Here we are in August and our Summer vacation is slowly winding down: one more week until school starts up, two houseguests have come and gone, and three family birthdays have been celebrated. But it’s not over yet – we’ve got one more set of birthday candles to blow out before Summer vacation is really gone.
With the majority of our family celebrating birthdays in the summer, cake baking and cake eating is something of a marathon in the six-week period between the end of June to the middle of August.
Half the fun for me is helping my kids choose what kind of cake to make for their birthdays. One year it was retro cakes (chocolate malt ball cake, Boston cream pie and baked Alaska). Another year it was cakes that required a special technique (checkerboard cake, tie dye cake and four-layer gluten-free vanilla cake).
This year it’s been all about flavors. So far, I’ve made a coffee-flavored four-layer cake with espresso frosting and a chocolate-raspberry cake with raspberry Chambord frosting. So how will I end the birthday bonanza this summer? I’m considering the always popular, always delicious carrot cake.
Carrot cake is kind of like those Throwback Thursday photos on Facebook. It is very 1970s. Anyone remember how popular carrot cake was back when Laverne and Shirley were still schlemieling and schlamazeling on their way to their jobs at Shotz Brewery? Food Network listed carrot cake with cream cheese frosting as one of the top five fad foods of the 1970s.
Even though carrot cake didn’t become commonly served in America until the 20th century, carrots have been used in sweet puddings and cakes since medieval times, according to the World Carrot Museum website. With sugar and honey being scarce or expensive in the previous centuries, naturally occurring sugars found in carrots made it an excellent sweetener substitute in desserts.
In poking around on the carrot museum website, I was surprised to learn that orange carrots have only been around since the 16th or 17th century. Before that time, carrots were purple, yellow or white. Carrot cake would have looked quite different from today.
This week’s recipe, adapted from Food Network Magazine, is a delicious, gluten-free update on the carrot cake of yesteryear. Orange zest, cinnamon and ginger infuse this cake with warming spices that help say goodbye to Summer vacation.
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup potato starch (or corn starch)
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups shredded carrots (3 to 4 large carrots)
2 large eggs plus 3 egg whites
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon milk (can be any kind of milk)
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper cut to fit the pans and spray parchment paper with cooking spray. Whisk the almond flour, potato starch, orange zest, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a large bowl; stir in the carrots.
Combine the whole eggs and 1 cup granulated sugar in another large bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Gently fold in the carrot mixture. Put the egg whites in another large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until just foamy. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, 6 to 8 more minutes.
Gently fold the beaten egg white mixture into the carrot mixture in 3 additions until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until the cake springs back when pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely in the pan, then invert onto a platter and peel off parchment paper.
To make the frosting, cream the butter with a mixer, adding powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Beat in vanilla extract and milk. Spread the frosting over cooled cake.