Infused with ground cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice, this luscious cake is a sweet ending to any meal. Or tempting afternoon treat with a cup of tea or coffee to keep it company.
Indianish Carrot Cake

Who Loves Cake?

Carrots and dessert have been popular since the middles ages. Louis XVI’s chef, Antoine Beauvilliers, published a cookbook in 1814 which included “Gateau de Carottes.” Infused with spices, moist from shreds of carrot, and gilded with a tangy cream cheese frosting, carrot cake is hard to beat. I’ve added three of my favorite spices: cardamom, fennel and allspice to the mix for their floral, aromatic warmth, a more Indianish twist. I think once you’ve made this version you won’t go back to the more traditional recipe.

Cream cheese frosting is non-negotiable for me. It simply isn’t a proper carrot cake without it. I’ve spiced my frosting up with cardamom, cloves, and a splash of rosewater, but this too you can dispense with for a more classic recipe.

Make it Your Own

There is a lot of room for you to add your personal preferences. This is not an overly sweet cake, and you can steer your carrot cake to an even healthier direction by swapping out some of the all-purpose flour with white or regular whole wheat flour. And it is easy to make this cake vegan by swapping out the dairy cream cheese with cashew cream cheese.

The foundation for this recipe is from Bal Arneson’s coconut carrot cake published on the Cooking Channel’s website. I have changed up the spicing, the sugar recommended and the cream cheese frosting recipe. I love the fact that there is no creaming of butter and sugar: just two bowls, one for the wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients. Yes, there is some grating required, but you can handle that. Get out that old-fashioned box grater of yours and use the side with the small holes. Please don’t be tempted to buy pre-shredded carrots, they will not be shredded fine enough.

Since I love cake in general, and carrot cake in particular, I am going to work on a gluten-free and sugar-free version. That way I can indulge more often! I am looking at almond flour, maybe some coconut flour, and my favorite sugar substitute: whey low.

Versatile Indianish Carrot Cake

If it would work better for you, you can make this cake in stages. Grate the carrots ahead of time and store in an airtight container. The frosting can also be made a couple of days in advance and parked in the fridge. Let it come to room temperature and give it a good whisk before frosting the cake.

Depending on my mood and the occasion, I bake this cake in a loaf pan for casual days, into cupcakes for sharing, or as a layer cake for parties. If you go all-in with the optional ingredients, you are going to have something close to a fruitcake. But that isn’t a bad thing.

Happy cooking!

See the Notes below before you cook.

Indianish Carrot Cake

Indianish Carrot Cake

Infused with ground cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice, this luscious cake is a sweet ending to any meal. Or tempting afternoon treat with a cup of tea or coffee to keep it company.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Indianish
Keyword: allspice, coconut, dairy free, Dessert, Entertaining, Freezer Friendly, make ahead, Nuts, pistachios, Sweet, vegan, vegetarian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Cooling time before icing: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 16

Ingredients

Cake

  • butter or cooking spray ~ To grease the pans
  • parchment ~ To prepare the pans
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cups light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil ~ Or coconut, avocado, canola oils
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 3 cups carrots ~ Finely carrots -- 1 pound
  • 1 cup shredded coconut ~ Optional
  • 1 cup raisins ~ Mixed with 1 tablespoon flour, optional
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple ~ Drained, optional
  • 1 cup pecans ~ Toasted; or walnuts, or pistachios, optional

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces full fat brick style cream cheese ~ Two packages; room temperature
  • 1 stick butter ~ 1/2 cup or 4 ounces; room temperature
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice ~ More to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea or table salt ~
  • 1/4 teaspoon rose water ~ Optional

Optional Garnishes

Instructions

Cake

  • Gather your ingredients.
    Indianish Carrot Cake
  • Butter and line your cake pans. Also brush butter on top of the parchment paper to ensure a painless release from the pan.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). 
  • If using nuts, toast them in a 350°F (180°C) oven for about 5 minutes, until golden and fragrant.
  • If using a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, mix the eggs on low until combined. Add the sugar and turn speed to medium-high. Mix until the batter is smooth and pale. 
    Indianish Carrot Cake
  • Slowly beat in the oil, scraping the sides of the bowl, so it is evenly blended. 
    Indianish Carrot Cake
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and add to the egg and sugar mixture. Beat on medium-low just until it is  combined. 
  • Stir in the carrots (and coconut, raisins, and nuts if using) and pour the batter into the prepared pans.
    Indianish Carrot Cake
  • Bake until the cake is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes
  • Let the cake cool on a baking rack. Cool completely before frosting, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
    Indianish Carrot Cake

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Take the cream cheese and butter out of the refrigerator at least an hour before you want to frost the cake. This can even be done the night before. If you forgot this step, cut the cream cheese into 1-inch cubes and lay out on a microwave-safe plate. Heat in 10-second increments just until softened, not melted.
  • Gather all your frosting ingredients.
    Indianish Carrot Cake
  • If using nuts as garnish, toast in a 350°F (180°C) oven for about 5 minutes, until golden and fragrant.
  • Using a stand or hand mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy; about 3 minutes on high speed.
  • Add icing sugar 1 cup at a time. Add the spices, salt, lemon juice and rose water, if using, and mix until combined. Add more icing sugar if the frosting is too soft. If the icing is sweet enough and you still need to firm it up, use 1, or at the most, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
  • Take a bread knife or other long serrated knife and trim off any dome that formed while baking. Release the first cake layer from the pan making sure to remove the parchment paper.
    Indianish Carrot Cake
  • Turn upside down on a cake plate and frost the top. Add the second layer, also upside down so that you have a flatter, more crumb-free cake top.
  • Frost and decorate as you wish. The frosting will keep at room temperature for 3 days, refrigerate for a week, or in the freezer for several months.

Notes

  • To up the flavor ante for this Indianish carrot cake, take a page from the Serious Eats pastry Goddess, Stella Parks, and swap out 1/2 cup (65g) AP flour for 1/2 cup (70g) whole wheat flour. She also uses butter instead of oil. You could hedge your bets by swapping out 1/2 the oil with 10 tablespoons of butter that you’ve browned.
  • Make this recipe vegan by using cashew cream. Head over to Nora Cooks and make her easy vegan cream cheese.
  • To hasten cooling the cake before frosting, you can store in the refrigerator. But make sure the cake is cool throughout, and not just on the surface.
  • Thin to medium carrots have the best flavor