Quite obviously, everyone that we know has their very own "best carrot cake recipe ever" that they’ll stick to forever and never change and that’s all fine and dandy, of course. But just in case somebody would like to try out another version, perhaps to be kindly adopted in your family of recipes, then here’s a fresher version with clementine, pine nuts, raisins, no cinnamon this time but just a pinch of cloves and ginger (and ground mastic resin if you have some) and this beautiful topping of extremely easy to make "candied carrot ribbons".
The origins of carrot cake are unclear and varied. It was always extremely popular in Switzerland (which is probably its country of origin), then spread to Germany and northern Italy and was widely adopted by the United Kingdom and the United States and is now known and very popular and prepared worldwide.
It has changed over the years. A cream cheese and butter frosting almost always dresses it up. Crushed pineapple is added to the batter to make it zingier. Pecans and walnuts are usually added in, alongside the raisins and it is strongly accentuated with a lot of cinnamon, often ginger too and sometimes nutmeg.
This version uses clementine purée. Yes, whole small clementines that are reduced to a mush, because they’re orange-colored like the carrots and because I needed some citrus zest too, but you can use small oranges instead, but beware of the thicker orange peel or rind that can be too bitter. I add pine nuts which are fresher tasting and drop the walnuts or pecans and the whole thing is only spiced with just a hint of ginger, ground cloves, vanilla and the optional mastic resin crystals, to let the carrot flavor shine through.
You’ll be tempted to use more grated carrots and clementine purée because you’ll have extra, but try not to. A little bit of extra grated carrot won’t change much but too much clementine purée will make the cake too dense, almost too moist, especially alongside the creamy frosting and you’ll lose the cake’s sponginess. If you don’t want to use clementine purée, then just repalce with 2-3 tbsp of orange or clementine juice and some extra zest.
The candied carrot ribbons topping are quite easy to make, just using a peeler and some water and sugar and they make the cake quite beautiful. It’s just a readapted Greek recipe for spoon sweets in syrup, that I’ve shown you before, usually made with cherries, grapes, baby figs, orange peels, baby walnuts, sometimes watermelon or quince in northern Greece, the Balkans, Georgia and the Middle East and in the south of Greece, sometimes olives and cherry tomatoes are candied, as well as other vegetables. The carrot strips or ribbons seemed like an obvious, yet accidental if not fortuitous last-minute choice.
One last thing. Cakes are better the day after, they need to mature, so try to prepare it one night or 1 day in advance, before slicing and serving.
Enjoy your weekend and spring holidays … :)