There are a few types of carrot cake lovers. Some like their carrot cakes dense, filled with nuts, and/or lots of fruits. Then there are others who prefer their carrot cakes light and fluffy. Here, a happy medium with a tropical twist is frosted with a rich, delicious and smooth mascarpone frosting.
I’m not a fan of traditional carrot cake. There’s something about all those large pieces of nuts, raisins and shredded coconut inside the cake that doesn’t sit well with me. I prefer every bite into a slice of cake to be smooth, without interruption from a crunchy nut. However, this cake wasn’t about me or what I like. I made it for my husband. It was his birthday recently and carrot cake is his favorite. When I asked him about what texture of carrot cake he’d prefer, he had no requests and said I could experiment and surprise him with a totally new carrot cake. Ahh, a challenge!
Inspired by my recent trip to Australia and Hawaii, my version of carrot cake here is tropical—made with ground macadamia nuts, crushed pineapples, and garnished with toasted coconut flakes. For an added twist in flavor I added a bit of cardamom. Moist, light, fruity and a little nutty, it worked and I was happy with the result. More importantly, so was my husband. He loved his tropical birthday carrot cake. I hope you like it too.
The decadent and smooth frosting made with Italian mascarpone cheese is adapted from a recipe by British chef and restaurateur, Jamie Oliver. The cake was such a hit I brought it to share at Angie’s virtual Fiesta Friday Party.
Tropical Carrot Cake with Lime Mascarpone and Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup macadamia nuts, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup whole milk yogurt, plain
¼ cup avocado oil
¾ cup melted brown butter (or more oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
2 cups carrots, peeled and finely grated and very loosely packed (see notes below)
8 ounces crushed pineapple (from a can with its own juice)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cakes pans, dust with flour and tap out any excess. Line bottom of both pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
Combine flour, macadamia nuts, baking soda, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Set aside.
With an electric mixer, whisk together eggs, sugars, yogurt, oil and melted butter. Add vanilla and ginger. Blend in flour mixture, then add carrots and crushed pineapple.
Divide batter equally between pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. About 40-55 minutes. Remove pans from oven and transfer to wire racks to cool, about 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; let stand until completely cool.
Lime Mascarpone and Cream Cheese Frosting
1½ cups powdered sugar
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
2 small limes, zest and juice
Macadamia nuts, roasted and chopped coarsely
Coconut flakes, slightly toasted
To garnish the cake, toast about ½ cup of macadamias in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, allow to cool then chop coarsely. Toast coconut flakes for 3 to 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
In a medium bowl, mix together mascarpone and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar, lime zest and juice. Spread mixture over top of cooled cake and sprinkle with chopped nuts and coconut flakes. Cut cake and serve.
Martine’s Notes: For the cake, I wanted a small cake so I used two 6-inch round cake pans and another pan for the excess batter. I toasted the macadamias in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, then ground them with my VitaMix. You could also use a nut grinder or food processor. I ground them to the consistency of fine to coarse flour, but if you prefer a little more texture you can chop them coarsely to your preference.
To grate the carrots, use the smallest holes (about ¼-inch in diameter or less) of a box grater. You could use the fine grater of a food processor, but I recommend using a box grater so you don’t get the added liquid which will affect the consistency and texture of the cake. When measuring your carrots, do not pack them in measuring cup. If you do, you will need more flour.
I did not add raisins to this cake. If you’d like, you can add about ½ cup of raisins to the mixture of wet ingredients. Also, I did not add too much sugar to my cake. I didn’t want it to be too sweet as I knew the frosting would be decadent and rich. I think the balance I came up with worked well. For a sweeter cake you can add another ½-1 cup of sugar.
My cake was a double layer. Next time I might make three layers as I like my cakes small but tall. If you are making layers, please note since mascarpone and cream cheese are very soft, the frosting is quite soft. In my recipe I added 1/2 cup more of powdered sugar than the original recipe to help thicken it. Since the recipe calls for 8 ounces of cream cheese and 4 ounces of mascarpone, I knew it could handle the additional 1/2 cup more of powdered sugar without compromising flavor. If you make layers, I’d recommend spreading a relatively thin layer of frosting in between the cake layers so your cake layers don’t slide too much. Also, I’d refrigerate the frosting for several minutes before spreading, to make it a little more firm.