Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spiced Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot cake is one for those recipes that is fun to play around with until you find that perfect combination that makes your palate sing. Before I sat down to put together the ingredients for this recipe, I would have never fathomed using olive oil in place of the vegetable oil that is typically used in carrot cake. Then I was thinking about the New York Times Olive Oil Granola recipe I made a few months ago and thought, if it worked for that, it just might work for this. I am really glad I made that granola and thought of that for this because the results were fantastic! The oil is so flavorful and rich and it provides the perfect complement to the fruit, nuts and spices in this recipe just as it did with the granola.

To top the cake off, it has a cream cheese frosting with maple syrup and bourbon added in that really takes this cake into the big leagues. What is it about bourbon and sweets? I am constantly blown away by how well the two go together! If I had more time, I might have scraped a vanilla bean into the frosting for a little more visual interest and flavor punch. You might also consider putting a little lemon or orange zest into the frosting, rum perhaps. You can also take heavy whipping cream, whip it until light and airy and fold it in to the cream cheese frosting to give it a little more air. The possibilities are endless and so much fun to try. Have fun and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The New Best Recipe, from the editors of Cook's Illustrated


2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 pound carrots (6 to 7 medium), peeled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans
1 cup raisins

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
6 tablespoons butter, softened but still
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream
4 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar


Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl. Lightly mix in nuts and raisins until they are coasted and separate easily; set aside.

In a food processor, shred the carrots to the bowl with the dry ingredients and set aside. Wipe out the food processor and fit with the blade attachment. Process both sugars with the eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. With the machine running, add the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process until the mixture is light in color and well-emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool about 2 hours on a wire rack.

For the frosting: When the cake is cool, mix the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla, maple syrup and bourbon in a mixer until combined. Scrape down the work bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the confectioners' sugar and process until smooth.

Spread the frosting on the cake, cut and serve.

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