The perfect afternoon snack has arrived
By Yossy Arefi
Comforting and cozy, but still light and bright, a carrot cake with a tangy lemon glaze is just the thing for when you want a bit of fall flavor but aren’t quite ready to break into the pumpkin.
This simple loaf can be whisked together in a single bowl and baked in just about an hour, so your cravings are never too far from being satisfied. You can make it on a whim, and don’t even have to mess up your whole kitchen to do it. (You may love an elaborate baking project as much as the next quarantined cook, but, be honest: The recipes you return to time after time are easy, taste great — and, more important, don’t require a lot of cleaning up.) It also keeps beautifully on the counter for a few days, making it perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or morning treat.
Carrot cake lovers may have a lot of opinions about what should and shouldn’t be included: Nuts? Raisins? Pineapple? Think of this loaf as a blank slate, with a moist, tender crumb and no nuts or fruit in sight, though you can always add some, if that’s more your speed.
Instead, there’s a pared-back mix of spices — cinnamon and cardamom — for a warmth that’s not too overpowering. Carrot cake is traditionally made with oil, and you can use something neutral like canola or grapeseed. But, if you want to add a bit of savory flavor, substitute a mild olive oil, or a combination of the two.
Cream cheese frosting is the classic topper for carrot cake, but there is something irresistible about a confection topped with a crackly, citrusy glaze. It’s easier to make and lighter than frosting, and its tangy flavor still plays nicely off those warm spices and the earthiness of the carrot. There’s also a little bit of finely grated carrot in the finish, which tints it a gorgeous peachy color and adds a little sunshine and glamour.
The grated carrot is just for looks, but when the rest of the recipe is this easy, why not take another minute, and make it extra nice?
Carrot loaf cake with tangy lemon glaze
Yield: 1 (9-by-5-inch) loaf
Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling
For the Cake:
3/4 cup/180 milliliters neutral oil or mild olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup/225 grams packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 3/4 cups/225 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 packed cups peeled and grated carrots (about 6 ounces/165 grams, from 3 medium carrots)
For the Glaze:
1 cup/100 grams powdered sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated carrot (optional)
1. Make the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees and set a rack in the center. Oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and line it with a strip of parchment paper that hangs over the two long sides. Oil the paper, too.
2. Add the light brown sugar and eggs to a large bowl and whisk vigorously until pale in color, about 2 minutes. Add the oil, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Whisk until well combined and smooth.
3. Add the flour, baking powder and baking soda, and whisk, starting slowly to incorporate the flour without spilling it, until well combined and smooth, switching to a rubber spatula if necessary. Fold in the grated carrots. The batter will be very thick.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any big air bubbles.
5. Bake the cake until golden and puffed and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, use the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan and set on the rack over a baking sheet to cool completely.
6. When the cake is cool, make the glaze: Finely zest the lemon into a medium bowl. Juice the lemon, and set aside lemon juice. Add the powdered sugar and finely grated carrot (if using) to the bowl with the zest, along with 4 teaspoons of the lemon juice. Whisk vigorously until smooth. Add more lemon juice as needed to make a thick but pourable glaze. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and let it set for a few minutes before slicing. Store the cake well wrapped at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.