Seasonal Pantry: Extra carrots? Make carrot cake

There are a lot of things you can do when you end up with a lot of carrots. First, they keep well, properly stored (in an airtight container in the refrigerator).

But sometimes you just know you’re going to be tired of Algerian or Moroccan carrots, carrot risotto, carrot soup, carrot fritters and coleslaw with carrots before you’re even halfway through your supply.

Such was my situation when I suddenly remembered there was a time when I made about 24 large carrot cakes a week, back when I was manager of Jerome’s Good Dogs, once the coolest hot spot in downtown Cotati and now just a memory among those of us who were there.

The carrot cake I most enjoy today has roots that go much deeper than Cotati in the late 1970s.

They sink down all the way to ancient Rome, when desserts were typically quite heavily spiced.

Salted caramels and salted chocolate spiked with cardamom, black pepper,or jalapeños are not so much contemporary conceits as they are gifts from our ancestors.

So, if you find yourself with a bounty of carrots, give this recipe a try. Be bold and use all the spices or, if you just can’t, leave them out and you’ll still have a great cake.

When I first made this cake, I used vanilla extract in both the cake and the frosting.

Now I prefer to use vanilla bean paste, produced by Nielsen-Massey and available in the spice section of good markets. It has a fuller, broader perfume and a depth of flavor that engages beautifully with the carrots.

This recipe appears, in slightly different form, in “The Good Cook’s Book of Salt & Pepper” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, $18.99).

Peppered Carrot Cake with Salted Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 teaspoons butter

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

4 large farm eggs

1 1/3 cup mildly flavored olive oil or cold-press grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup, packed, light brown sugar

1 pound grated carrots, see Note below

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted, optional

1 cup raisins, optional

- Salted Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

1/2 teaspoon flake salt, such as Maldon Salt Flakes or Murray River Salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Coat the inside of a 10-inch spring-form pan or 10-inch cast iron skillet with the butter. Set it aside.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, peppers, salt, cinnamon and cardamom into a large mixing bowl and stir well with a fork. Set aside.

Put the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk well. Add the ginger, vanilla, olive oil and both sugars and whisk until smooth.

Using a rubber spatula, tip the sugar mixture into the dry ingredients and mix together quickly. Fold in the carrots and the nuts and raisins, if using. Do not overmix.

Pour into the buttered pan, using a large rubber spatula to ease the batter into the pan and spread it out evenly.

Set the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and the center springs back when very lightly touched. Remove from the oven, set on a rack and cool for 15 minutes before releasing the spring form.

If using a cast iron pan, use a thin metal spatula to loosen the cake. Set a light plate or cutting board on top and invert the pan and plate or board so that the cake drops onto it. Working quickly, invert the cake onto a cooling rack.

While the cake cools, make the frosting.

If cooked in a cast-iron pan, transfer the cake to a flat plate before adding the frosting.

When the cake has cooled to room temperature, spread the frosting on top. Sprinkle the flake salt over the frosting and enjoy warm.

Leftover cake will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days, properly covered. Bring it to room temperature before enjoying.

Note: You’ll need about 11/4 pounds of carrots, preferably local and organic. Peel and trim the carrots before grating them. If your food processor has a grating blade, feel free to use it.

Salted Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes enough for 1 10- to 12-inch cake

8 ounces old-fashioned cream cheese, at room temperature

1 stick organic butter, at room temperature

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Put the cream cheese in a medium bowl and mix with a sturdy wooden spoon until smooth. Add the butter, a big dollop at a time, mixing between additions. When the mixture is smooth, mix in the sugar.

Put the kosher salt and the black pepper in a little pile near the edge of the bowl, pour the vanilla extract on top and gently agitate the bowl so the salt dissolves. Mix well.

Cover and refrigerate until the cake comes out of the oven.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author or 24 books to date. Email her at

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