I’ve been using the same recipe for carrot cake for years. It’s a basic recipe with the only add-in being walnuts. No pineapple, coconut and/or raisins that you find in some recipes, but it’s delicious and moist nonetheless. I did try a different recipe a year or two ago and it just wasn’t that good. One of the reasons it never made it on here. I recently came across a recipe though that was completely different from any one I had seen before, a Spice Market Carrot Cake, that I instantly knew I wanted to try. I decided to make it for Easter this year. Which led me to wonder why is carrot cake so popular for Easter? Does it have anything to do with rabbits and their affinity to carrots? While I couldn’t find a definitive answer, I did learn this tidbit… Carrot cake became popular in the 1970’s during the dieting craze. People apparently thought that by using carrots in a cake it would make the dessert seem healthier. I can get behind that. It’s like the theory that chocolate is a vegetable (some say fruit) since it’s a product of the cacao bean.
So, what makes the Spice Market Carrot Cake so special? It has a Moroccan-inspired flair thanks to the addition of ras el hanout – a Moroccan spice blend – and dried fruit (for the cake I made I went with apricots, but, you could use pitted dates instead). Thankfully I didn’t need to go in search of ras el hanout and was able to make the blend myself using allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric and nutmeg. And to top the cake off, a twist on the traditional cream cheese frosting that I personally think is the best frosting for carrot cake, a Ginger-Orange Cream Cheese Frosting that includes ground ginger and the zest and juice of an orange.
This cake was a hit! All the flavors worked well together, and while I normally love nuts in my desserts, especially walnuts, I didn’t miss them one bit in this cake!
Spice Market Carrot Cake
For the Cake:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon ras el hanout*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
3 cups (1 lb.) finely shredded carrots
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1 cup chopped apricots
For the Frosting:
1 orange – remove 2 teaspoons of zest and squeeze for 2 tablespoons of juice
1 8oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 – 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
*To make the ras el hanout stir together 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon & turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon each of black pepper, coriander, nutmeg and allspice.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 3 8-inch round baking pans with baking spray.
To make the cake: In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, ras el hanout, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl stir together the eggs, carrots, oil and honey.
Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until combined and then stir in the chopped apricots. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and then bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
I like to wrap my cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before frosting, but, you can frost them once they are completely cooled.
To make the frosting: In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the orange juice and ground ginger and continue beating until both are incorporate. Switch the speed to low and gradually add in 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Continue beating until well incorporated. Gradually add in an additional 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar until the frosting is spreadable. Stir in zest.
Frost and stack the cakes and then decorate as desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens