sweet stuff: coconut cream cheese icing (for carrot cake!)
I have been obsessed with carrot cake since… Friday.
I had an early appointment in town and then another one at lunchtime, so I decided to fill the gap by writing at Ground Up — my favourite little hole in the wall, whose tall timber inside table is perfect for hammering out a few hundred words here and there. Feeling somewhat morose and peckish, I asked for whatever was in the cabinet to have with my pot of Earl Grey.
I’ve never felt passionately about carrot cake before.
But this was a revelation. My piece, served on a little cutting board, was sliced from a gluten-free loaf slathered in cream cheese icing and sprinkled liberally with strands of coconut. I managed to put it away within two or three minutes of absent-minded nibbling, after which I felt despondent. More cake! said my brain.
Scientifically proven facts about carrot cake:
- Carrot cake contains vegetables and is therefore a superfood.
- Carrot cake is an acceptable breakfast food.
- Carrot cake fuels copywriting inspiration when consumed in tandem with working.
My only definitive goal this weekend was to produce a carrot cake as good at Ground Up’s.
I looked through several of my cookbooks, failing to find anything that looked promising. But my dear friend LovelyK recommended this sheet cake recipe, which I made using wholemeal spelt flour and stevia and a wee drizzle of molasses. I also tossed in some crumbeld walnuts for good measure, because carrot cakes should always include walnuts (that’s Scientific Fact #4). It is a good cake, but it’s not as damp or crumbly or flavoursome as the one that I ate on Friday. This means that I will one day have to pluck up enough courage to inquire of the Ground Up boys who bakes their cakes and what recipe they use. I doubt they’ll tell me. It seems like the sort of thing that would be secret. (They also boast ‘the best brownies in the world’ and I have so far been unable to refute that fact.)
What I’m excited about this very minute is the icing. I have failed miserably in the past at concocting icing recipes from scratch (including the occasion last year when an entire chocolate torte oozed out of my hands onto the passenger seat of my car en route to a birthday celebration because my ‘cappuccino’ icing was obnoxiously delicious yet runny). I got lucky today: my coconut cream cheese icing is both delicious and well-behaved.
Scientific Fact #5 about carrot cake is that cream cheese icing is the sine qua non of exceptional carrot cake.
Carrot cake must be topped with a generous cloud of cream cheese icing if it wants to be taken seriously.
This is a happy coincidence for me. I usually avoid icing cakes with recipes from books at all because icing is disgusting. Buttercream? Think about it. I look at those generous swirly swirls on elaborately iced cupcakes and can’t help but feel preemptively ill. Buttercream should not be a thing. Cream cheese icing, on the other hand, is a cheerful compromise that remains decadent without being quite so… so… cloyingly artery-clogging and sickly sweet.
Speaking of all things sweet, I’ve been using Natvia a lot lately, which is a natural, granulated sweetener made from a combination of stevia and erythritol. It’s sweeter than table sugar, which means that you can use less. And the only difference that I’ve noticed in baking so far is a slightly different flavour profile and a drier texture. In a recipe like this, the difference is undetectable.
So, one day, when I get my hands on a truly wonderful carrot cake recipe, I’ll have whatever the smaller, less impressive, two-ish version of a trifecta is. And I’ll be so smug.
coconut cream cheese icing
250 gram tub cream cheese (not light)
1/4 cup Natvia (or plain stevia, or 3/4 cup powdered sugar or xylitol)
2 tablespoons coconut butter (warmed to a liquid)
1 tablespoon coconut milk (or other milk)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
shredded coconut for sprinkling
Use a mini food processor to blitz the sweetener to a powder (unless you are already using powdered sugar). Then, making sure that the cream cheese is at room temperature, beat until soft. (To be completely honest with you, I cheated and used my mother’s Thermomix for everything. Usually I would beat the cream cheese by hand or with electric beaters.)
Gradually add in the sweetener, coconut butter, coconut milk, and vanilla — beating until glossy and completely smooth. (If you simply tip in the liquid ingredients all at once, they’ll likely splatter all over you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Finally, beat in the grated orange rind.
Spread the icing over your cake using a palette knife dipped in hot water every so often for a smooth result. Sprinkle liberally with shredded coconut.
This recipe makes enough icing for one 20-centimetre round cake or a standard loaf or square cake (around 18 centimetres).
Categorised as: eat+drink+be merry