One of the things that I really like about being able to make a layered cake, is that it makes me so happy to bring one of these with me to friends or family. This carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is actually a little bit of practice for a wedding cake (!) I’ll make next year’s spring for good friends.
This carrot cake is different by means that I didn’t add raisins or nuts, but which you could by any means. Another addition I made to a classic carrot cake recipe is that instead of oil, I used melted butter here. The reason for that is that I consider that butter has much more taste and doesn’t leave an greasy layer in your mounth. The amount of spices in this cake is on the more generous side, so do feel free to amend it to your liking.
Altogether this cake is delicious. It is sweet, but not too sweet and has a wonderful firm, yet light texture. The carrots give it a lot of moisture so you don’t have to worry that it will dry out. Just make sure you handle the different layers of cake carefully, to prevent crumbling.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- For three layers of 15cm diameter cake.
- 450 grams of finely (hand-)grated carrot (*see note)
- 300 grams of plain flour
- 15 grams of salt
- 300 grams of granulated sugar
- 300 grams of melted butter
- 4 eggs
- 15 grams of baking powder
- 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon of mixed spices (like Dutch koekkruiden or German Lebkuchengewurze, if you can't find something like this, make a mix of star anise, kardemom and ginger powder, together with a pinch of cloves)
- 1/2 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- 300 grams of icing sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of corn starch
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 250 grams of butter
- 250 grams of cream cheese (** see note)
- For the Marzipan Trees:
- 100 grams of marzipan
- 6 wooden skewers (cut in half, keeping the sharper end)
- green foodcoloring
- silver food-safe dust
- 1 tablespoon of vodka
- *I started off finely grating the carrots and ended up being fully covered in orange muck. The much better alternative, I found, is to let the raw carrots be blitzed in your kitchen machine (one that is not too strong to prevent it from turning into juice - mush) into an almost sandy texture. Even though I would like to say the contrary, shop-bought grated carrot will not do as it is not fine enough and too dry.
- ** Don't be me and be patient and careful when making your frosting. Do not mix in the cream cheese until your frosting is completely ready. If you overmix the cream cheese it will turn into a liquid soup (beyond repair). Adding corn starch helps to prevent this, but doesn't exclude the possibility of the frosting being ruined.
- For the batter mix the finely grated carrots, flour, sugar, baking powder, melted butter, spices, eggs, salt and lemon juice. Mix with a spatula by hand until it looks smooth. Line your baking tins with baking paper and brush lightly with some oil or melted butter (or if you only have one baking tin, bake the batter in three batches).
- In a moderately hot oven, bake the cakes on 150 degrees Celsius for around 30 minutes or until a wooden stick comes out dry. My advice is to rather have the cake be a little bit on the firm side than to undercook. The crumb of this cake is really soft and baking it properly will make it easier to handle. The carrots (and cream cheese frosting) also help keeping the end-result moist enough (if you're adding raisins this will even more so be the case).
- Let the cakes cool down thoroughly.
- Beat together the icing sugar, salt, vanilla extract and butter until airy using a mixer. Once you are happy with the texture of this buttercream, add in the cream cheese and only mix as much as necessary to incorporate it.
- Then start building up your cake by putting a bit of frosting in between each layer and covering the outside and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. For more tips on how to build a layered cake, see the post I wrote on baking a wedding cake here or Smitten Kitchen's super-useful guide.
- I made the little trees by shaping balls of marzipan into cones and sticking them onto the sharp end of a wooden skewer. I then painted these with a little brush, using a mixture of green food coloring gel, silver dust and a bit of vodka. I then sprinkled more silver dust on these little trees and stuck them onto the tree.
I know, I know, this thing is extravagant and really decadent, even compared to my normal baking.
Even though I initially had doubts about the amounts of sugar and almonds, I changed my mind, of course, after reading Deb Perlman’s coercions and flaming reviews to make this meringue cake.
And honestly, I mean, this is basically a giant, layered macaron, covered in dark chocolate-espresso whipped ganache. Like, who am I to say no?
And this, combined with the recent success I had with my Macarons (!) let me to this beautiful cake. A warning: make sure you have enough people to share this with and serve the thinnest possible slices.
