Monday, August 22, 2011

The little carrot cake that could....

So, I made this carrot salad (make it, you won't be sorry) and my first thought was "oh god, yum" followed immediately by "this would make a serious carrot cake".

So, I wanted to take all the flavor elements of the salad and turn it into a delicious cake. I made this thing like 5 different times and then tried to put it out of my mind, because it wasn't coming out like I wanted it to. I even tried a carrot upside down cake (which I HAVE NOT given up on) but it wasn't quite right, but I think it was my pan's fault. This cake has been in the back of my mind for months and months now, but suddenly resurfaced the other day as I was making zucchini bread. I decided to let carrots step in for the zucchini and just subbed in the spices I wanted. Let me just say, it worked out wonderfully...but be warned I ate half a loaf on my own in one day.

I used my mom's recipe as a start, but I've been using multiple flours lately instead of just plain white flour alone. She also had a trick of using applesauce instead of the oil, so I did that, but added some yogurt as well. I ended up with a thick softly sweetened batter with toasted coriander, caraway, and cumin that's spiked with a little cayenne that comes together to mimic the harissa in the original recipe. Thin ribbons of fresh mint stud the cake, giving you a little minty freshness here and there. I then topped it with a thin but crunchy, tangy
lemon icing, that also adds not only extra sweetness but also some texture to the cake. It's one of those cakes you can justify eating any time of day since it's not too sweet, as a quick breakfast with coffee or a slice with afternoon tea would be perfect! Or just eat it all day long like I did, it makes two loaves so there's plenty (or it freezes great if you want to save some for later)! I mean, it's a cake based on a salad, that's makes it healthy right?

350F- Gas Mark 4

1 tsp toasted whole caraway
2 1/2 tsp toasted whole coriander
1/2 tsp toasted whole cumin seed

Toast spices in a pan on low heat and making sure to shake the pan around you'll start to smell it get fragrant. Finely grind with mortar and pestle or spice grinder
You can use pre-ground spices, but I have to seriously rally for whole spices! The flavor and fragrance is stronger, and they stay good a lot longer because the oils inside aren't exposed to the air. So, I'm not going to give you the ground spice amounts based on principle! Ok, I will say you end up will 2T total. 
I don't want to treat you like you're stupid, but I'm putting the cayenne down here on it's own so it doesn't end up in a hot pan with the other spices turning your kitchen into a death zone.
1/2 tsp- 1 tsp cayenne (depending on if you wanna keep the spice in the background)

3 C flour (1 cup plain, 1 cup spelt, 1/2 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup buckwheat) More grains= healthier and more interesting baked goods, but use what you have. This is moist and tasty, and a good chance to try other grains. Fiber!
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1/2 C plain low fat yogurt or buttermilk
1/2 C no sugar added apple sauce
3 eggs
2 C shredded carrots
Zest of 1 lemon
2 T chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 C sugar (I used a half/half combo of unrefined plain and packed dark brown sugar)- increase to 2 cups if you won't be making the icing

Mix all wet ingredients, sift dry ingredients into the wet. Stir until combined. Divide between the two pans.
I have 1 nonstick loaf pan, and one normal. I just use the nonstick as is, and line the other with parchment.
Bake for 20mn, rotate loaf pans, bake about 10mn more, start testing centers of each cake as the loaves may not bake evenly or be done at the same time.
I try to take it out just shy of a "clean toothpick", so it stays moist. As it cools for 10mn in the pan, and keeps cooking a little as a result.

Tangy lemon crunch icing (for 2 loaves):

1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup sugar - I used turbinado sugar for added crunch- and it's all I had
1/4 cup lemon juice
I used a few teaspoons of "mint water" as well (I found it at an ethnic grocery), but it's not necessary

Put all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth, but if you're using the turbinado sugar it won't smooth out.

Turn cakes out onto a cooling rack (after 10mn), and brush icing over the top, allow to cool/dry completely. Yes, you are allowed to cut a piece off of the end to make sure it's not poisoned.

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