The time has come for cake. Until recently, it was a secret to me that I love carrot cake – that delicious bite of spicy carroty nuttiness contrasting the zingy cream cheese frosting. As we all already know, the only reason to eat cake, really, is the frosting – and this one does not disappoint.
After weeks of enduring the never-ending mistral, I decided to bake one myself. I was inspired during a trip to the nearby town of Nyons where its close proximity to mountains allow it to mostly avoid the mistral. And they have the most wonderful market. Perhaps you have heard of this mistral. I, myself, read about this inconvenient phenomenon last year when researching our trip to Provence in Peter Mayle’s book “A Year in Provence.” Wind. Seriously. Wind is no big deal. These people haven’t experienced the twelve weeks of rainy winter that belongs to Seattle.
Turns out, the mistral is no joke. In some ways, it is even worse than the dull, dreary rain of the Pacific Northwest. The sun is stunning with skies that are bright blue and a wind that will whip your hair so hard across your face you are pretty sure you were slapped. Impossible to go out, impossible to stay in. It is 25 mph winds with 50 mph gusts. For 20 days. In row.
An easy way to fill a day is to combine the market with a 2 hour French lunch. So after a brisk dash through the Nyons market we stopped at the local tea cafe run by a British couple. (Oh and they speak English which automatically makes it my favorite. Not needing to pretend to understand French is a a game-changing relief). One of the few French traits I have wholeheartedly, but unintentionally, adopted is a refined sweet tooth. Deciding on dessert that day was a breeze. After being together for eight months straight Jon and I could probably qualify as siamese twins and so our think-alike brains both wanted that cream cheese frosting on the carrot cake. My only complaint was that our modest slice was really too small to share and we should’ve ordered two. Thus arose my self-assigned task of making my first ever carrot cake. Unfortunately, it was consumed much too quickly to obtain adequate photodocumentation.
Carrot Cake – Adapted from Nick Malgieri, Epicurious
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for greasing the pans
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmet
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 cups packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
1 pound carrots, shredded
2/3 cup walnuts
2/3 cup raisins
For the cream cheese frosting:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, chilled
11 tbsps unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter the bottom and sides of 2 (9-inch-round, 2-inch-deep) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the brown sugar on the lowest speed to break up any lumps. Add 1 egg and continue to mix on low until smooth and incorporated. Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, and mix on low until smooth and incorporated. Shut off the mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle. Return the mixer to low then add the oil in a thin steady stream and continue to beat until fully incorporated.
Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, using a large rubber spatula to fold the mixture together until just incorporated. Fold in the carrots, along with the nuts and raisins, if using.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake until the layers are firm and risen and the tip of a paring knife inserted in the center of the cake emerges clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool for 5 minutes then invert the cake layers onto the rack and peel off the parchment paper. Use another rack or a large plate to invert the cake layers again then slide them back on to the rack so they are right side up. Let the cake layers cool completely. DO AHEAD: The cakes can be baked ahead, cooled, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, and refrigerated for up to 2 days, or frozen up to 1 month.
Once the cake is completely cool, make the frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter and beat on medium until smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Shut off the mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and beat on medium, scraping down the bowl and paddle as necessary, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Frost the cake:
Place 1 cake layer on a large plate and cover the top with about 1/3 of the frosting. Invert the second layer on top of the frosted bottom layer so that the flat side (the bottom) is on top. Spread the remaining frosting on the sides and top of the cake. If you used walnuts or pecans in the cake, sprinkle the frosting with a few tablespoons of lightly toasted chopped nuts. Keep at cool room temperature until serving time. DO AHEAD: Carrot cake can be baked and frosted ahead and kept, in an airtight cake dome, at cool room temperature, for 2 to 3 days.
Yea RIGHT. We kept it in the fridge for 5 days.