It’s late at night when I decide to make carrot cake. The dishes are done, the counters are sparkling clean. Prime time to get messy.
I could drag out the food processor, but I decide to grate the carrots by hand. Food processors have so many parts, and I can already envision orange shreds of carrot drying and sticking to every hard to get at metal crevice. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
After peeling and grating too many carrots to count (14) my hands are bright orange and there is carrot in my hair and on my shirt. I decide to bag the shredded carrots, clean up and call it a night. I fall asleep dreaming of cake.
In the morning, I ignore all of my responsibilities and head straight to the kitchen for cake making. Having had plenty of time to mull over this the previous night, I’ve decided to use spelt flour- it’s light, nutty and subtly sweet, and will add a welcome heartiness to the cake without weighing it down.
In addition to the spelt flour, I add all of the carrot cake regulars: brown and white sugar, oil for moistness, eggs with bright yellow centers. I go spice happy, too, adding cardamom, nutmeg, ginger and cloves to the usual cinnamon.
My last addition is an inspired touch: freshly brewed chai tea. The spicy tea adds lush softness to the cake and a warm flavor that matches the spices I’ve already added to the batter. This’ll be good!
A few hours later, I’ve got four cakes cooled, leveled and ready to be iced. I’m doing the traditional carrot cake thing- cream cheese frosting- but mine’s special: I make it with sour cream and lemon juice so the tang of the cream cheese doesn’t get lost under all that confectioner’s sugar.
I cover each layer of cake with a thick coat of frosting, and slowly, a grand glorious cake begins to form before me. Before long, it’s completed: towering, proud and white. When I cut in, it’s a beautiful orange color, with a rich, warm scent and four even, perfect layers of cake.
THIS is carrot cake. Done how it should be. A classic. Maybe even…my favorite. And definitely: the only way I want to celebrate my 20th birthday.
Yields: one 9″ four layer cake
Why I love this recipe: spelt flour adds to the heartiness of this already robust cake which is chock full of fresh carrots and warm, wintry spices. Freshly brewed chai tea adds even more spice and flavor and combines with the oil, sugars and eggs for additional moistness. The sour cream + lemon juice enhanced cream cheese frosting is the literal, delicious icing on this plush cake.
For the carrot cake layers:
- 2 1/2 cups white spelt flour
- 2 cups whole spelt flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 lbs. peeled carrots, about 14
- 3 cups canola oil
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 8 large eggs
- 1/3 cup strongly brewed chai tea
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 1 lb. cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 lbs. confectioner’s sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter four 9-inch cake pans and line them with parchment paper. Butter the paper, then flour the pans and paper.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt together in large bowl; set aside.
- Use a food processor or box grater to shred the carrots.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment beat the sugars and oil together until well combined. Add the eggs and mix on medium-high until thoroughly combined and emulsified.
- Fold in the flour mixture and shredded carrots until well combined and no streaks of flour remain. Add the tea and mix until just combined.
- Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes for 9-inch round pans.
- Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 10 minutes then invert them onto a rack to cool completely.
- When the cakes are cooled completely, make the frosting: beat the butter and cream cheese together on high speed until fluffy and smooth; add the sour cream.
- Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the confectioner’s sugar until just combined, then turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until fluffy and smooth, making sure to stop the mixer and scrape down to the bottom of the bowl so everything is evenly mixed. Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract, and salt.
- Assemble the cake: trim the tops of the cake layers so they are flat, if necessary.
- Place one layer on a serving plate or pedestal and spread about 3/4 cup of frosting on top. Top with the second cake layer, spread with 3/4 cup of frosting, top with the 3rd layer, spread with another 3/4 cup of frosting then top with the 4th layer.
- smooth a thin coat of frosting on the outside of the cake. Chill for at least 30 minutes, then cover the cake with a second, heavier coat of frosting to finish. Serve.