This carrot cake has chai (the Hindi word for tea) and a few of my favourite spices that I add to chai when I have a craving for masala chai (masala is the Hindi word for spices).
I’ve skipped the vanilla flavour in the cream cheese frosting in favour of pistachio. The cream cheese frosting is not cloyingly sweet, and balances the flavours of the cake with its tanginess. I made a layer cake out of the single pan I baked, but you don’t need to do that – you can simply frost the cake without slicing it in half, and serve. You can also double the quantities in the recipes for the cake and the cream cheese frosting and make two large cakes and layer them.
— Nik Sharma
Masala Chai Carrot Cake
– Nik Sharma. Recipe adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book
Yields: one 6.5 x 9 inch layer cake
1/4 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons darjeeling/assam tea (Indian black tea)
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon green cardamom, ground
1 teaspoon ginger, ground
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain kosher sea salt
1 pound carrots, peeled
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup (5 ounces) raisins
Cream cheese frosting (see recipe below)
1/2 cup chopped roasted candied pistachios for garnish (optional)
1. Pour the boiling water over the tea leaves and let this sit aside for 10 minutes. Strain the tea leaves and reserve the tea concentrate until ready to use.
2. Place a rack in the middle position of the oven and preheat to 350F. Grease a 13X9-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper and lightly dust the pan with a little flour. Keep the prepared pan aside until ready to use.
3. Dry whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, green cardamom, ginger and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
4. Using a food processor fitted with the large shredding disk, shred the carrots. Transfer the carrots to large mixing bowl. Wipe the bowl food processor clean and then attach the metal blade. Place the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and reserved tea in the food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds until combined. Now, run the food processor and slowly pour the oil in a steady stream until the mixture is completely emulsified. This should take about 20-30 seconds.
5. Pour the emulsified mixture over the shredded carrots and fold with a silicone spatula. Now fold in the flour until no visible specks of flour can be seen. Quickly fold in the raisins with the silicone spatula.
6. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for about 35 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking process. The cake will be golden brown when done and a skewer/toothpick/knife will come out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan, this should take about 2 to 3 hours.
7. Run a knife around the edges of the cake to release. Trim the edges of the cake with a sharp serrated knife, and then cut the cake in half along its length to get two 6.5 X 9-inch rectangles. Wrap the cakes separately with cling film and then chill the cakes for at least 2 hours before frosting.
8. Layer the top surface of one cut cake with half of the cream cheese frosting using an offset spatula. Place the second cake over it and layer with remaining cream cheese frosting. Garnish with pistachios. Serve immediately.
Pistachio-flavoured cream cheese frosting
12 ounces full fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon pistachio extract
1/4 teaspoon fine grain kosher sea salt
1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
1. Place the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, pistachio extract and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the ingredients on low speed and then gradually increase to medium-high speed until combined. You will need to scrape the sides of the bowl down occasionally to bring the ingredients together.
2. Stop the mixer and add in the sugar. Beat the mixture on medium-low speed until the sugar completely disappears, and then increase to medium-high speed. You will need to scrape the sides of the bowl down occasionally to bring the ingredients together. Transfer the frosting to an airtight container and keep chilled until ready to use.
About Nik Sharma
Nik Sharma was working as a molecular biologist and attending public policy school in Washington, DC when he created A Brown Table as a creative outlet to energise and refresh. The success of the blog gave him the confidence to give up his job and follow his dream of working as a chef, taking a position as a pastry-cook-in-training at a bakery in the San Francisco Bay area until, in another twist of fate, his blog photos began to win the attention of major publications. Nik now works as a full-time food photographer. HIs blog won the IACP award last year (best photo-based culinary blog) and was also a finalist at the Saveur food blog awards for best photography.
Follow his work on abrowntable.com.