I made this recipe for a birthday celebration on Friday, and I had so much frosting left over I’m making cupcakes for work tomorrow. This jewel comes from my talented friend Leslie on the Lilly & Louise blog. I always associate carrot cake with Leslie and her husband, Nathan. It’s Nathan’s favorite cake, and I have a distinct memory of baking carrot cake with Leslie in our college apartment as we tried to chop carrots into tiny bits without a food processor or grater. My kitchen supplies have come a long way since then.
This recipe calls for organic everything. If you can get it great, if not, don’t sweat it. I used a teaspoon more cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. The frosting really does make a TON. I would make a half recipe next time. The frosting has a great, tart, lemon flavor. If you like a sweeter frosting, add more powdered sugar.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese-Lemon Zest Icing
For the cake:
1/3 cup dried shredded organic unsweetened coconut
About 1 pound organic farm-fresh carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch Lengths (3 cups)
1 cup chopped organic pineapple
1 1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour
1/2 cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoons organic ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated organic nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar
3/4 cup organic canola oil
1 tablespoon organic vanilla extract
3 organic eggs
Cream Cheese-Lemon Zest Frosting
Optional additions (add one or a combination of all three)
3/4 cup chopped toasted organic walnuts — I only used these.
1/2 cup organic golden raisins, plumped in warm water for 20 minutes and drained
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh organic ginger
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper (to ensure that the cake will not stick), or place liners in 2 muffin pans for 24 cupcakes. Set aside.
Place the dried coconut in a cup of warm water to soften and set it aside for 15 minutes.
Place the carrots in a food processor and pulse on and off for 1 minute. Then add the pineapple and pulse until the carrots are cut into very small pieces and the pineapple is pureed, 1 to 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the brown sugar and use a whisk to break up any lumps.
Drain the coconut and place it in a medium bowl. Add the oil, vanilla extract, eggs, and carrot-pineapple mixture, and whisk to combine.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing with a rubber spatula to incorporate but not overmix. When the batter is almost mixed, stir in the additions, if using. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 55 minutes, or until the tops are a very golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. (It may look as if the cake is too well done, but it takes a while to bake because it’s so dense.) For cupcakes, the baking time is 35 to 40 minutes.
Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then invert them onto a wire rack and let them cool completely.
Fill and frost the cake with the Cream Cheese-Lemon Zest Frosting
Three 8-ounce packages organic cream cheese, softened
2 sticks (1 cup) organic unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated organic lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh organic lemon juice
1 tablespoon organic vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups organic powdered sugar
In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until combined and airy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.
Sift the powdered sugar onto a piece of parchment or wax paper. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sifted powdered sugar into the frosting (use both hands to bend the paper so the sugar pours slowly into the bowl).
Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. If the frosting seems too soft to spread, allow it to chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.