Okay, so we’ve established that I didn’t grow up eating many of the dishes I love now. Of course I love what I did grow up on. In fact, I probably have more of an appreciation for many of the rustic, simple dishes of my parents’ homeland now more than ever. One of my goals this year is to document many of my mom’s recipes (since I only have them written down on scraps of paper) and give them the honour they deserve (in my humble opinion) So you may see some of these pop up every once in a while.
One of the desserts that I discovered as a teenager/adult was carrot cake. I love all the incarnations of this baked good. But of course, the spicier versions are the best! There is a debate as to whether there should be walnuts or not. Pineapple? Raisins? You know, I’m happy to settle the debate: The more the merrier! But I would rather it not be so sweet with sugar that the natural sweetness of the carrots and pineapple get lost. Through the years, I have used so many different recipes in search of that perfect storm of sweet, texture, moist, and spicy. Finally nailed it. Then came the ultimate icing to wrap said cake in. Again, not too sweet, the tang of the cream cheese should still be there. And ever the spice lover, I finally decided that a touch of allspice and cinnamon in the icing (but not too much) was what I was craving.
Every kitchen should have a go-to carrot cake recipe at hand. Perfect to entertain with, it can easily transform into breakfast! Why not use the same batter to make breakfast muffins? Sprinkle some of my homemade gluten-free Buckwheat Granola on top of each muffin before they enter the oven, and the perfect topping has been achieved. Then you can just grab one in the morning and head out the door. Or if the kids are having friends over, make cupcakes. Difference between muffins and cupcakes? The second ones are iced!!! Ice your cupcakes and sprinkle some toasted coconut over the icing and you are now the talk of the town.
So, here is a recipe that is the jack of all trades. Easy to whip together. In fact, make a couple of cake rounds and keep them in the freezer if you know that company is headed your way later in the week. Retro, classic, carrot cake.
CARDAMOM CARROT CAKE WITH ALLSPICE CREAM CHEESE ICING
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup kefir (or buttermilk)
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil (canola, sunflower or grapeseed)
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 dashes of cardamom bitters (optional)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups AP flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup walnuts , chopped small
- 1 8 oz container of crushed pineapple and juice
- 1 cup raisins
ALLSPICE CREAM CHEESE ICING
- 1/2 of a 8 oz (or 1/2 of 250 grams) pkg of cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup butter , softened
- 3/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3-4 cups of icing sugar
- 2 tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 8x12" pan
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cardamom and cinnamon.
In a large bowl combine the eggs, kefir, oil, sugar and vanilla. Add the bitters if using. Add flour mixture to the bowl. Mix until all incorporated.
In a medium bowl combine the carrots, coconut, walnuts, pineapple and raisins.
Using a large wooden spoon, stir the carrot mixture into the egg and flour mixture, Fold in well.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour. Start checking after 50 minutes. Remove when skewer comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely on rack before icing.
In a stand mixer add the cream cheese, butter, spices and vanilla extract. Mix until completely smooth. Add the icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Stop when you have enough or it is sweet enough for your liking. If it is too thick use the milk to thin it out. Wait until cake is completely cool to ice.
I use this recipe but don't always stick to the square or rectangular pan for baking. I have used 6" and up to 8" rounds or springform pans, and of course muffin tins. Fill the size you want to use appropriately, and if there is leftover batter, fill a mini muffin tin! I find that if I use two 7" rounds, there is still enough batter left to fill 8 muffin cups.
If you use 6" or 7" rounds, you can bake up two layers and put icing in between. I would put a thin layer of apricot preserves in between as well! I top my iced carrot cake with toasted flaked coconut. It adds a lovely texture and fragrance.
Adapted from Sam's Famous Carrot Cake