Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Curls

carrot-cake

This past Easter I was pondering what to bake– trying to decide between hot cross buns and cream-filled chocolate eggs– when I realized that I had a big bag of carrots languishing in the crisper drawer, leftovers from a delicious batch of bolognese sauce. I immediately discarded all other options in favor of carrot cake– a cake that I love, but rarely make for some reason. And I knew just the recipe– another Smitten Kitchen post that I’d bookmarked a while ago but never gotten around to trying, carrot cake with graham crackers.

That’s right, there are pulverized graham crackers in the batter, taking the place of some of the flour. Honestly, though, with all of the spices in the mix I couldn’t really taste the graham flavor, so I’m not sure how successful that element was in this case. But the rest of it was a very nice cake (a little heavy on the frosting, but some people like it that way), and since the top was looking a little plain once I assembled it, I made a batch of candied carrot curls to decorate!

The carrot curls were actually really easy– just time-consuming. I think next time I’d use a larger carrot and try to make thicker strips to work with, but these turned out fine for the purposes I was using them for.

Anyway, here are the recipes!

Carrot Graham Layer Cake (from Smitten Kitchen)

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (95 grams) finely ground graham cracker crumbs
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (145 grams) dark brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (210 grams) neutral oil or melted butter (i.e. 1 tablespoon short of 1 cup)
3 large eggs
3 cups (about 12 3/4 ounces or 360 grams) peeled and grated carrots (2 cups = 8.5 ounces, peeled/grated)

1. Line three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray with baking spray (this cake is soft and sticky, it really needs the parchment to be sure it releases cleanly).

2. Whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and sugars until smooth, then add oil and carrots and stir to combine.

carrot-cake-mix

4. Mix together wet and dry ingredients and pour into cake pans.

5. Bake 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees F, until toothpick comes out clean. Tops of cake layers will still be sticky. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Remove the parchment paper at this point to speed cooling.

carrot-cake-baked

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (455 grams total)
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces or 230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Beat butter until smooth, then add cream cheese and beat together until smooth.

2. Add vanilla extract, then powdered sugar, and beat until smooth and creamy.

carrot-cake-frosting

Candied Carrot Curls

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large carrot

1. Peel carrot, then use a vegetable peeler to peel off long, wide strips of carrot. Set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil.

3. Add carrot strips and simmer 15 minutes. Drain thoroughly and let cool.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay carrot strips flat onto the sheet.

5. Bake at 225 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, until strips are dry but still bendable.

6. Wind carrot strips around the handle of a wooden spoon to form curls, then return curls to baking sheet until cool and firm.

carrot-curl-process

7. You can also continue to bake the curls until they’re crisp (about 30 more minutes), but I find that the heat makes the strips soften and droop in the oven, and they maintain their shape better if you just let them cool as-is.

carrot-curls

To assemble:

1. Lay out one layer of cake on a cardboard cake circle, flat side down. Spread with frosting and top with another layer of cake. Repeat process, ending with the third layer flat side up.

2. Garnish with carrot curls and extra graham cracker crumbs.

carrot-cake-slice

Notes:

  1. I actually found this cake a bit too moist for my taste– next time I think I might reduce the oil to only 3/4 cup to see if that helps. I think the effect might also have been caused by the thinness of the cake layers compared to the frosting.
  2. Speaking of frosting, this was actually too much for my taste. Next time I’d reduce it to 2/3 of the recipe to balance it out better, and bake the cake in only two layers.
  3. This cake is much better at room temperature than cold– the frosting is pretty stiff straight out of the fridge, and due to the relatively low amount of sugar in it doesn’t taste all that sweet. Give it a few minutes out of the fridge before slicing and eating.

 

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