As far as desserts go, carrot cake is my first love. I remember having it at a wedding when I was a kid and thinking what is this nectar of the gods? Or, since I was around eight, probably something more like I don’t know what this is, but it tastes good What is this again? Wait, there’s a bowling alley in this building where they’re having this wedding?. And with that, my lifelong passion for carrot cake was born. I’ve made many in the years since, but this is officially my favorite. It’s packed with purple carrots, sweet and tart dried cherries, and crunchy dried coconut, and topped a just-sweet-enough cream cheese and honey frosting. This cake is moist, delicious, and packed with enough good-for-you ingredients to have you cutting a second slice before you know it.
I’ve talked about my love for local produce before, and I’ll do it again. We got these beautiful red-pink baby carrots in our CSA box last year that were even sweeter than the orange variety, and since my kids will reliably eat carrots raw or cooked, I’ve had my eye out for beautiful varieties ever since. Imagine my delight when I saw that my local grocery store now carries big bags of yellow, orange, and deep purple carrots in their produce section. I decided to use the purple ones for this cake to give it an even deeper, richer color and flavor (don’t worry – the orange and yellow ones got roasted for dinner).
I started with a recipe from the Bob’s Red Mill Baking Book. I’ve been trying to incorporate more whole grains into my baking, both because they are good for you and because I like the depth of flavor they can bring to baked goods. Their recipe called for all whole-wheat flour, but I decided to go with half whole-wheat and half all-purpose to keep the cakes from getting too dense. I also left out the walnuts the original recipe called for and added in dried cherries and coconut, because I like both of those and thought the combination would give the cake a tart and sweet flavor. I decreased the cinnamon and nutmeg so they didn’t overwhelm the cherry and coconut.
The resulting cake is dense yet light, moist and tender. The dried cherries give it an unexpected pop of flavor, while the spices still let you know that it is carrot cake. The frosting is the cream cheese frosting we all know and love with the added hint of honey sweetness. It’s the perfect cake to bridge the gap between summer and fall. Truly, this is a cake worth celebrating.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 ⅛ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¾ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 4 ½ teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
- 4 eggs
- 2 ¼ cups grated purple carrots
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 16 oz cream cheese
- 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two 9” cake pans by buttering them, lining them with parchment paper (that you’ve cut out into the right size to fit the bottom of each pan), and buttering the paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt.
- Using a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars until combined. Pour in the oil and mix to combine, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition. Add the carrots, cranberries, and coconut and stir to combine.
- Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through, until a tester comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a cooling rack and cool for five minutes, then turn the cakes out (they should come out easily when you flip them over) and allow them to cool completely.
- While the cakes cool, make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add the powdered sugar, increasing the speed once it’s been combined. Beat until it has a frosting-like consistency, 2-3 minutes. Add the honey and beat to combine.
- To frost the cake: Place one cake on your serving plate/platter/cake stand. Scoop a little less than half of the frosting on top, then spread gently with an icing or rubber spatula. Place the second cake on top, then put the rest of the frosting on top, smoothing again with the spatula. If you want a more polished look, you could use a piping bag and pipe swirls or stars on top.