I have amended the original recipe slightly to simplify some steps (I have for example skipped the orange syrup and added espresso instead, as I simply love the combination of almond-chocolate and coffee).
More traditional takes on recipes like this (often called hazelnut torte or hazelnootschuimtaart), are often coated in a layer of crispy sugared nuts or nougat. Even though I love the combination of dark chocolate and hazelnut-crunch, I tried to keep this recipe as simple as I could. Plus, I truly loved decorating this cake by using both gold paint and gold leaves, which worked rather well on the smooth dark background of the chocolate ganache.
This cake is perfect for the upcoming holidays, mainly because this is a monster that will treat a huge crowd. Another argument to make this cake now, while it is still cold outside, is that the ganache tends to soften a bit when warm. 🙂
Chocolate – Espress Almond Meringue Cake
- For the macaron dough
- 11 egg whites*
- 350 grams of granulated sugar + 80 grams of water
- 400 grams of almond flour
- 250 grams of icing sugar
- 3 tablespoons of espresso powder
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 4 sheets of baking powder
- *in case you are wondering what to do with 11 egg yolks, this recipe for Yellow Butter Cake would be perfect, as well as making this Zablagione Recipe.
- For the ganache
- 400 grams of dark chocolate (I used 60% bars), chopped into small pieces
- 200 grams of cream
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla essence
- ½ teaspoon of salt (I used a nice himalayan salt)
- This cake holds up really well for more than a week. As it tastes even better after a day (or two) in the fridge, this is a perfect treat to make ahead of the holidays. When cooled properly (or even frozen), this cake is really sturdy and easy to transport.
- I have found that making this recipe is easiest with a standmixer, so you have your hands free to do the other parts, but in fact you can also make these with a handmixer.
- As there are different steps involved, just make sure you have all ingredients measured out to be prepared.
- Stir together 5 egg whites, the icing sugar, espresso powder and almond flour in a large bowl until you have a thick paste. Set this aside until the 'meringue' whipped part of the macarons is ready to be mixed in.
- Whip the remaining 6 egg whites with the salt into a frothy mixture. As always, make sure that your bowl and whisk are sparkling clean. To be sure, I usually wipe a halved lemon over the bowl and attachment.
- On the stove, heat the water and granulated sugar until 110 degrees Celsius. Once this syrup has reached this temperature, move quickly.
- Add the syrup in one go to the frothy egg whites while the kitchen machine is still running. Keep the machine running until no longer visible fog is coming from the mixture.
- You will end up with a beautifully shiny and stiff whipped egg white mixture (this part is called Italian Meringue).
- From this point onward you will only mix by hand. Drop the almond-egg-white-paste into the meringue mixture and fold it through using a spatula. When making macarons, you would aim for a thick yoghurt-like consistency. In this case I found it more helpful to mix a little less to make sure the mixture is a bit thicker.
- After your mixture has reached the right consistency, a 15 cm diameter cake tin and draw rounds on the sheets of baking paper with either an edible stift or a thick marker that will still be visible if you flip over the sheet.
- Now you can either use the spatula, a spoon or a piping bag to divide the macaron mixture and cover the drawn rounds.
- Other than with macarons, you can immediately proceed to baking. I found that baking these on a low temperature of 150 degrees Celsius for around 30 minutes gave the best result. Be sure to double-check: the disks should easily come of the baking paper (test by trying to lift the edge with your finger).
- Even if you let these disks bake a little too long, there is no need to worry, as they will regain a little moisture from the ganache and get a bit softer again.
- While the macaron-disks are cooling down, you can proceed to make the whipped ganache. Heat up the cream until it almost boils. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour over the hot cream. This is also the point to add the vanilla essence and salt.
- Let this mixture stand for some minutes to make sure that the chocolate has enough time to melt.
- This is where I involved the standmixer, as this is a rather lengthy process, but you can also do this with a handmixer. Let the ganache mix on a low speed to allow little bits of air to be beaten into the cooling mixture.
- When it the ganache reaches the texture of a smooth hummus, you can start to asemble the cake.
