I grew up eating carrot cake with chocolate topping and this is one of our favourite family cakes. Carrot is a root vegetable that today comes in a variety of colours such as purple, red, yellow, white, being orange the most common. The original carrots were purple but in the 16th century in Holland the orange variety started to be grown, and in the beginning of the 17th century the French developed a successful breed of a more appetising variety of carrot. Carrot cake has a long history and most likely the old cousins started to appear in Europe in the Middle Age in the form of carrot puddings. The recipe changed overtime and in the end of the 19th century is that the first cake recipes similar to the ones we know today started to emerge in Europe and, from then, numerous recipes were developed and propagated all over the world. Carrot is a very popular cake ingredient because of it releases its natural sweetness to the batter and gives a pretty yellow colour after baking.
The basic sweet carrot cake recipe comprises of flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, butter, raw grated carrots and spices like cinnamon and cloves. Some recipes call for cooked carrots and other include sultanas or raisins, bananas, pineapple, nuts, apple and even shredded coconut. The cream cheese frosting is often used as topping but I even found some recipes that call for an orange syrup, candied carrots or simply double cream to serve. Then there is also the savoury version of a carrot cake such as muffins or scones. In Brazil it is also quite common to add vegetables, carrot in particular, to the basic loaf dough which results in a very sweet, moist and fluffy loaf. I shall post here a very special carrot loaf recipe from my mother-in-law in the near future.
In Brazil the carrot cakes I used to eat did not have nuts or spices, rather recipes were very plain (but still delicious). In addition, in the recipes I know carrots are not grated but instead they are blended with the wet ingredients. Our favourite topping is commonly a soft Brigadeiro recipe which is made with sweetened condensed milk, milk (or cream) and cocoa powder. Brigadeiros are a little sweets that Brazilians are crazy about and can be considered a hybrid of a caramel, fudge and truffle (see the traditional Brigadeiro recipe here).
This is not the carrot cake one would expect, but needless to say that almost any recipe that has chocolate is a pleasure to eat. Plus, the yellow cake with the dark brown topping make a really wonderful colour combination. Just beautiful to serve on a table and have a slice with your favourite tea or coffee in a sunny spring afternoon. Or perhaps with a glass of chilled milk, just like me? I personally prefer the carrot cake recipes that have some wholemeal flour for a different texture as well as brown sugar instead of caster sugar. I once decided to put macadamia oil in my carrot cake and loved it, the taste is really incredible. Indeed, what makes this recipe different is the taste of the macadamia oil and what makes it so Brazilian is the sticky Brigadeiro topping. The two together makes the cake simply divine.
1 cup (200g) brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200ml macadamia oil
400g carrots (about 4 medium carrots), peeled
1 cup (250ml) full-cream milk
2 cups (330g) wholemeal flour, sifted
1 cup (150g) plain flour, sifted
1 tbs baking powder, sifted
Butter to grease
Plain flour, extra, to dust
Brigadeiro Chocolate Topping:
200ml thickened cream
2 tbs dutch cocoa
1 can (395g) sweetened condensed milk
Chocolate sprinkles, to decorate (optional)
1. Pre-heat the oven 180°C, fan-forced. Grease a tube cake pan with butter and dust with flour.
2. Pour the sugar, eggs and vanilla in a bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until creamy. Add macadamia oil and mix until combined.
3. Blend carrots and milk in a blender. Stir in this mixture with the egg mixture.
4. Gently fold flours and baking powder into the batter. Pour the batter into prepared pan, place it in the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer comes off clean when inserted in the middle.
5. For the topping, in a small saucepan combine cream, sweetened condensed milk and cocoa and stir continuously with a wooden spoon over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes or until thickened. Spread warm topping over the cake. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles, if desired.