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Loaded carrot cake

Loaded with spices, lots of fresh carrots, pineapple, coconut, pecans, and plump raisins, this is carrot cake done right. Raisins are an often- misunderstood ingredient but do not skip them; these ones are plumped in pineapple juice, and we promise you will not even recognize them for what they once were. The dreamy cream cheese icing is extra creamy and not too sweet, a perfect partner for this flavourful cake. In fact, it is practically a health food with all those carrots and nuts and fruit, so what are you waiting for?

SERVES
8
 TO
12

Ingredients

Pumpkin Spice

  • 1/4 cup cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Dreamy Cream Cheese Icing

  • 3 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 pounds (790 g) cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes,room temperature

Maple Candied Pecans

  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves or walnut halves
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Carrot Cake

  • 1 cup canned crushed pineapple, drained and juice reserved
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups all- purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups grated peeled carrots
  • 3/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Assembly

  • 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons white chocolate crisp pearls

Directions

Pumpkin Spice

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves until fully combined. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to six months. 
  2. Set aside for assembly. 

Simple Syrup 

  1. Place water, granulated sugar and lemon juice in a heavy medium saucepan over high heat and stir to dissolve the sugar completely. Bring the mixture to a boil without stirring and let boil for three minutes.
  2. Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. 
  3. Set aside for assembly. 

Cream Cheese Icing 

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and butter. Starting with the mixer on low speed and slowly increasing to high speed to avoid creating a white icing powder storm, mix until combined. Then beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  2. With the mixer on medium-high speed, add the cream cheese in three additions, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition
  3. When the cream cheese has been incorporated, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat the icing for just one minute. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to one month or in the freezer for up to two months. If refrigerated, let soften at room temperature. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. 
  4. When ready to use, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on high speed for five to 10 minutes. 
  5. Set aside for assembly. 

Maple Candied Pecans

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a small bowl, gently mix together the pecans, maple syrup, and salt until the maple syrup has fully coated the pecans and flooded all the little crevices of the nuts. 
  3. Spread the pecan mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, pouring any extra syrup in the bottom of the bowl over the nuts. Bake for eight to 10 minutes until the maple syrup starts bubbling up. 
  4. Stir the pecans, recoating them in the bubbly syrup, then continue baking for three to five more minutes or until you can smell the pecans toasting and the maple syrup has darkened just slightly. The maple coating will harden as the nuts cool. Allow the nuts to cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two months. 
  5. Set aside for assembly. 

Carrot Cake 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease four six-inch round cake pans with canola oil cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper circles.
  2. In a small heat-resistant bowl, heat the reserved pineapple juice for one minute in the microwave. Add the raisins to the pineapple juice and let sit to plump up, for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and stir together.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the brown sugar, eggs, canola oil, and vanilla and beat on medium- high speed until the sugar is dissolved, up to five minutes. Test by rubbing a bit of the mixture between two fingertips. It should feel smooth, not gritty.
  5. Strain the raisins and discard the pineapple juice. Add the raisins along with the grated carrots, drained crushed pineapple, chopped pecans, and flaked coconut and beat on medium-low speed until combined, less than a minute. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and beat until the batter is combined and the dry ingredients are fully incorporated one to two minutes. Do not overmix.
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and, using a small offset palette knife, smooth out the tops. Bake all four cakes at the same time, spacing out the pans on the same rack for even baking, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centres of the cakes comes out clean. 
  7. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans, leaving the parchment paper circles on the bottoms, and cool completely on the wire rack.

Assembly 

  1. Trim the domes off the top of the baked carrot cake layers but do not cut the layers in half horizontally.
  2. Stack the cake, using the simple stacking method, with the dreamy cream cheese icing on an eight-inch cake board or serving plate, using up to four tablespoons of simple syrup to moisten each cake layer. Pipe an icing dam around the top edge of each cake layer and fill each well with half a cup of the icing. There are no additional fillings inside the layers for this cake.
  3. Crumb coat the top and sides of the stacked cake with a thin layer of icing. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes so that the crumb coat can firm up.
  4. Mask the chilled cake with icing using a flat finish.
  5. Using your hand, pat the toasted coconut into the soft icing, completely covering the sides of the cake in toasted coconut. Carefully create a half-inch border on the top edge of the cake with the coconut, creating a round topping frame and leaving a five-inch round plain icing centre on top of the cake. 
  6. Finish the cake by piping around the reverse shell border of icing around the edge of the cake top where the toasted coconut meets the plain icing. Sprinkle the piped icing border with maple candied pecans and white chocolate crisp pearls. Place the cake, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the cream cheese icing to firm up.
  7. The finished cake is best enjoyed at room temperature on the day it is assembled but can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for two hours before serving. Enjoy!

Excerpted from Cake & Loaf by Nickey Miller and Josie Rudderham© 2022 Nickey Miller and Josie Rudderham. Photography by Nickey Miller. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.


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