This is an homage recipe. In particular, it is an homage to the Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting to be found on the Fine Cooking website. I made two miniscule changes to it here, but hardly enough to even stretch and call it an adaptation. All credit goes to the genius, Leslie Revsin, who made the recipe for Fine Cooking. I will note the original ingredients where I made the changes. I highly encourage you to go play on the Fine Cooking website, too.
This is not my “one and only” lifetime carrot cake recipe. I actually have my eyes on two others, as well. They can really be quite different in personality. The things that caught my eye about this recipe are that 1) it uses olive oil as the primary fat in the cake, and 2) the frosting is made with honey as the only sweetener. I love honey. I Winnie-the-Pooh love honey. I love all kinds of honey, though I must say that the more I learn about honey, the more picky I become. I have wonderful local honey options. The Texas Honeybee Guild’s Brandon and Susan Pollard sell at many of the local markets here and their “zip code” honey is terrific. I’m also partial to Round Rock Honey. I give both of those honeys very high marks. My friend, chef Melissa Phillips, also just sent me some honey from her very own bees in California, but that honey is so precious to me that I only eat it straight, and by the spoonful.
So, you will probably see a few more carrot cakes from me in the future, but this one is truly noteworthy. I would say that it is somewhat mature. By that I mean that this is something that I would love to serve in discreet servings to a roomful of discerning types. Then again, my kids loved it. But, it is not the cake you pick to have a huge chunk of as you sit in front of the tube and watch Terms of Endearment. I made it in a 9” x 13” pan so it has a little more of a down home look than a multi-tiered affair, but don’t be fooled by appearances. This cake has a nuanced flavor. It is rather special, I think.
The two changes that I made are that I used Cointreau, a French orange liqueur instead of dark rum. And, I used pecan meal instead of chopped pecans. They toasted the pecans in the original recipe, and I did not.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
8 to 10 medium size carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4 eggs, at room temperature, lightly mixed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pecan meal (or 1 cup very finely chopped pecans)
1/4 cup Cointreau
Two (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (for a total of 16 ounces)
1/2 cup honey
1 Tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup heavy cream
Wipe down a 9” x 13” pan with olive oil.
Place the carrots in the bowl of a food processor and process them until they are finely chopped. You will need 3 cups of carrots.
Using an electric mixer, cream the sugars and the olive oil until it is light and fluffy. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium low. Add half of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture. Then, in a slow stream, add approximately half of the eggs. Add the remaining flour and then the remaining eggs, again, in a very slow stream. Add the carrots and mix until well incorporated. Add the pecans and mix until incorporated. Finally, add the Cointreau.
Scrape the bowl throughout the process so that everything is mixed together well.
Pour the batter into the oiled pan. If you line the pan with parchment, as I did, lightly coat it with olive oil, as well. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Test the cake with a toothpick and if it comes out from the middle clean, the cake is done. Mine took exactly 43 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a serving plate to cool completely.
For the frosting, place the softened cream cheese in the bowl of the electric mixer, along with the honey and the orange zest. Whip for 2 minutes, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the cream and whip for an additional 2 minutes.
Frost the cake and then put the cake in the refrigerator until the icing has firmed up nicely. I would also recommend keeping it in the refrigerator until 30 minutes to an hour before serving. I think the icing appreciates it.