until you bring it to whomever? Well, fear not, my friend, because you can guiltlessly gobble down your own private carrot cake party, experimenting with butter spreads (yummy!) and maybe a dip or two into that cream cheese frosting. Because, you know, you HAVE to make sure it isn’t poisonous, right?
Ok, ok, it’s been a while, so I’m blabbing, let’s get to the baking!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray two 8-inch round cake pans and an 8 or 12 cup muffin pan (you’ll have to keep an eye on the littler ones while baking) and set them aside.
If you are using fresh nutmeg, now would be a good time to grind it down. Like I said with the cinnamon, and especially because fresh nutmeg has a more delicate aroma than pre-ground nutmeg, don’t be afraid to sprinkle a little extra in there!
Next, combine the flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice in a large bowl. The note about the cinnamon is just that I, personally, like a little spiciness to my carrot cake and for some reason the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons didn’t seem like enough, the cinnamon-iness was more subtle than I prefer, so up the ante if you’re like me. If you like it more mild, just follow the main recipe. Whisk the dry ingredients to combine.
Next, you’ll want to chop up your pistachios and dried apricots and grate your carrot any way you please. I like the bigger, traditional flakes, so you get a nice little burst of carrot flavor. Toss all these into the flour mixture and mix them up, making sure the little bits of apricot get a nice coating of flour so they don’t end up in a big clump.
Grab a medium bowl and add the four eggs, olive oil, milk and vanilla and whisk until combined.
Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl of dry and stir until just combined.
Now you are ready to distribute the batter, 3 cups into each cake pan and about 1/4 cup per muffin tin. Mostly you want to make sure the muffins look even, whether you decide to eyeball it or go with the measuring cup.
Bake the cakes until you can poke ’em with a toothpick and have it come out clean. This is about 40 minutes for the cakes and 20 minutes for the cupcakes. Cool cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. If you are planning to move directly to the frosting, it’s probably a good idea to take the cream cheese out of the fridge when you pull the cakes from the oven, so it can reach room temperature. Then remove the cakes and cupcakes from the pans and allow to cool completely.
The great thing is, that even if you leave these cakes out overnight or during the day, even just loosely wrapped in saran wrap, they are STILL crazy moist and delicious. So don’t worry if you can’t do it all at once, you will still have a scrumptious cake.
Ok, on to the, literally, frosting on the cake…
This one’s real complicated, so pay close attention…
Put the powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon zest (and lemon juice if you like a little extra tang) into a large bowl or a stand mixer bowl. Mix them up until smooth and creamy. Then spread this yummy frosting on your cake or cupcakes, or whatever you well please.
I think you can probably take it from here, but just in case you weren’t convinced, yet:
Happy Baking! Hope you enjoy!