Saturday, October 17, 2015

Toasted Coconut Carrot Cake

Our maple tree is turning red, the tips of its delicate, frangible leaves catching fire in the late afternoon sun.  Now that the days are getting shorter, though, I'm barely home from work in time to see the color.

Much too soon, it will be dark before I even leave the office, and I won't be able to winkle out even a few minutes of daylight before dark descends.  I wish fall would last a little longer.

Carrot cake was what I often requested for my birthdays as a kid, but anymore, I never make carrot cake in the summer since it seems so much more appropriate for fall.  With nutty brown butter, warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, and dark brown sugar, this cake breathes of fall.

The cake is moist with plenty of sweet grated carrots, fragrant and spicy.  And while it's fantastic on its own, of course, a carrot cake wouldn't be complete without cream cheese frosting.  After the cream cheese came a scattering of toasted coconut, which I pressed all over the cake from top to bottom.

In the fall, I think of the woods across the street from the house where I grew up.  I think of running up the hill to the old, abandoned house at the top and peering in broken windows at dusty dilapidated furniture.  I think of ambling through the trees, along well-trodden paths, the leaves crunching underfoot.

I remember the feel of the dappled sunlight warming my skin.  I remember picking up the prettiest, most elaborately colored leaves and carrying them home to keep until they turned brown and brittle.  I think of the scent of freshly cut firewood, and the first night cold enough to warrant a fire in the black wood stove in the living room.  Reading books, and playing games, and blankets and hot chocolate and sleepy evenings at home.

Toasted Coconut Carrot Cake

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots (about 7-8 carrots, depending on size)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups natural coconut, lightly toasted
Preheat the oven to 350.  For the 4-layer 2-tier cake pictured here, grease two 8 inch pans and two 6 inch pans.  For a 3-layer 1-tier cake, grease three 9-inch pans.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until nutty brown solids form on the bottom of the pan.  Scrape the butter and the browned bits into a large mixing bowl and let cool for a few minutes, then whisk in the grated carrots, applesauce, brown sugar, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the dry to the wet, stirring just until combined.  Divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean - the cakes will finish at different times depending on the size of pans used.

Set the pans on wire racks and cool completely, covered with a clean kitchen towel.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter for 1 minute until smooth.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and the meringue powder, mixing until combined.  Add the salt and vanilla; on medium high, whip for several minutes until light and fluffy - add a little more powdered sugar if the buttercream is too soft.

Fill and frost the layers (there's no need to use any supports for the two tiers for this cake, as each tier is relatively small).  Press the toasted coconut all over the cake.

Note, to toast the coconut, spread on a baking sheet and bake at low heat, about 275 for 5 minutes or so, just until golden - watch it carefully as it can burn easily.  Cool completely before pressing onto the cake.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen