Carrot cake is one of my favourite ‘vegetable-type’ cakes to make at home; it’s simple to prepare and rather rustic yet absolutely delicious. I’ve infused this carrot cake with chai (the Hindi word for tea is chai) and used a few of my favourite spices that I use when I have a craving for masala chai (the Hindi word for spice is masala). I've also skipped the vanilla flavour in the cream cheese frosting in favour of pistachio. This recipe is adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks, Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book.
- ¼ cup Indian black tea leaves, such Darjeeling or Assam
- 60 ml (¼ cup) boiling water
- 350 g (2⅓ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1¼ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground green cardamom
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 450 g carrots, peeled, shredded
- 295 g (1⅓ cups) caster sugar
- 100 g light brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 350 ml vegetable oil
- 150 g (1 cup) raisins
- ½ cup chopped candied roasted pistachios, for garnish (optional)
Pistachio cream cheese frosting
- 340 g full-fat cream cheese, softened
- 80 g unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 tsp pistachio extract (see Note)
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 200 g icing (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time 3 hours
Chilling time 2 hours
To make the cake, place the tea leaves in a bowl, then pour over the boiling water and stand for 10 minutes to infuse. Strain and discard the tea leaves, reserving the tea concentrate until needed.
Meanwhile, place a rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 33 cm x 22 cm baking tin and line with baking paper. Grease the baking paper and lightly dust with a little flour, then set the tin aside until needed.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and salt in a large bowl to combine and set aside.
Place the shredded carrots in a separate large bowl. Place the caster sugar, brown sugar, eggs and reserved tea concentrate in a food processor and process for 30 seconds or until combined. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil in a steady stream until the mixture is completely emulsified; this should take about 20-30 seconds. Pour the emulsified mixture over the shredded carrots and fold with a silicone spatula. Fold in the flour mixture until no visible specks of flour can be seen, then quickly fold in the raisins.
Transfer the batter to the prepared cake tin and bake, rotating halfway through the baking process, for 35–40 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside in the tin for 2–3 hours or until completely cool.
Run a knife around the edges of the cake to release. Trim the edges of the cake with a sharp serrated knife, then cut the cake in half lengthwise to form two 16 cm x 22cm rectangles. Wrap the cakes separately in plastic wrap, then chill for at least 2 hours before frosting.
Meanwhile, to make the frosting, place the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, pistachio extract and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on low speed, then gradually increase to medium-high speed until combined (you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally to bring the ingredients together).
Add the sugar and beat on medium-low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium-high and beat for 2–3 minutes or until the sugar completely disappears (you will need to scrape the sides of the bowl down occasionally to bring the ingredients together). Transfer the frosting to an airtight container and chill until needed.
Using an offset spatula, cover the top of one cake portion with half of the frosting. Place the second cake over it and cover with the remaining frosting. Garnish with the candied pistachios, if desired, and serve immediately.
• Pistachio extract is available from cake decorating and specialty food shops.
Recipe from A Brown Table by Nik Sharma, with photographs by Nik Sharma.