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
Serves 6 to 8
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.