Carrot cake has its legions of fans for good reason—who can resist that luxurious cream cheese frosting? I was standing in line at a New Westminster coffee shop with a friend a few years ago when our conversation suddenly came to a halt. She overheard the order of the customer in front of us and her face dropped. “I just want the carrot cake—can you remove the icing?” My friend immediately chirped in, “I’ll take it!” And she did. She ordered a latte and ate another customer’s generous dollop of cream cheese icing, sans carrot cake, with a spoon.
We can all instantly name names when it comes down to who makes the best carrot cake in our family and friend circles (PJ Moore!). Whether the recipe is a flour-dusted, oil-splattered index card from a great-grandmother, Betty Crocker or a Food Network link on your tablet—this recipe is going to be your new favourite.
Don’t be intimidated by the cover of Marit Hovland’s Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature (Greystone Books). You don’t need a fine arts degree to pull off these edible gallery pieces—just a little confidence in creating marzipan carrots will do. Hovland’s idea for creating realistic, just-pulled-from-the-earth carrots is brilliant—cocoa powder! And the fancy rosemary sprig tops will have everyone fawning over your cake.
Hovland is a Norwegian graphic designer, photographer and baker who uses simple kitchen hacks like foil, cotton swabs and toothpicks to make her magic happen. If you preview her ingredient lists, you’ll see that her recipes are based on pantry staples. Inspired? Bakeland is one giant fairy tale romp through a confectionary forest. From birch bark cookies to meringue mushrooms and candied forget-me-nots, elevate your baking with 50 recipes all about the wow factor. For more eye candy, visit Howland’s brilliant blog: Borrow My Eyes. To buy the book, click here: Bakeland.
CARROT CAKE WITH MAPLE TOPPING
- ⅓ cup (90 g) butter, melted
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup (100 g) brown sugar
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (130 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1½ packed cups (200 g) coarsely grated carrots
- 1 cup (125 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
- ⅓ cup (50 g) raisins
Walnut marzipan carrots
- 1 cup (125 g) walnuts
- 1 cup (125 g) almonds
- 1⅔ cups (200 g) icing sugar
- 1 egg white
- orange liquid gel food coloring
- unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
- fresh rosemary leaves (optional)
Cream cheese filling and nut Topping
- ¼ cup (65 g) butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (125 g) icing sugar
- 3.5 oz (100 g) plain cream cheese
- ¾ cup (100 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
- ⅓ cup (75 ml) maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C). Line the bottom of a 9-inch (23 cm) round springform pan with parchment paper.
In a bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs and both sugars together until pale in color. Blend in the cooled melted butter. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. Sift the dry mixture into the egg mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter. Add the grated carrots. You can toss the walnuts and raisins with 1 Tbsp flour before you fold them into the batter with a rubber spatula—this will prevent them from sinking to the bottom.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes on the middle rack of the oven. To test if the cake is done, stick a toothpick in the middle—if it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Remove the cake from the oven and loosen it from the pan. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack covered with parchment paper. Let the cake cool before you cut it horizontally into two layers.
Walnut marzipan carrots
Grind the walnuts and almonds in a nut grinder. Mix in the icing sugar and grind one more time. Add the egg white and work the mixture together. Add a few drops of orange food colouring until the marzipan is the colour of carrots.
Roll out short marzipan carrots. Stand them up and use a knife to cut little transverse stripes. Brush with a little cocoa powder if you want “dirt” on the carrots. Make a small hole at the top of each carrot with a toothpick and insert a few rosemary leaves.
Cream cheese filling and nut Topping
In a bowl, using a handheld mixer, whip together the butter, icing sugar, and cream cheese. Spread the cream over the bottom layer of the cake and top with the second layer.
In a separate bowl, stir together the walnuts and maple syrup, then cover the top of the cake with the walnut mixture. Place the carrots on the cake as the picture shows. Serve the rest of the carrots on the side.
Excerpted from Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature by Marit Hovland, published April 2018 by Greystone Books. Reproduced and edited with permission from the publisher.
makes one 9-inch (23 cm) round cake
A moist cake, full of carrots, walnuts, and raisins. A little cocoa powder on the walnut marzipan carrots makes them look like they’ve just been pulled out of the dirt.
Jules Torti’s resume reads more like a well-folded treasure map. She has been a canoe outtripper, outdoor educator, colouring book illustrator and freelancer. Jules has volunteered (and eaten all sorts of questionable things) in the soupy jungles of Costa Rica, Uganda and the Congo. Her work has been published in The Harrowsmith Almanac, The Vancouver Sun, The Globe & Mail, travelife, Canadian Running and Coast Mountain Culture. She actively feeds her blog, Alphabet Soup, with posts on books, birds, burgers and beer (in no particular order) across the latitudes from Zanzibar to Iceland. Closer to home, she was grandfathered into the Galt Horticultural Society, was the caretaker of a 155-year-old stone heritage cottage and has chronic fantasies about church conversions, beekeeping and owning llamas. She has been known to slam on the brakes for photo ops of saltbox houses, saddle roof barns, snowy owls and sunflower fields. As editor-in-chief of Harrowsmith she is thrilled to be able to curate, write and read about the very best things in life.