Type the title of this post into Google and out pops approximately 800,000 results, each touting a recipe for the best ever carrot cake, in the same way that anyone would attest that grandma’s apple pie/chocolate fudge cake/blueberry tart is also the best ever.
Fortunately, I’m not about to launch into a heated debate or 30-minute advertorial why this particular carrot cake I’m sharing with you today is just about the best ever. Just try it and see for yourself. It’s moist (bonus points), chock full of carrots (perfect for a carrot cake) and features pineapples and ground walnuts for added texture. Plus, a few drizzles of cinnamon never really hurt anything and in this case, it pairs just nicely with the sweetness of the carrots and pineapples so that one bite won’t knock you out in a diabetic-inducing coma.
As much as I really, really enjoy carrot cakes in general, my appreciation for this dessert is a relatively recent development. You see, the term ‘carrot cake’ to Singaporeans refers to a hawker dish that looks more like this:
It’s not sweet, has no frosting and has absolutely nothing to do with carrots. In fact, it’s a cake actually made from grated radish mixed with rice flour, water and salt, then steamed until set. When that’s done, it’s chopped up into small bits or strips (depending on your hawker vendor of choice), then pan-fried with garlic, a smattering of tiny salted radish rounds, an egg and a big dollop of chilli paste. You can order it ‘black’ (with dark soya sauce, as pictured above), or ‘white’, without the sauce, but both versions are equally tasty, making for an indulgent, calorific meal. Despite the visible absence of carrot in the dish, its name in English is a direct translation of its Hokkien name: Chye Tow Kuay. Literally, Carrot (chye tow) Cake (kuay). It was the only type of carrot cake I adored (and still do) until the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf café chain arrived in Singapore with its host of baked desserts from the Western pantry, carrot cake being one of them.
Regardless of your past experiences with carrot cakes (Asian or Western), this one in particular will give you moment for pause. Try it, and see.
The Best Carrot Cake Ever (adapted from an All Recipes post scribbled in a notebook)
Makes one 10-inch cake
The proportions below are really just a guide. Once you feel comfortable with the recipe, feel free to add more or less of each ingredient (carrot, pineapple, walnuts) as you prefer.
1 lb/ 455 grams organic carrots, tops removed, peeled and grated into half-inch strips
½ cup/ 4¼ ounces brown sugar
2 large eggs
6 ounces/ 170 grams granulated sugar
1/2 cup/ 3¾ ounces/ 100 grams vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces/ 170 grams canned pineapple cubes, drained and diced into small pieces
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 ounces/ 110 grams walnuts, coarsely ground
Combine the grated carrots and brown sugar in a medium bowl, and set aside for 30 to 45 minutes.
While the carrot is resting, pre-heat the oven to 350F/ 175C and grease and flour your cake pan.
In the largest mixing bowl you have, beat the eggs until light. Add the white sugar, oil and vanilla, beat until incorporated. Stir in the pineapple, then the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix well until all the dry ingredients are fully absorbed.
Add the carrot mixture and the walnuts, mix to distribute the ingredients evenly throughout the batter, then pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top turns a deep brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
Cream cheese frosting (adapted from Atheroscelorosis):
5 ounces/ 200 grams light cream cheese
5 tablespoons/ 75 grams unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
3½ ounces / 100 grams confectioners’ sugar, unsifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream the butter and the cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and the sugar and mix until the sugar is fully incorporated. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using on a cooled cake.