Its not hard to find carrot cake in America. It seems like every grocery store, bakery and cafe has some sort of dense carrot-y cake topped with piles of gloopy cream cheese frosting.
Equal parts overly sweet and nostalgic, I wondered if there weren't a way to give carrot cake a modern makeover with enough of a French twist to bring it some class and excitement.
Well, it worked.
Easily transformable into cupcakes, this simple cake stacks layers of lightly spiced carrot cake with a citrus pastry cream, topped with a whipped cream cheese frosting. The trick is that none of the elements are overly sweet, all include fresh flavors and ingredients, and each layer has just enough of a twist to remind you of the traditional cake but also to keep you thinking and digging in for another bite.
Ready to get in the kitchen and try it for yourself?
Okay, run and preheat your oven then come back and finish reading the recipe below--because I promise you will want to get this into your mouth as soon as possible.
adapted from the Zumbo cookbook
Carrot Cake Layer
(makes two 6" cakes)
220g olive oil
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
140g grated carrots
120g walnuts, chopped
1) Preheat your oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit and grease two 6" cake tins.
2) Using an electric mixer, combine the eggs and olive oil, then add in the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture thickens.
3) Add in the sifted dry ingredients and mix well.
4) Mix in the carrots and walnuts, then divide equally between the two prepared pans and bake for 75-90 minutes. (The cakes are quite thick, so it takes awhile to cook through completely. Make sure to test the center with a toothpick before removing them from the oven).
5) Remove from the pans and cool on wire racks completely before wrapping in plastic wrap and storing in the refrigerator overnight.
Citrus Creme Patissiere
1 vanilla bean
60g egg yolks
22g butter, room temperature
1 lemon, zested
1 orange, zested
1) Whisk your sugar with the lemon and orange zest, then add in the yolks and whisk thoroughly until the mixture is lightened in color (in French, this is called blanchir).
2) Bring your milk and vanilla bean to a simmer in a small saucepan, and meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch into the yolk mixture.
3) Pour most of the simmering milk into the yolks and whisk until you have one homogenous liquid, and return everything to the saucepan.
4) Over medium heat, constantly whisk the mixture until it begins boiling and then continue to whisk for about 30 seconds.
5) Remove the mixture from the pan and place in a bowl, and when the mixture has cooled to about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, mix in the butter. Store the creme patissiere in the fridge until ready to use.
Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
135g cream cheese, room temperature
100g sour cream
1 lemon, zested
1) Beat the cream cheese and sour cream with an electric mixer until smooth. Add in the sugar and lemon zest and continue mixing.
2) Slowly poor in the cream and continue mixing until the frosting is stiff. (If there are any lumps, press the frosting through a tammis or strainer).
3) Cover and store in the fridge or use immediately.
Cut the tops off of the two cakes to level them off, and then slice each horizontally to create four layers of cake.
Using an offset spatula, stack the cakes and spread a layer of creme patissiere between each of the layers.
Place the cake in the freezer for about 20 minutes, then remove and frost with the whipped cream cheese frosting.