Fancy Schmancy Carrot Cake with Mango-Cream Cheese Icing


I must apologize for leaving you so long without a baking post, oh Epic Portions readers.  I know you need your sugar fix, but homework has been getting me down, the weather has been getting me outside, and rock shows galore have been getting me dancing… leaving little time for baking and even less for blogging.  I have been baking though, oh yes!  Expect three posts from me before the weekend is out – the first being this super awesome Fancy Schmancy Carrot Cake with Mango-Cream Cheese Icing!

This is NOT your average carrot cake. Carrot cake? Yeah, I know – boring. Bland. Kind of weird, actually.  But this?  This is a moist, spicy, flavorful, fruit-filled concoction which you can add just about anything to and it only improves it. Seriously! Experiment with it. You will not be disappointed. Plus, you can make just about any kind of cream cheese icing to suit your flavor-and-color preferences, making it both beautiful and versatile. I chose mango because I made this cake on Easter and mangoes feel spring-like to me, but really: anything goes. Give it a try.

(Note: this has a long ingredient list and if you don’t bake often it can be a pricey recipe, but if you do bake often you will probably have a lot of things on hand… and either way it is totally worth it. And, despite the long list, it’s a pretty easy recipe to actually make.)

Fancy Schmancy Carrot Cake
Makes a three-layer 8″ round cake. Or whatever comparable size you want to make.
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tspn baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
5 tspn cinnamon (or to taste)
3 tspn nutmeg (or to taste)
3 tspn salt (or to taste)
5 tspn ground ginger (or to taste)
4 tspn ground cloves (you getting the idea here, yet?)
4 eggs
2 sticks (16 tblspn total) butter – SOFT
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
5 oz crushed pineapple in juice
5 oz mango – chopped, pureed, in really small pieces somehow
2 tblspn vanilla
4 cups shredded carrots
4 to 5 oz copped nuts – I prefer hazelnuts, but walnuts are nice too
3/4 dried cranberries, with liquor liquid of preference to macerate
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, really finely chopped

Let me start by saying: the mini chopper is your friend. Carrots? Chopped! Mango? Chopped! Seriously, I put almost everything in this recipe in there and it makes it so easy and so good. For this recipe to really work, it’s best to have everything in an even and fine consistency, and the mini chopper is your best answer. I skipped the OXO and got an electric one, and I have never looked back.

Also, let me say: to bake effectively with dried cranberries, you need to macerate (er, soak) them for at least 4 hours, and 12 hours is really better. I prefer to soak cranberries in spiced rum, but this time I ran out of rum so I added dry red wine, and that was nice too.  It doesn’t, by any means, need to be liquor.  Just find something liquid and tasty, and give your cranberries a good long soak in an air-tight container before you bake ’em. Just make sure you drain them before adding to the recipe – you do NOT want to add your macerating liquid.  I recommend a sieve.

Now.  In a small bowl, combine your flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, salt, cloves and whatever else you feel like.  In a separate, large bowl beat the eggs, butter and sugars until combined and soft.  Add the pineapple (with juice), mango, and vanilla.  Add the dry flourspice mix and beat on low to blend.  Add the carrots, and beat to combine.  Add the walnuts, cranberries, and crystallized ginger, and combine.  Pour into three well-greased 8″ round cake pans, and bake all three for 30-45 minutes at 350F.  The length of time to bake will depend on how much liquid you’ve added in the form of fruit and such; really juicy mango will take longer, for instance. Depend on the age-old toothpick trick and know that moist is better than burnt, and you’ll be fine.  Cool on a wire rack until room temp, remove from the pans, and refrigerate the cakes for an hour or so to get them assembly-ready.

Mango Cream Cheese Frosting
16 oz SOFT cream cheese
10 tblspn SOFT butter
4 tspn vanilla
2 cups (ish) powder sugar
Mango puree to taste and texture (I buy frozen mango, thaw, and mini-chop.)

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until combined.  Gradually add sugar and mango until you reach a consistency, sweetness, and mango-ness that you enjoy.

Assembly: Place bottom cake layer on a serving plate, and coat top with icing. Add second layer and coat top with icing. Add third layer, and generously coat top and sides with icing.  Smooth to make it pretty.  I finish mine off with edible ball bearings, because they are colorful and fun and add a little extra crunch, which I really like.

Voila!  This has been the attendees’ second-favorite thing I’ve made, just after the Lumpy Bumpy cake. It’s a huge hit.  Enjoy!