I might be a little strange, but there is just something about carrots and coconut that makes me think of springtime, of fluffy little bunnies hopping through the grass and Easter eggs. Carrots and coconut are also brilliant together in this cake recipe.
This is unlike any "carrot cake" I've ever had, and I hesitate to even call it carrot cake because it's so pleasantly different. For starters, there are no spices in this cake -- no cinnamon or nutmeg or ginger. Also absent are raisins and nuts, ingredients almost always present in standard carrot cakes. Instead, this is a tender, vanilla-flavored cake filled with shredded coconut and carrots, made moist and delicious with the addition of coconut milk as the liquid. Oh my sweet goodness.
The truth is that most of us don't even know what a carrot cake without spices tastes like. Well let me tell you, it's tremendously good. The carrots add color, texture, and their natural, earthy sweetness. Pair that with creamy coconut and finish it with a luscious cream cheese frosting topped, of course, with even more coconut and we've got one beautiful and unique cake. It's perfect for Easter and springtime gatherings. My kids aren't big fans of traditional carrot cake, but all three loved this version.
Coconut carrot cake
Yields: 1 single-layer 9-inch round cake
1 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup shredded coconut, plus more for topping the cake
For the frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Incorporate the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in small amounts alternately with the coconut milk (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour), beating until well combined. Add in the carrots and coconut. Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake 30-40 minutes or until cooked through and set. Place pan on a cooling rack and cool cake 20 minutes before turning cake out of pan to cool completely.
4. Make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the vanilla. Turn the speed down to low and add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth.
5. Assemble cake: When the cake is completely cool, place the cake on the serving plate. Frost the top of the cake generously with cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle top of cake with coconut. Slice and serve.
Note: This recipe makes one layer and, as the cake doesn't rise significantly when it bakes, it's not a particularly tall layer. For a more substantial cake, double the recipe.
Maya Evoy lives in Nikiski and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.