Cardamom Spiced Carrot Cake
Carrot Cake has been one of my favorite cakes since childhood. Though I wasn’t the biggest fan of carrots at the time, I loved the cream cheese frosting and walnuts included in many traditional carrot cakes. Flashforward a few decades, and I am married to someone who does not like cream cheese frosting or carrot cake…
Late Spring 2020, I wanted to celebrate spring with carrot cake. Though, I am not sure how many Easter celebrations had carrot cake at them growing up, but the visual of a white frosted cake with the icing pipped carrots on top always reminds me of spring. So, I decided I would go about crafting a slightly non-traditional carrot cake my husband might actually be willing to try. The first and easiest change was to switch the cream cheese frosting (which was already slightly harder to craft now that we were eating plant based) for a creamy vanilla icing. Then for the ingredients in the cake, some recipes are cinnamon forward, but Matt is not a fan of in-your-face cinnamon. By cutting back on the cinnamon and adding in cardamom, I was able to maintain the hint at warm spices while allowing the floral cardamom to take center stage. And the last major change was the raisins. Raisins were on Matt’s absolute dislike list. In carrot cake, raisin add not only a textural and visual element but a sweet and tart pop. I turned to currants. Having never tried currants before opened the door to being willing to try a cake with dried fruit. And you know what? They were a hit. Currents are about a quarter the size and tarter than raisins, which means you get a smaller but higher contrast bit from their inclusion in cake.
That first cake was delicious but texturally needed some tweaking. I had started from my vegan pound cake base recipe. By adding moist carrots, the balance of moisture and sugar needed some work. We continued testing it about once a month over the coming month. Sometimes it was slightly dense and other times it fell ever so slightly. Each time, I thought we had finally gotten the recipe right and some new issue would arise. We paused the recipe testing until Spring 2021 and started back just as the early spring carrots were appearing in our CSA box. By the time we moved that summer the cake was perfect and Matt even requested it, but the icing… I had hoped to have the cake and icing both to share in one post, but my commitment to recipe testing was holding me back. When I started the blog, I vowed that I would recipe test each recipe at least three time to make sure it was good and repeatable. Having tried other bloggers recipes, I knew how much of a turn off untested recipes could be. But each time we made the cake I kept changing the icing proportions. Sometimes I had to add more powder sugar, others I thought it was good only to take a bit and realize we had taken it too sweet. And unlike people who make a food blog work a living, I was not going to make up a bunch of icing to throw out or not get used just to get the recipe right. And we did not want to test and eat carrot cake every weekend..
Well now if is Spring 2022 and I have a well-tested and delicious carrot cake I want people to be able to make for their Spring and Easter gatherings, but I have yet to get the final testing on my butter cream recipe. Therefore, this post is sharing a cake which has undergone two years of lovingly testing and eating. Feel free to use whatever store bought or homemade icing recipe you like. And in a coming week, I hope to finally share my Fluffy Italian Buttercream recipe.
Cardamom Spiced Carrot Cake
Yields: 1 Large Layer Cake (2 – 10” or 3 – 9” or smaller layers)
86g / 3/4c Whole Wheat Flour*
450g / 3.75c All-Purpose Flour
28g / 1/4c Arrow Root or Cornstarch
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt**
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
2 tsp Ground Cardamom
400g / 2.25c Raw or Granulated Sugar
297g / 1.25 c Butter (room temp.)
2 Flax Eggs (2 Tbsp Ground Flax Seed + 6 tablespoons water)
170g / 3/4c Milk (room temp.)
½ Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
322g / 3c Grated Carrot***
60g / ½ c Dried Currants
75g / 1c Toasted Walnut Pieces
*Whole Wheat brings a little flavor but can be substituted for more All-Purpose Flour.
**Tested if using Morton’s Kosher reduce to ½ tsp.
***I like to grate half the carrot on the large side of the box grater and half on the smaller side. This produces variety and helps draw moisture from the carrot into the cake at a more even rate.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and move rack to the center of the oven. Grease the side and bottoms of your cake pans. Then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
Mix flax egg to allow it to gel. Set aside.
Cover the currants with warm water to plump before setting aside.
Add the apple cider vinegar to the milk and set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together the flours, arrow root or cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes with a stand mixer or by hand until light and fluffy. Whisk in the flax egg and vanilla and continue mixing for two minutes until some air is incorporated.
Now everything starts to come together. After each new addition stir for about 10 seconds before adding the next. Start by adding: 1/3 the flour mixture, then add the milk, another 1/3 the flour mixture, the grated carrots, and finish with the final 1/3 of flour. Just as the flour is almost incorporated finish with the drained currants and walnuts.
Divide the mixture between your prepared cake pans. The mixture will be thick so spread it at first with more of a chopping downward pressure before switching to a smoothing motion to level off the top of each pan.
Baking time will vary based on the size of your pan, the type of heating in your oven and whether you have a convection fan. If you have a convection fan, use it. For a starting point if using 2 large 10” cake pans rotate at 20 minutes and test doneness at 35-40 minutes. If using 3 smaller pans, then rotate at 15 minute and start testing at 30-35. Test using a cake tester or toothpick. When inserted in the middle it should come out cleanly. If there is form moisture, batter, or crumble clinging to it when removed add another 3-5 minutes before testing again.
Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before attempting to remove. Do not leave in pan longer than 10 minutes or you will get soggy bottoms. Use a knife to slide around the edge. Then place a cooling rack on top of the pan. Using an oven mitt because the pan will still be hot, invert the pan into the cooling rack. Remove the parchment paper and allow to cool completely before icing.