- Place one little blob of ganache on your cake board or platter to assure that the cake will not move.
- Place the first macaron disk and cover with the ganache, be sure to save enough to be able to coat the outsides, and repeat until you have stacked all four layers. Use the remaining ganache to cover the top and outsides of the cake and smoothen with a spatula.
- This cake tastes best after a day in the fridge, when all textures are smoothened and the tastes have been allowed to develop - the macaron will be deliciously chewy as a result.
- After you cake is properly chilled, it is easier to decorate. I used a wider brush to apply gold paint to the top as well as some gold leave to the sides.
- The golden / bronze balls can be made by rolling truffles in some gold-dust. I was lucky enough to find them in a deli-shop and simply splurged. 🙂
On a daily basis (and mostly around a time that I should be sleeping) I drool over pretty pictures on Instagram, mostly coming from Tortik Annushka, Whipped Cake Co or Coco Cakeland. And who can blame me, I mean these cakes are so, so beautiful! Now to make something in that category is off course a complete different ballgame in terms of added life quality.
The good news is that I think this Geode Cake came together relatively easy, especially if you have baked standard layered cakes before (if not, this guide and these tips might come in handy). I would lie if I tell you that it is quick, because it is not, but if you are looking for a fun project, then I would say, roll up your sleeves and get going. And to add an argument in the mix: mono-tasking and relearning the art of patience are totally cool these days.
Rather than giving you a recipe, I am giving you a list of tips and required ingredients / tools below. It took me quite some time to figure out what would be the best / easiest way to do this and am happy to share my experience so that you can save yourself some doubts and time.
Have fun (and please don’t hesitate to comment in case you have questions)!
A short summary of my main tips & tricks:
- Make sure that you hand-color your sugar crystals, it will make your cake 1000 times more elegant.
- Be careful with cutting out too much cake for your geode, less is more – plus the cake made into ‘geode’ is inedible due to the rock-hard sugar, you will have to slice around it.
- Try to avoid heavily colored cake-filling and rather opt for something that is a little more sturdy, non-drippy, like white-chocolate ganache or fudge. (I used strawberry marmelade and really had to work around the red bleeding into the geode).
- Try to work as precise as you can, and whenever you seem to get frustrated, place the cake in the fridge and make yourself a nice cup of tea – it will get easier.
Making a Geode Cake – at home!
- 1 finished (white) smooth-frosted (layer-)cake (I made this Italian Buttercream layer cake)
- 1 cup of extra frosting
- 1 sharp knife and a spoon
- Rock Sugar - uncolored (I bought something called 'Kandis' in German or 'kandijsuiker' in Dutch - which is way cheaper than buying rock-sugar sticks)
- Food coloring - I used Wilton's gel colors (from the basic collection 'Violet' and 'Black')
- A small brush
- 1 tablespoon of clear alcohol, such as vodka
- Pestle and Mortar (to smash the rock sugar in to smaller pieces)
- 1 tweezer (either brand new and super-clean or one bought from a pastry shop)
- Gold Leave, around 8-10 leaves
- A larger brush (wider) to apply to gold leaves
- (If you want to transport the cake: a sturdy cakeboard that is larger than the diameter of your cake)
- To start off: my main aim was to make a cake that is elegant. When I was looking around online, it seemed like a lot of home-made geode cakes on Pinterest lacked a certain finesse, due to the fact that the rock sugar was monotone in color and left in too big pieces. Another mistake is - from my point of view - is to cover too much of the cake in 'geode' construction.
- And by all means - I tried to avoid the lady-parts look at this geode (and I don't even know how to say this differently but once you start to look at the Pinterest pictures from that perspective it is hard not to laugh out loud).
- So, to achieve all of this: start with coloring your rock sugar. You might want to get a head-start on this and do this the day before you build up your cake to make sure the pieces are dried (and thus easier to handle).
- Use three small bowls (I used egg cups for this), and place vodka in one, and the purple and black food coloring gel each in one as well.
- Get a piece of baking paper and place the rock sugar on it.
- The amount pictured was (to my surprise) way too much for one cake, I would estimate I used 20% of that.
