I remember growing up in New York, winter was always my favorite season. Snow -- I LOVED snow. Couldn't get enough of it, actually. I would spend literally hours outside running around in it, without even noticing that it was uhm, cold. What is it about kids and snow? Do they not feel how cold it is?
As I got older, either snow got colder, or I got weaker, because winter is no longer my favorite season. Don't get me wrong, I still love the snow (and totally miss it), and LOVE winter, but my favorite season has shifted to Fall.
Something about the crispness in the air and the colors in the trees is so comforting yet exhilarating at the same time. Wow, for a second there I almost forgot that here in California, on the 2nd day of Fall it is - ready for this ? 94 degrees!!?? 94 degrees??!!? Any other Californians out there longing for Fall to actually start?
This carrot cake has Fall written all over it. It's spicy and sweet, and comforting and exhilarating. Ok, maybe not exhilarating, but it is all of those other things and super delicious. Plus, it is good for you. I took one of Dorie Greenspan's fantastic recipes (I love her but does every recipe REALLY need 2 cups of butter?) and added some healthy tweaks (surprise) and extra spice. I also ditched the usual cream cheese topping, and swapped it for a super rich and decadent dulce de leche cream cheese frosting. The dulce de leche adds an awesome butterscotchy flavor that just...works. I can't explain but try it and you'll see.
Spicy Carrot Cake with Dulce de Leche Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)
- 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 5 carrots),
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- 2 large eggs
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted (more or less to taste)
- 2 Tb dulce de leche (homemade or store-bought)
2. Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots and chopped nut.
3. Beat the sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla extract together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix in the nuts ingredients. Pour in pan.
4. Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pan from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean.
5. For frosting, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the vanilla and dulce de leche. Allow cake to cool completely before spreading frosting.