Winter is such a tough time when it comes to trying to be seasonal. It can feel like there isn’t much out there to work with. The days in Seattle are short and cold, often leaving a lot to be desired in the form of sunshine and summer produce. With that said, the colder months do offer us some glimmers of hope in the way of citrus season, and even root vegetables.
One of the first things I wanted to address were those pesky raisins. Don’t get me wrong, there are a time and a place for raisins, I can’t tell you where that is, but for me its never in desserts. They had to go. Without them and nuts, the cake lost a little much-needed texture. Enters Crystalized ginger. I like ginger because its all the things I usually crave. Fresh and a little spicy with a slight crunch, it perfectly rounds out the sweetness of the cake and frosting. You can choose to put it in the batter or layer it in the middle layer (if you even decide to have one) and sprinkle some on top. I also use the addition of freshly grated ginger in the batter to brighten things up a bit. Crystallized ginger can be bought at most groceries; my preferred brand is from The Ginger People.
Speaking of being seasonal, it’s a great time to mention the carrots I used. During January and February, beautiful red carrots are in season. These super-short seasoned carrots are sweeter than their orange siblings, and make for a tasteful garnish, not to mention the unique color they bring! I know the idea of finely grated carrots on top of cake sounds a bit weird, but their light sweet and fresh flavor paired with the ginger brightens things up. Inside the cake itself, their flavor is mild and pleasant. These make for a fantastic seasonal twist. If you’re out of the short harvesting period of these carrots or can’t find them in your local markets, our trusty friend, the orange carrot, will do just fine. Use what is in season and make sense for you. My preferred brand that most consistently has these carrots is Cal-Organic, and you can find their store locator linked here.
The final thing I wanted this cake to be was a perfect balance of light and sturdy. Strong enough to hold the frosting, while staying light and moist. The treatment of eggs, the use of buttermilk, and sifting your dry ingredients helps with this goal.
With all that said, I know it has been a while, and I’m happy you’re here! This year I’ve made a promise to be a little better about sharing the recipes behind the pictures. I get asked for them a lot, and I often push it off or avoid it, so if you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for sticking around and hopefully trying this one out! Let me know how it goes for you!
Not Your Grandma’s Carrot Cake- Ginger Carrot Cake
- 4 eggs cold from the fridge
- 1 cup unsated butter melted and cooled
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger grated
- 1 tbsp crystalized ginger chopped
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 3 cups Red Carrots (regular carrots are fine) grated
- 2 cups AP flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 8 oz creamcheese room temp
- 2 cups powdered sugar sifted
- 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
- Chopped crystallized ginger and about a tbsp grated red carrots for cake top
- reheat your oven to 350°F and butter and flour a 9X13in pan. I like to place a round of parchment on the bottom of the pan buttered and floured.
- Sift together all dry ingredients and set them aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whisk the cold eggs on medium-high speed until they become light in color and pile on top momentary (about 5 seconds) when you lift the beaters out of the bowl, this should take about five minutes. Once the eggs are light in color and ready, gradually add the sugar a little at a time until fully incorporated. Next, reduce the speed of the mixer to medium-low and add your cooled melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla. Once incorporated on low speed or by hand with a silicone spatula, add your sifted dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix. If using a stand mixer, make sure to give a few turns by hand to avoid dry ingredients that may be collected on the bottom of the bowl. Next mix in carrots and freshly grated ginger and crystallized ginger.
- Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes. You can test the cake by inserting a toothpick into the center. The cake is finished when it comes out clean. Once the cake is made, allow it to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
- While the cake is cooling, with a hand mixer and a large bowl whisk together the butter and cream cheese until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla bean paste. Then a little at a time add the powdered sugar until thoroughly combined. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and along the bottom at least once to avoid dry spots.
- Once the cake is completely cool, you can cut it in half to make a layered cake or frost it as a whole cake. You will have plenty of frosting to do whichever appeals to you. Once frosted, add the crystallized ginger and shredded carrots to the top, and if you have one, the frosted center layer.
- Enjoy this cake within two days of making it and store covered in the fridge.