Tropical Carrot Cake

Sprinkles make everything happier, I think. Which means they make crazy things even crazier. Whoopee!

Sprinkles make everything happier, I think. Which means they make crazy things even crazier. Whoopee!

Last weekend, I hosted a dinner party – all the food for which I cooked myself! – at my father’s house for my mother’s two best friends and their respective partners. Hubbly-wubbles was my co-host, and I suppose my father was as well, except he was more than content to sit back and act as a guest. I was a bit nervous, as I’d never hosted and cooked for a formal party before. Not that the vibe was formal, but I am, naturally, less familiar with my mother’s friends than I am with my own. 🙂

The three layers are visible in this slice.

The three layers are visible in this slice.

I chose to cook everything in my kitchen, as my father’s kitchen is less well-stocked for baking and cooking. (My parents have never been hugely into cooking, and the little gadgets you accumulate over the years for various projects are lacking in their – now my father’s – kitchen.) I then wrapped the hot foods with heavy blankets and transferred them via automobile to my father’s house. (I love how that sentence sounds! I think I’m feeling the effects of the full moon.)

Ahh, a close-up of the winningly moist texture of this cake! A few days after the dinner party, I made 2 dozen carrot cupcakes for Mom's best friend's birthday. With the leftover batter, I made this two-layered 9" cake - not to be confused with the three-layered behemoth from the dinner party.

Ahh, a close-up of the winningly moist texture of this cake! A few days after the dinner party, I made 2 dozen carrot cupcakes for Mom’s best friend’s birthday. With the leftover batter, I made this two-layered 9″ cake – not to be confused with the three-layered behemoth from the dinner party.

The dinner went splendidly! People loved the food and even went back for seconds of everything. I served Beefcake Meatloaf, Panera Mac & Cheese, and a spinach, tomato, and goat cheese salad with a delectable balsamic vinaigrette. (I tweaked slightly my very good friend La Perla’s vinaigrette recipe.) I also made this banana bread with browned butter vanilla glaze, as well as my mother’s famous pound cake. The highlight of the evening, however, was this tropical carrot cake. It is divine. I made it last year for my mother to celebrate Mother’s Day, and it became an instant favourite of hers.

My carrots weren't perfect, but they were friendly.

My carrots weren’t perfect, but they were friendly.

I also made it into cupcakes; sadly, I didn’t take any photos of the cupcakes, but they were adorable. This cake batter, which yields a toweringly tall 9″, three layer cake, yields around 44 – 48 standard-sized cupcakes. Impressive, non?

My dinner guests were more than happy to take leftover cake home with them. This cake is a monster! A beautiful, sensitive, misunderstood monster...

My dinner guests were more than happy to take leftover cake home with them. This cake is a monster! A beautiful, sensitive, misunderstood monster…

This cake is insanely moist – among the most moist (hee) cakes I’ve ever made – flavourful, and sweet (but not cloyingly so), and has lots of tropical mix-ins. As such, it isn’t the most stable cake; in fact, I would say it is the most delicate cake I’ve baked to date. Definitely line the entire bottom of each pan with parchment paper, or trust me, this cake won’t be coming out in one piece. Macadamia nuts, coconut, pineapple, and, of course, the star of the show – carrot! – make themselves known with each bite. Splendid! You could leave out any or all of the mix-ins and have a fabulous spice cake, but honestly, I wouldn’t change anything about this recipe. I love, love, love this cake. It’s an all-time favourite around here.

This cake really is tall! It serves quite a few people.

This cake really is tall! It serves quite a few people.

That being said, I didn’t use the icing recipe that accompanied the cake. I am forever in love with this cream cheese icing recipe from Cakeman Raven, which pairs beautifully with just about anything. I’ll include the original icing recipe for those of you who wish to try it, however. Vive la carotte!

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Tropical Carrot Cake

Yield: One very tall, three-layered 9″ cake, about 20 – 30 servings

Ingredients:

For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 TBS baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 TBS ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 TBS vanilla extract
1½ cups canola or vegetable oil
½ cup cream of coconut (usually found with alcoholic mixers in the grocery store)
1½ cups peeled, shredded carrots*
1½ cups crushed pineapple** (fresh or canned)
1½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup roasted, salted macadamia nuts, coarsely or finely chopped

For the Cakeman Raven cream cheese icing:
2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 – 3 TBS heavy cream, as needed, to thin icing to desired consistency

For the recipe’s original cream cheese icing:
4 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
5½ TBS cream of coconut
¾ tsp salt
5½ TBS heavy cream, as needed, to thin icing to desired consistency

Method:

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Spray the bottoms of three 9″ cake pans*** with nonstick cooking spray and fully line the bottoms of each pan with parchment paper. Don’t worry about the parchment paper going up the sides a bit, as it will easily peel off the baked cakes later. Make sure the entire bottom of each pan is lined! Spray the parchment paper and the sides of each pan with more nonstick cooking spray.

In a 4- or 5-quart bowl (this recipe yields a huge amount of batter, so I recommend using a 5-quart bowl, if you have it), whisk together the dry ingredients. Separately, whisk together the wet ingredients (excluding the carrots, pineapple, sweetened flaked coconut, and macadamia nuts; those go in last). Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisking only until just combined. Switch to a spoon and gently stir in the carrots, pineapple, sweetened flaked coconut, and macadamia nuts.

Divide batter evenly between the three*** pans and bake 25 – 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Halfway through baking, rotate the pans 180˚and from top to bottom racks (and vice-versa). Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

For the Cakeman Raven cream cheese icing:
Beat butter and cream cheese until thoroughly blended and creamy. Slowly blend in powdered sugar and increase speed gradually. Beat until fully incorporated and smooth. Add vanilla. Add cream, if necessary, to thin consistency of icing.

For the recipe’s original cream cheese icing:
Beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar and beat slowly at first, then increase speed and beat until thoroughly blended and smooth. Add the cream of coconut and salt and beat until blended and smooth. Add the cream, if necessary, to thin consistency.

Assembly:
Place one cake layer onto a cake circle or serving platter. Ice layer with a medium layer of icing. Top with second cake layer and repeat icing layer. Top with third cake layer and ice top and sides of cake. (At this point, depending on how much icing you placed between the cake layers, you may need to make another batch of icing to thickly cover the outside of the cake.) Decorate as desired.

*I highly recommend using a food processor for this, if you have one. It saves a lot of time. If no food processor is available, comfort yourself with the knowledge that this cake is worth every bit of the effort expended in grating the carrots by hand.

**Okay, this is the one tiny thing I changed about this recipe. Instead of using diced pineapple, I used crushed. I prefer smaller bits of pineapple. Use whatever texture of pineapple you desire!

***If you don’t have three 9″ cake pans, cover leftover batter with a damp napkin. When one 9″ pan becomes available, cool the pan, clean it, line it with parchment paper, and bake the leftover batter in it.

Sources: Tropical Carrot Cake and its associated cream cheese icing recipes from Annie’s Eats; alternative cream cheese icing recipe from Cakeman Raven Confectionary, New York City, via the Food Network

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One thought on “Tropical Carrot Cake

  1. Pingback: Italian Cream Cake | KitchEnchanted

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