Carrot cake is one of my favourite Easter desserts. I’ve tried lots of different recipes for carrot cakes. From maple brown butter carrot cake to a tropical Hawaiian carrot cake with coconut and candied ginger. This variation is one of the best I’ve found because it involves bourbon.
If you’re not baking with bourbon, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. Honestly, I’m not much for dried fruit in my baked goods, but soak them in alcohol and I am happy to soften my position.
I don’t know if it’s a textural thing or it just makes me think of old church ladies… Nothing against old church ladies, but often their baking was a bit overpromised and underdelivered. There was one lady that sold apple blossoms outside the church at the Saturday farmer’s market in Cambridge, where I grew up, and those were LEGIT.
The homemade caramel sauce she served with the apple blossoms was absolutely to-die-for.
But most of the time when I think about the pastry and confectionary on offer at church events, on the few occasions I’ve attended, my mind often first goes Christmas cakes with that disgusting candied fruit in it. You know those indigestible hunks of gelatine candy in truly unnatural shades of red and green?
Yeah, I hate that shit. I might be triggered by it because for a few weeks, between undergrad and grad school, I lived with my then-boyfriend’s family. I’m not exactly a neat freak and I wouldn’t advise you to eat anything off my floors, but their fridge required a HAZMAT suit just to open it.
One fateful day, I told my then-boyfriend’s mom that I was going to clean out their fridge, to which she replied, “Fill your boots.” And so I did. There were many colonies of bacteria and mold spawning in that fridge but I didn’t discover the true horror of this undertaking until I got to the bottom shelf.
There were two Bulk Barn containers of that awful candied fruit, packed in syrup, that were upturned and their putrid, sticky, saccharine juices had cemented the containers, and everything in their vicinity, to the bottom of the fridge.
A putty knife would have come in handy to scrape off this rock-solid sticky mess from the bottom of the fridge. Instead, I just used some good, old-fashioned elbow grease and stick-to-it-iveness. I think I even had the pleasure of tossing the remnants of the candied fruit and not having to suffer through it being baked into that year’s Christmas brunch braid.
Small victories. The fridge was sparkling for about a day before it became a garbage fire again. Luckily, it was a short stint of cohabitation.
Let me reiterate by saying that this carrot cake has NO candied fruit and tastes damn delicious. There is bourbon in the cake, in the raisins and in the cream cheese frosting. You’re welcome.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray or oil three 9-inch (1.5-L) round cake pans.
Grate carrots using a food processor. Measure out 4 cups and set aside. Plump up raisins by placing in a small microwave bowl and adding bourbon. Microwave on high 1½ minutes, stirring partway through. Bourbon should just start to boil. Set aside and stir occasionally. Chop nuts and toast in the oven for about 6 minutes, stirring partway through. Place flour in a large bowl. Sprinkle with baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Stir to blend, then make a well in the centre.
Combine oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Scrape into well in flour mixture and stir with a spoon or spatula just until even in colour. Stir in carrots, followed by raisins and bourbon that hasn’t been absorbed. Sprinkle with nuts and just mix in. It will be very thick.
Divide batter between pans, adding about 2¼ cups to each. Spread evenly to pan sides. To remove air pockets, bang pans on counter 5 to 6 times. Bake until centres seem set when lightly tapped, from 30 to 35 minutes. Remove to a baking rack to cool. After about 15 minutes, turn cakes out of pans and cool completely on racks. It’s best to bake cakes a day ahead of icing and leave at room temperature overnight.
Cut cream cheese into chunks. Place butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until very creamy. Add bourbon and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and beat in cream cheese, piece by piece. Beating too much will cause thinning. Add about a third of the icing sugar and beat on low until just mixed in. Scrape sides of bowl and beaters occasionally. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating just until smooth. If too thin, work in a little more sugar. Can be refrigerated for about an hour before using.
To assemble, place a cake, top-side down, on a platter. Lay the other 2, top-side up, on waxed paper. Brush with bourbon if you like. Spoon an equal amount of frosting on each. Spread over cakes, leaving a narrow border of cake around edge of cake on platter and on 1 other cake. Spread frosting right to the edge of the third cake. Stack cakes, placing the fully covered layer on top. Garnish with whole pecan halves. It’s best to refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving.
Recipe from: Rosenberg, Monda. “Pecan Bourbon Carrot Cake.” Food & Drink. Spring 2011.