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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chai Spice Carrot Cake with Vanilla Bean-Cream Cheese Frosting

 It was my friend's birthday, and her husband was going to be out of town, so I was afraid she might not get a cake.  I emailed to ask him what was her favorite, and his response was immediate: carrot. 

Which is good.  Because I haven't made a lot of carrot cakes, so it was good experience for me.  AND also good because I just got a new workbowl for my food processor, and I'd been rip-roaring to use it!

When looking for the quintessential no-fail carrot cake recipe, I went straight to Baking Illustrated.  Sure enough, there was a recipe, two variations, two pages of explanation, and three pictures of "failed" carrot cakes, with notes on why they failed.  This, I knew, would give me a great cake.

So I was disappointed and a little torn when I read they make it in a 9x13 pan.  I was hoping for something a little more birthday-worthy, a layer cake.  I scoured the explanation to find out why and came up only with "ease" and "simplicity", not my top priorities when making a birthday cake.  So I cautiously strayed from the formula to make two 9-inch layers. 

The cake was delicious (I made the chai-spiced version.)  The frosting as well.  Though the frosting was slightly soft, and therefore maybe better on a rectangle than trying to spread around the sides of two layers darker than itself.  But I tried to hide those unsightly edges from the camera, for the most part, in the hopes of conveying the fabulousness this carrot cake is.  (And no, I didn't make my own marzipan carrot.  Got it at the local European bakery for a couple of bucks.)
 Chai Spice Carrot Cake with Vanilla Bean-Cream Cheese Frosting (print recipe)
Serves 10 to 12

Carrot Cake:
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 T ground cardamom
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound (6 to 7 medium) carrots, peeled
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups safflower, canola, or vegetable oil

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 vanilla beans, halved and seeds scraped
8 oz. cream cheese, softened but still cool
5 T unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 T sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) confectioners' sugar

1.  For the Cake: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position; heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray the parchment.

2.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

3.  In a food processor fitted with the large shredding disk, shred the carrots (you should have about 3 cups); add the carrots to the bowl with the dry ingredients and set aside.  Wipe out the food processor and fit with the metal blade.  Process both sugars with the eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds.  With the machine running, add the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream.  Process until the mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer.  Scrape the mixture into a large bowl.  Stir in the carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time.  Cool the cake to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours.

4.  For the Frosting: When the cake is cool, process the cream cheese, vanilla bean seeds, butter, sour cream, and vanilla extract in a clean food processor until combined, about 5 seconds, scraping down the workbowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  Add the confectioners' sugar and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.

5.  Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan.  Invert cake onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment, then invert it again onto a serving platter.  Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the surface of the cake.  Cut into squares and serve. 

Recipe from Baking Illustrated

1 comment:

2406 said...

I was the lucky birthday girl of this cake. DELICIOUS! Loved the touch of black pepper and the chai, vanilla bean combo. We were sad when it was all gone.

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