I would like to pretend it was my idea to make a healthy dessert this week… but then I would be lying (I’ve never been a good liar). The truth is it was my dad’s birthday and his favorite thing is carrot cake. BUT instead of the normal recipe I usually make him every year, I decided to take a couple of ingredient ideas from the recipe I learned in culinary school. The one that doesn’t seem to belong in carrot cake: Zucchini. I know, I know, zucchini in a cake sounds crazy right? I wasn’t sure how that was going to taste and I didn’t want my dad to know there was zucchini in the cake until after he ate it… just in case he refused to even try it. So I let him take a bite first. Once he told me how delicious it was and that it was “the best carrot cake I’ve ever made him”, I let him in on all the secret ingredients. I was a little nervous he was going to spit the cake out, but instead his response was “wait.. WHAT?”, and then continued to shove forkfuls into his mouth. He even licked the plate when he was done! Really? You believed that? Who DOES that??? I’m a huge germ-a-phoebe so I really hope people don’t go around licking plates, but if that was a normal thing to do he totally would have because that’s just how good this cake really is!
Carrot cake is one of the easiest cakes to make. I encourage all my beginner bakers out there to make this. You don’t even need a mixer for this one! There’s no butter in this cake, so you don’t have to worry about creaming anything. I could be wrong, but I really don’t think you can mess up carrot cake (if you somehow messed this cake up, please don’t come back blaming me… it was just an assumption). Decorating is super easy too! Just spread some cream cheese frosting on top and throw a bunch of nuts or coconut all over and call it a day!
*Warning: I know I said this cake is healthy, well I just want to be clear that I don’t know the exact nutritional values for this cake, but it is made with four servings of vegetables, nuts, vegetable oil instead of butter, and part of the flour portion is substituted with oat bran. The frosting, however, is the opposite of healthy (cream cheese, sugar, and whipped cream… YUM). It’s just the frosting… come on… live a little!!!*
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Two 9 inch cake pans
- Cup set
- Teaspoon/ Tablespoon set
- Bowls (let’s just say several)
- Wire rack (optional)
- Long spatula for icing (not pictured)
First things first, set your oven to 400º. Next, take out your eggs and vegetables from the fridge. You want your eggs to be at room temperature. Nobody cares what temperature your vegetables are at, you’re taking those out first because you have to peel and shred them so this is going to take up most of your time. I always like to measure all my ingredients out first so when I’m ready to start mixing all I have to do is dump my ingredients into the appropriate bowl instead of running around like a chicken with my head cut off opening and closing cabinets and fussing with measuring cups.
The grocery list:
- 2 cups Cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ cup walnuts
- ½ cup sweetened coconut
- ½ cup oat bran
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 3 cups grated carrots
- 1 cup grated zucchini
- 6 eggs
- ½ cup vegetable oil
Start by peeling your carrots and zucchini. In two separate bowls, shred your vegetables. I like to separate them because zucchini retains a lot of water. After you’ve shredded the zucchini, put the zucchini in your hand and squeeze the excess moisture out. Then proceed to measure. You don’t need to squeeze your carrots, just go ahead and peel, shred, and measure those. These vegetables are going to make your cake nice and moist! I promise it doesn’t even taste like a “vegetable” cake!
Go ahead and start sifting tbe flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a large bowl. Then, add the walnuts, coconut, and oat bran to the bowl and give it a quick mix with your spatula. Set that bowl aside and in a medium size bowl, mix together the eggs and sugar with a whisk for about 1 minute. You don’t want to beat it hard, though. Put your vegetables and oil in the egg mixture and mix. Now add the egg mixture to the flour and fold with your spatula just until combined (you don’t want to over mix this). THAT’S IT! See how easy?
Now normally I suggest to line your pan with parchment paper or grease and flour, but in this case since the batter is SO liquid-y I just sprayed my pans with non-stick cooking spray. I normally wouldn’t suggest this, but in this case, it works. Not to mention makes this easy recipe even easier! Ok, so now that your batter looks like orange carrot soup, pour it into your cake pans and carefully place them in the oven. Make sure there is enough space between the pans for air to circulate. You never want the pans to touch or sit too close next to each other or it will interfere with how evenly the cakes bake.
Bake them in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. When you take them out, insert a toothpick in the center. If the toothpick comes out clean, they’re all done! Let the cakes cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Then, flip them over onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
Next step, FROSTING!
This is not just your average cream cheese frosting. It has a little more stability, making it easier to pipe. The secret? Folding in whipped cream! It’s simple… all you need is four ingredients.
- 16 oz cream cheese
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla (I used imitation clear vanilla extract to keep it as white as possible)
First, throw your cream cheese in the mixer and with the paddle attachment mix on 1 just to fluff it up a bit. You always need to sift your confectioner’s sugar! Otherwise you’ll end up with lumps in your frosting and it will look like your cake broke out with some disease. Gross. So go ahead and sift away while your cream cheese is whipping. Slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar (you don’t want a cloud of sugar dusting your kitchen so do this carefully).
For this next step, unless you have two mixers and want to do double the clean up, I suggest scraping the cream cheese mixture out and transferring it into another bowl. Now, add your heavy cream and with the whisk attachment beat on medium speed for a minute. Once the cream starts to fluff up, increase the speed to high until soft peaks form. Add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and VERY CAREFULLY fold with a spatula. You do not want to deflate the whipped cream, so fold around, twist your wrist, and scrape up the bottom.
Now you’re ready for icing! Without going into too many cake decorating details I’m going to leave you with a few tips.
- Place each cake layer on top of a cardboard cake circle slightly smaller than the cake for easier icing and handling.
- Crumb coat each cake and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes before icing the entire cake together.
- After completely icing the cake, run your spatula under hot water, wipe off, then go over the top of the cake for a smoother finish. (If you’re covering the entire cake with nuts/coconut it doesn’t have to be perfect!)
- Add nuts or coconut to the side before piping on top.
- Get creative with it and decorate however you’d like!
Enjoy baking this delicious secret ingredient carrot cake! Shh don’t tell your friends what’s in it until after they eat it!
Here’s the one I made in school last year!