Spiced Carrot Cake
Moist carrot cake with beautiful, fragrant aroma coming from the mix of spices. The cake is filled with brown butter ricotta cream - lightly sweetened, nutty and absolutely delicious. To decorate, we are using here my favourite walnut and cranberry praline - sweet and tart notes coming from cranberries blend beautifully with honey, cream and walnuts. The real challenge here is not to eat the filling or the topping or the cake, before assembling and decorating! It's a simple, quick and flavourful bake.
Your house will be filled with beautiful and fragrant aroma of spices and brown butter when this cake is baking and then served! It's a real treat!
For a good bake:
Use all ingredients at room temperature. It takes a while to bring carrots to room temperature if you are refrigerating - take that into account when preparing ingredients. It’s the most important part of this bake.
Oil - choose neutral scented oil (like sunflower or canola oil). Choose a good brand of oil - there are certain mainstream brands marked as neutral scented but leave unpleasant aftertaste in baked goods. Usually, oils that are marked ‘cold-pressed, from first pressing’ are a good fit.
Eggs - beat eggs until fluffy. This will form good base for this simple cake.
Gentle handling - after beating eggs, mix in the rest of ingredients using spoon or spatula - only until ingredients are combined. Don’t over-mix.
Spices - great option for this cake, is to bake in advance (bake an evening before). This will allow spices and flavours to fully blend in. In the morning, you can opt to proceed with filling and decoration. If you opt to do that - cool the cake fully, don't divide into layers (do it when you are ready to decorate) and cover with clean kitchen towel (the cake can be stored overnight at room temperature, 21C, or refrigerated covered loosely in a cling film). Brown butter an evening before too - place in the fridge and in the morning it will be ready to use.
Tin - we are baking this cake in one tin and then dividing into 3 layers. By doing this, spices will have a chance to infuse the whole cake (the cake will be more aromatic) plus - it's a handy, one tin bake.
Brown Butter Ricotta filling - bring brown butter to room temperature before beating. Semolina should be cooked until thick (timings included in the recipe). Make sure to bring ricotta to room temperature before using in the filling. Remove excess juice from ricotta before adding to the rest of ingredients (give it a proper squeeze). This delicious filling is not suitable to use as external frosting.
Topping - decorate the cake when topping is still hot. Gently press in. It will set when the cake is refrigerated. It needs some 30min-1hr to set in the fridge.
Storage - store your spiced carrot cake refrigerated for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Spiced Carrot Cake Recipe
Yield: 12 servings
Time: 45min prep + 60min baking
Tin: 21cm round tin
Ingredients (all at room temperature):
For the cake:
2 large carrots (260g unpeeled, 220g grated on medium scale)
200g walnuts, coarsely chopped
210g all purpose (plain) flour
1 tsp (5g) baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp (6g) baking powder
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/5 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (1/4 tsp if using table salt)
4 (240g) large eggs
160ml sunflower or canola oil (any neutral scented oil)
Brown Butter Ricotta filling:
100g unsalted butter
200g Ricotta cheese, room temperature, juice removed
250ml full-fat milk
30g (3 Tbsps) semolina
4 Tbsps (60g) sugar (or 3 Tbsp sugar and 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar)
1/4 tsp coarse salt (or 1/8 tsp table salt)
zest from 1/2 lemon
Walnut and Cranberry topping:
75g walnuts, coarsely chopped
100ml cream (36-38% fat)
1/2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp sugar or vanilla sugar
2 Tbsps dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan forced). Line bottom of the baking tin with parchment paper and grease sides with butter.
Prepare carrots and walnuts: Peel and grate carrots on medium scale. Make sure carrots are at room temperate before adding to cake batter. Coarsely chop walnuts and mix in with grated carrots. Set aside.
Prepare dry ingredients: Mix flour with baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, coriander and sift. Whisk in sugar and salt.
Combine: In your main mixing bowl beat eggs until fluffy (3 minutes, high speed, whisk attachment). Start adding oil in a steady stream, mixing on medium speed. Add carrots mixed with walnuts and gently mix in. At the end, fold in all dry ingredients and with few swift moves combine. Don't over-mix. Pour batter into baking tin.
Bake at 180C (160C) for 55-60min. Check with the skewer if fully baked through. When baked, leave in the tin to cool for 15 minutes, then run thin knife around the edges, remove from the tin and cool fully on the cooling rack.
Prepare Brown Butter Ricotta filling: In a small pot (with bright bottom) brown butter - melt butter on medium heat and continue to cook until browned. This will take 7-10 minutes. Butter will be noisy at first and then will go silent (sign that solids have started to cook). Watch closely - not to burn. Butter will be light brown in colour, have small light brown speckles at the bottom (that’s your flavour) and lovely nutty aroma. Cool down and refrigerate until solidified. When ready to prepare frosting - cut solidified butter into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Wait until it reaches room temperature (30-45 minutes). In a small pot mix in milk, semolina, sugar and salt. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes. The mixture will be fairly thick - when placed on a spoon it should hold on to it. Cool fully before proceeding. When ready, beat brown butter until fluffy (1-2 minutes, high speed, paddle attachment or handheld mixer), then add fully cooled semolina and beat for 1 more minute. Remove juice from ricotta and add to brown butter/semolina, add zest from 1/2 lemon and beat for 1 more minute. Divide the cake into 3 equal parts, fill with brown butter ricotta filling (gently press sponges). Refrigerate assembled cake and in the meantime prepare the topping.
Decorate with Walnut and Cranberry topping: Coarsely chop walnuts. In a small pot mix cream, honey, sugar, cranberries and coarsely chopped walnuts. Cook on medium heat, stirring every so often, for about 8-10 minutes. The mixture will thicken (and will be absolutely delicious!). Make sure to finish cooking when it’s still slightly runny (about 8 minutes on medium heat will give you the consistency). Decorate top of the cake with hot walnut/cranberry topping, press gently and refrigerate (it will set fully when cooled).
This spiced carrot cake is enjoyable for at least 3-4 days. Store refrigerated and make sure to bring to room temperature before serving.