- Take the small brush and dip this in the vodka and then in the foodcoloring. I added more vodka to the coloring between coloring some crystals to create different shades of black and purple.
- In any case, be sure to not color around 30% of your crystals, to keep the appearance of your geode natural.
- After the sugar crystals are dried (for me it took around 24 hours), place them in a pestle and smash carefully with a mortar. I can imagine that this would also work between two wooden boards or with a dough roller. Be careful to leave enough bigger pieces to work with.
- Now get a cold, frosted cake (I made a layer cake with italian buttercream and carefully mark the surroundings of your geode.
- I marked the outer linings with a little wooden pick, to make sure I would make too big of a hole in the nice cake.
- Then, carefully cut into the cake where you drew the line and use a spoon to deepen the space. Be careful as you don't want the pieces of cake to drop against the rest of the smooth outside of your cake.
- Also keep in the back of your mind: all the cake you are making into a geode, is cake lost, as nobody wants to chew on rock-hard pieces of sugar.
- Then, use the extra frosting that you have on hand to line the inside of the gap you made in the cake. You will need this to stick the pieces of sugar in.
- After you have carefully covered the inside of the cavity with buttercream, you can shortly place the cake in the fridge (for about 15 minutes). This will make everything more firm and easier to work with. Having said that, it might also make it more difficult to get the sugar crystals to stick.
- Try to find out what works for you.
- Now place yourself on a chair in front of the cake (to avoid your hand from shaking - unless you are wayyyy cooler than I am that is;)) and start placing the pieces of sugar in the cavity, placing the darker ones on the inside, brighter ones to the outside.
- This is all a matter of taste and you can spend as much (or as little) time as you like.
- Then, when you have applied sugar crystals in all of the cavity and can't fit in anymore, have a look at the color. Do you like it? If not, you can still amend it a little by using the same paint as you used to color the rock sugar and carefully put it in there. I thought this was really scary, but this way I was able to fine-tune the looks of the geode.
- Let your cake firm up in the fridge before you continue with the last step, applying the gold leave. Then, when the cake has sat in the fridge for around 2 hours, take out a larger brush and the gold leave. With help of the brush, carefully place the gold leave around the geode. This is a messy process and the leaves will often tear up - I'm afraid there is not much to do about that and my advice is to let it go and roll with it. It seems like it always ends up being truly beautiful.
- After you have added gold leave to your liking - your geode cake is ready!
One of the things I really love, is to host guests for dinner, nibbles or simply drinks (in the best case scenario this all comes together:)).
And even though there are loads of articles written on the subject already (I really like this philosophy), I’m happy to chip in bits of my strategy.
Whenever there are guests coming over, I do truly believe that a cake makes any guest feel special, especially if it is visible on a nice stand somewhere around, even if you will slice into it later.
Also, as a host it is tremendously relaxing to know that there is a dessert or treat around that does not require any last minute work.
This Apple Pie is pretty luxurious due to the almond paste on the bottom and the generous layer of dough, that will actually stay really nice and firm due to the almond paste. The apples are kept unsweetened to make their true colors shine, and are only kept fresh with some lemon juice. With different steps, this cake requires a little work, but has the upside that it holds up very well over the course of at least a week (!). I am not suggesting you leave this cake standing a full week before your guests arrive, but it does give you the flexibility to prepare this the day before.
Even if you’re not having guests over, this cake secretly is so worth it to make and just to have around as a real great treat. The guests might just follow automatically.;)
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Above is a glimp of beautiful summer Amsterdam, which is more or less symbolic for the frequent traveling we are into this summer, as we are spending loads of weekends together with our close friends. And I couldn’t love it more. As this beautiful article states, friendships in their true meaning are transformative and transcendent. It is real. It is love. And I couldn’t look up to all of them more than I do.
Considering the relatively intense schedule, I have to admit that I am not really cooking these days. The happier I was to find a slice of this awesome cake in our freezer. And even though I know that I am supposed to be eating light and to throw my hands in the air for all the summer fruit and simply live off all that (looking at you Instagram), eating this piece of cake did feel very good. And considering I made it for my own birthday (for the win), I am happy to share the recipe. And I promise that it is good on many more occasions.
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