I love carrots. I have ever since I was little – there are pictures of me as a baby gnawing on gigantic orange things in my high chair. They’re so fun to eat, and so sweet…yum. Normally, I keep a gigantic bag of baby carrots in the fridge and snack on them almost daily. Recently, though, I had to buy another type of carrots.
I know others have taken notice of this interesting little collection of sugary root vegetables. Let’s check out what kind of rainbow we’re working with!
They range from mild to very sweet, with the red one being sugary and very…carroty. Which is a good thing!
Now that I had these gorgeous little sticks of vegetable matter, I needed to come up with a fun recipe to try them out. I don’t usually eat them cooked, besides tossed in a soup or a stir fry. But that was no way to show off the differences in color and taste. What was I going to make?
I considered doing something simple…maybe slicing them into ribbons (yeah, like I can do that) and making some kind of salad?
Nah, a carrot salad is too…springy. Or fallish. Not sure which. Either way, that’s not the thing to be eating in the middle of a blizzard.
Well, honestly, I still might make a carrot salad. I just got some mint…I don’t know, I’ll have to eat the leftover carrots somehow!
I ultimately decided that I wanted to make something that would show the gradiation of colors and flavors well. There was only one thing I could think of that would do that.
I decided I had to make a carrot cake. And I couldn’t take the easy way out and make cupcakes. Nope, I was going to make a layer with each different color carrot and stack them together with copious amounts of cream cheese frosting.
When I say I couldn’t take the easy way out and make cupcakes, I don’t mean to say that cupcakes are necessarily easier than a full layered cake. Some of the cupcakes I’ve made (and tons made by others) are definitely complicated, many of mine taking two days to fully assemble. But a layered cake would be a little tougher for me, considering I did not own a single round cake pan. Or a square one. Or a rectangle. Yup, I had cake pans shaped like giant roses, huge cupcakes and ice cream cones, but not a single normal cake pan.
What I did have, however, is a round Pyrex container in the approximate size I needed. The obvious problem I encountered with that is that with only one “pan” to bake in, I’d have to bake each layer separately. At 40 minutes for each layer…that was quite an afternoon of baking. But they turned out soft, fragrant and more or less evenly sized, so I was pleased.
Ah, the cake. This giant monolith of carrot, coconut and cream cheese definitely weighs at least 3 lbs. and threatens to topple as soon as you reach for the plate. But the layers of thick, sticky cream cheese frosting and a home in the fridge keep it from falling apart, even after cutting.
I couldn’t tell just from looking at the cake layers separately if they were going to create the effect I was going for. I’d have to build it to find out!
I’m very pleased with the effect. The really fun thing about the cake is that since the carrots taste more carrot-y as they get darker, so does the cake. The bottom white layer tastes mostly of coconut, while the top red one tastes more like a conventional carrot cake, and the ones in the middle are, unsurprisingly, somewhere in between.
Luckily for me, I now have a pair of cute little springform cake pans (thanks to the surprisingly awesome kitchen stuff section at TJ Maxx), so I can make another of these in considerably less time. Which I have to do, because I have owed someone a carrot cake for at least three years at this point. And that’s just not acceptable.
This recipe was adapted from the carrot cake recipe posted by Zoe Francois. I kept her substitution of coconut for chopped nuts in the actual cake, but omitted the dried fruit. I also do not own a food processor, so I spent about an hour finely grating the carrots (took me a while to find my grating groove). I only grated them so fine so that they’d be similar in size to the grated coconut. The cream cheese frosting is based off the one I used on my Cranberry Cupcakes, just divided into funky fractions and tweaked around a little. I cut the sugar a bit in the outer frosting layer since the cake itself and the filling were both quite sweet, plus I knew I’d be decorating with sweetened coconut.
Monolithic Rainbow Carrot Cake
For the Cakes:
4 large-extra large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Zest of one orange
2 1/4 cup AP flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 lb. grated rainbow carrots (4 colors), divided evenly (about 2 small-medium or one extra large carrot each)
Mix together the eggs, oil, sugars, vanilla and zest. In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (everything else except coconut and carrot). Combine the mixtures and stir in the coconut. Divide into fourths and combine with carrots. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease four 4″ round cake pans (or one, or two, and then wash some dishes and repeat) and line them with parchment. Fill each with a different colored batter and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until just done (toothpick comes out clean but edges don’t crisp). Allow to cool a bit before releasing from pan, then cool fully on a wire rack before assembling the cake.
To Make the Filling:
8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese (don’t go using low fat store brand or whatever, either!)
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3-5 Tbsp orange syrup
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy (no lumps!), then gradually add the sugar and continue beating until fully incorporated. Slowly add the orange syrup to taste. The filling will be somewhat runny but that’s ok.
Next, you want to assemble the layers and put on a crumb coating/glaze. Using a large, sharp serrated knife, or a special cake-slicey knife if you have one, slice the tops off the cake layers, making sure they are all relatively even and straight. Place the white layer on a plate or other flat cake-decoratey surface, and slather on some filling with a spatula. Place the yellow layer on top, making sure it sits evenly, and continue stacking layers with filling until they’re all in one giant cakey stack. Dollop the remaining filling on the cake, spreading most of it evenly down the sides of the cake. It should cover the whole cake relatively thinly. Chill in the refrigerator or freezer until the frosting is somewhat set.
In the meantime, Make the Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
2 Tbsp butter, softened
2/3 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy and lump-free. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until fully incorporated.
Assembling the Cake:
15-20 whole walnut halves
5-8 walnuts, chopped roughly
1/2-2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Liberally and gently spread the cream cheese frosting all over the chilled cake. Press coconut into sides until all sides are well-covered. Place the whole walnuts in a circle around the top of the cake, then sprinkle the chopped nuts in the middle. Keep chilled, cut carefully.
This cake is pretty awesome. It’s moist and colorful, with the coconut flavor really coming through on the lower layers. The orange zest and syrup provide a clean, fresh citrusy-ness that keeps the cake from seeming too heavy. One tall, thin sliver is all you need, next to a cup of tea or just a big glass of milk. Even without the rainbow carrots, I would definitely make this cake again.