This is not your average carrot cake. Trust me. You are going to want to bring this cake to every party you go to from here on out. Forget Ocean Prime’s Ten Layer Carrot Cake. That leaning tower of delicious will seem ridiculous once you try a bite of this. Have I oversold it yet? Of course I did. Let’s come back down to Earth, where dreams of carrot cake-y delight are baked, shall we?
Part of finishing culinary school was participating in an internship at a bakery or a restaurant. Before I even started school, I had envisioned my career in a bakery making beautiful cakes and pastries. Why would I try to fake any brilliance in creativity and poshness (not a word) to pursue the plated dessert pressure of a restaurant career? Ha! Joke was on me. I was naïve and didn’t necessarily understand how technical and artistic you needed to be to do some of the tasks of a bakery pastry chef. Giant teetering wedding cakes, artisanal breads, delicate tarts, and craftsman-like sculpted cake creations don't just grow on trees, ya know!? My naïvete also led me to believe it would be easy be to convince a business owner to let me, an inexperienced culinary impostor, play with all of their expensive ingredients as I tripped up and tried to get their recipes just right.
Thankfully, one amazing chef took pity on me and allowed me to work in his bakery in San Bruno, CA called Patisserie Ganache. The front-facing bakery served up all the breakfast pastries and breads one would ever want. The croissants were melt in your mouth delicious. I thought Costco croissants were the bomb-dot-com. Man was I mistaken! One bite of a PG croissant transported me to the world of bread snobbery. The flaky crust, the soft, honeycombed layers, the rich butter flavor... but I digress.
The back of the bakery was where all the real magic happened. Sketches of the wildest customer requests were transformed into edible works of art. Often times with sculpted cakes, there is a certain level of sloppiness… unclean lines, lack of detail, stale cake because it’s “sturdier.” Chef Ken did none of these things. With the aid of the assistant baker/resident artist, Angela (The Cake Queens), they created some truly amazing pieces. If I had enough patience and a steadier hand I would have attempted pursuit of this tremendously difficult side of the pastry world. Alas, here I am just talking about it :)
Cool story, Katie. What about that carrot cake you grossly bragged about? Well, PG’s carrot cake pulled me out of my mundane yellow-cake-with-chocolate-frosting existence. My cake is inspired by the recipe I made several times throughout my internship. I couldn’t tell you what the actual recipe is because I didn't write it down and I wasn’t trying to steal (that’s rude), but I think this comes pretty close to the real thing. When I make this recipe I am using a half cup of coffee to give a little more richness and depth of flavor to the cake I still dream about. I use my Nespresso, but this is not necessary by any means. I just think it’s delicious and we have a machine. I used one pod of their Ristretto which is a intense, slightly bitter espresso option and one Livanto pod which is a creamy, malty coffee flavor. For the record, Nespresso is not paying me for this recipe. I am just an addict. You can use any instant or drip coffee/espresso powder you may have on hand. Prepare according to directions, allow to cool, and measure out a half cup. A splash of Baileys in the remainder makes a delightful drink to have while you wait for the cake to bake.
Once the cake is baked, slather it with heaps of cream cheese frosting and prepare to be dazzled. I really hope you all love this as much as I do. It's my way of saying, "Thanks" to Chef Ken for taking a chance on this know-it-all who knew nothing!
Recipe: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
yields one 9-inch, 2 layer cake
The Bits and Bobs:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled to room temp
1 lbs carrots, peeled and shredded
1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, or other nut of your choice (optional)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
16 oz cream cheese, room temp
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
2 lbs powdered sugar (I actually used about 1/2 cup shy of the full two pounds)
Brew coffee and set aside to cool. Peel and shred carrots, set aside. Grease and flour to round 9-inch cake pans. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a separate bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients. Set aside. Beat together the softened butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Once all the eggs are in, add the vanilla, coffee and carrots. Beat until combined. The batter will look somewhat soupy at this point. Gradually add in the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Stir in the nuts if you are using at this point.
Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for ~30 minutes (a toothpick inserted will come out clean). Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool slightly before popping out the pans to finish cooling.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and continue to whip until light and fluffy.
The cakes can be cut into two layers (four layers total), and frosted. There will be plenty of frosting to cover all the layers and the outside.