Autumn is upon us, and the craving for pumpkin-spice everything has taken a firm hold on us Americans. We seem to put cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg in just about everything, from coffee drinks to quick breads. In some cases, however, too much spice can distract from the elegance of a primary ingredient. Exhibit A: Brazilian carrot cake. Unlike its American counterpart, this cake relies solely on the moist, sweet flavor of fresh carrots and a beautiful ganache topping to take it to the next level.
American Carrot Cake vs Brazilian Carrot Cake
American carrot cake tends to be heavily spiced, uses grated carrots, and incorporates a cream cheese or royal icing topping. It is dense and has a chewy, moist texture. In some cases, we even put raisins or nuts in the mix for added texture and sweetness.
Brazilian carrot cake, on the other hand, leaves out the spices and blends all the ingredients together for a smooth batter that is fluffier, but still moist. Instead of cream cheese, it is topped with a silky chocolate ganache. Or, in some cases, it is crowned with a thicker, Brigadeiro-like frosting made from condensed milk and plenty of cocoa powder.
Both cakes, in our opinion, are delicious. But there is something unique and special about the Brazilian version. Without the warming spices, the carrots take center stage and lend not only a beautiful orange color, but a fresh, earthy taste as well.
What Pan to Use for Carrot Cake?
You can use any pan you like, but keep in mind that cooking times will vary. A bundt pan makes for a nice presentation, but it can be more challenging to remove it intact if you are a beginner. We like a springform pan, since it is basically fool-proof and bakes a little faster.
You can easily use this recipe in a muffin tin as well. Again, cooking time will change according to which type of pan you use. To ensure doneness, place a thin knife or toothpick in the center of the batter. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Try to avoid over-baking, as the batter can become dry and crumbly if it is overdone.
Do I Have to Blend My Brazilian Carrot Cake?
If you prefer the chewy texture of a traditional American cake, feel free to leave the ingredients unblended. The overall cake will be somewhat denser, but the flavors will be just as good. Just make sure to finely grate your carrots so that they are evenly dispersed throughout the batter (as opposed to sinking to the bottom).
Butter vs Oil in Cakes
Our carrot cake, like the American version, calls for a good amount of vegetable oil. Since oil remains liquid at room temperature, a cake with oil will (in theory) be more moist. That being said, you can effectively substitute butter in place of oil.
If using butter for your Brazilian carrot cake, use the same volume of butter you would oil and melt it before use. Be sure to let the melted butter cool a little before mixing it with your eggs, or temper the batter before fully mixing. Interestingly, you may find the texture of your cake to be more “cakey” and less “bready” when using butter in place of oil.
Brazilian Carrot Cake (Bolo de Cenoura)
For the cake:
1.5 cups of carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1.5 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
For the ganache:
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate (bars or chocolate chips)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grease your cake pan with non-stick spray or a layer of butter and flour.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
- In a blender, put your carrots, oil, eggs, and sugar. Blend until you have a smooth consistency.
- Pour the blended ingredients into the dry flour and salt mixture. Mix using a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Try not to over-mix.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pan and put on the center rack in the oven
- Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the batter comes out clean (about 45 minutes for a springform pan).
- Let the cake cool completely for about one hour. Then you can make your ganache.
- Roughly chop your chocolate (not necessary if using chips) and put it into a heat safe bowl.
- In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Try not to boil or scald the milk.
- Pour the heated cream over your chocolate and stir gently and consistently until all of the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth, creamy consistency.
- Remove your cake from the springform pan and put it on a serving platter. Drizzle your ganache in an even layer over the top.
Serve your Brazilian carrot cake with a fresh cup of hot coffee or, for a true fall indulgence, a glass of Brazilian mulled wine (quentao de vinho).
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