A New Way with Carrot Cake

carrot-cake-squares-with-orange-syrup-and-creme-fraiche-icingThere are probably as many versions of carrot cake as there are cooks who make it. Although I’ve been convinced for years that my family’s favorite recipe for this classic cake,covered with cream cheese icing, could never be surpassed, I recently discovered a new interpretation that I like even better.

When my assistant, Emily Bell, returned from a walking trip to the Outer Hebrides, she called to say that she had tasted a fabulous carrot cake at an inn on this Scottish island outpost. I couldn’t imagine that it would be that different. “Try it!” she insisted. I did and was won over with my first bite.

The cake is baked in a square pan and cut into squares just like brownies. Since these portions are smaller than layer-cake ones, I immediately felt less guilty indulging in them. Along with finely chopped carrots and grated orange rind, a generous accent of nutmeg adds an aromatic note to the batter. Once baked, the cake is pricked and a simple syrup of orange juice and sugar drizzled over it. A whipped crème fraîche icing scented with orange juice and powdered sugar is lighter than traditional cream cheese frosting, and provides a lovely counterpoint to the natural sweetness of this cake

So, to all my readers, I say, “Try it and see if you like it too!’


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Carrot Cake with Orange Syrup and Crème Fraîche Icing

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup coarsely chopped golden raisins
1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans (see note.)
3 to 4 large carrots, peeled
3/4 cup light brown sugar lightly packed
3/4 cup canola oil plus extra for greasing the baking pan
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp grated orange zest (reserve the orange for later use)
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling, optional

Orange Syrup (Recipe follows)
Crème Fraîche Icing (Recipe follows)

1. Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9-inch square baking pan. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment cut so that it covers the bottom of the pan and extends 2 to 3 inches over two opposite sides. (This will make it easier to lift the cooked cake from the pan.)

2. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together into a mixing bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of this mixture and toss with the raisins and the pecans in a small bowl.

3.Grate enough carrots on the large holes of a box grater to yield 1 3/4 cups grated carrots. (Save extra carrots for another use.) Transfer the carrots to a food processor and pulse several seconds until the carrots are finely chopped.

4. Place the brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. On medium speed, add the oil and eggs. Mix until smooth and well blended, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and beat in the grated carrots and orange rind, 30 to 40 seconds or more. Gradually add the dry ingredients, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add the raisins and pecans, and mix until blended, only a few seconds.

5. Pour mixture into the prepared tin, and smooth top with a metal spatula. Bake until cake feels firm and springy when you press it in the center, 25 to 30 minutes.

6. Remove the cake from the oven, and with a toothpick or wooden skewer poke holes all over the top. Spoon the Orange Syrup over the cake. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake to loosen. Remove cake from the pan using the paper as an aid. Then carefully lift cake on the paper to a chopping board. Cool the cake, holes side up, to room temperature. Cut the cake into 16 squares. (Cake can be prepared 1 day ahead; store in an airtight container at room temperature.)

7. Sprinkle squares with confectioners' sugar, if desired. Garnish each with a generous dollop of Crème Fraiche Icing and pass extra in a serving bowl. Or if you prefer, spread the tops of the squares with icing, making swirls in it.

Orange Syrup
Reserved orange used for zesting
1/3 cup sugar

1. Squeeze the juice of the reserved, zested orange into a measuring cup. If it doesn’t measure 1/2 cup, add enough water to make this amount.

2. Transfer the orange mixture and the sugar to a small saucepan set over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a brisk simmer. Cook until reduced by half and thickened (like light maple syrup), 6 to 7 minutes.

Crème Fraîche Icing
8 oz crème fraîche
2 tbsp orange juice, preferably fresh
1/3 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt

1. With an electric mixer on medium speed, whip the crème fraîche until soft peaks form, only a few seconds. Beat in the orange juice, then gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and salt. (Icing can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2016

8 thoughts on “A New Way with Carrot Cake

    • I’ve made it four times in the last 2 weeks and liked it better each time! Ron is getting up in the middle of the night and going to the kitchen to snack on them!

  1. Hi Betty, I just received your new Soup Book today from Amazon. I’m so excited! You are so good with layers of flavors – can’t wait to make something on Sunday for the Grands and the above Carrot Cake. I got into an older blog by mistake BUT I saw where someone asked you for a white cake recipe with Lemon Zest? That sounds wonderful also. Can you share?


    • Thanks so much, Julie, for your note. Hope you enjoy trying those soups in Soup Nights followed by those carrot cake squares. I can’t pin down the recipe for white cake with lemon. If you could tell me where you saw it (that is which post/ recipe)on my blog I could look it up. I couldn’t find it in the comments.
      Happy to share if I know what recipe it refers too and if I have a copy on my computer.

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