Single-Layer Carrot Cake with Chocolate Frosting
I didn’t expect to come back from a trip to the Southern coast of Western Europe with a new idea about carrot cake. I wasn’t sure there were any. But I did. Here’s how it happened. One day, on the way to see some more Gaudi in Barcelona, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant, La Pubilla, in Gracia, across the street from the Mercat de la Llibertat. Throughout our trip, the restaurants near the markets seemed to have the best food, and as the kind of tourist driven by her stomach, I find solid consolation in eating lunch directly after browsing market ingredients that don’t make sense to buy if you don’t have a kitchen. (As it goes, we did have an apartment with a kitchen in Barcelona, but we wanted to be out and about, not at home. I did cook (burn) these padron peppers, though.)
Anyway, La Pubilla had an inexpensive three-course prix-fixe lunch, 14 euros, and we got a seat at the bar. We’d arrived on the early side, which in Spain is about 1:15pm, and nearly everyone after us got turned away. We had a hard time deciphering the Catalan menu, but with just three choices per course we ended up with good appetizers–beans with sausage and garlic soup–and twin mains of bacalao seasoned with dried apples and apple compote. The setting at La Pubilla is really casual, like you’d expect from a market restaurant, but a lot of the food is kind of fancy, or at least has flourishes. The tastes, though, are delicious, fresh, seasoned the right way, and original..
Here’s the address and some reviews, if you are in Barcelona. Go for lunch.
Anyway, since this was a prix fixe, dessert was required. I ordered the tiramisu, I don’t really know why, and Alex got the carrot cake. The restaurant served the cake in a square, with a cinnamon-spiked chocolate sauce poured all around. Though the cake had a lightness rare in our moist, cream cheese-covered carrot confections, the pairing of carrot with chocolate was what caught my attention and what made its way onto my fork once the tiramisu was gone. With chocolate, carrot cake doesn’t have to be overly sweet. The savory vegetable and the under-sugared sauce, which I translated into a tangy chocolate cream cheese icing, played off each other in a way that makes the common all-American cake feel new again.
- Softened butter, for the pan
- 1⅓ cups flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons safflower oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 1½ cups shredded carrots (from about 7 medium carrots)
- ¾ cup chocolate chips
- 6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan with removable sides. Cut out a circle of parchment and place it in the bottom. Butter that too.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, and almond extract until everything's completely incorporated, using a spatula--no need for the electric mixer. Pour the dry ingredients over the wet and fold together until just combined. Fold in the carrots. Pour into the prepared pan and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is pulling away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a rack in the pan for about 10 minutes, then loosen the cake from the pan and invert the whole rack onto a plate. Remove the bottom part of the pan and peel off the parchment, then invert the cake back onto the rack and let it cool completely.
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until it's nearly melted but you can still see some of the chocolate chips. Remove from the heat and stir to finish melting. Set aside until the chocolate has cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, butter, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla in a food processor (a mini one is fine) and pulse until smooth. When the chocolate is cool, scrape that in and process again until evenly distributed. Keep the icing at room temp until you use it.
- When the cake has cooled, ice the whole top.