Holiday Desserts: Coconut-Frosted Carrot Cake

Too often carrot cake seems like a throw back to the 70s, when they were dense and tasted ultimately too good for you. This version is moist, sweet and has a complex combination of spices and zest that all come through. Adding a bit of lemon to the icing brings out the bright flavors of the cake and the Lyle's Golden Syrup kicks over the top. I think the creamy topping is key to the success of the carrot cake! In fact, I make a really large batch and always have a bit left over to spread on toast.

Coconut-Frosted Carrot Cake

For the cake:
1 pound finely grated carrots
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cup canola oil
4 extra large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmegs
1 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup chopped dried apricots and dried cherries

For the cream cheese frosting:
28 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
5 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons Lyle's Golden Syrup or honey

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut for pressing on the outside of the cake

Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment circles. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grate the carrots using the grater attachment on a Food Processor , or use a Box Grater (if using the box grater, use the finer side) .

After they are grated, use the blade on the food processor to chop the carrots more finely.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, and zest. Whisk in the dry ingredients, just until combined. Using a spoon, stir in the carrots and dried fruit.

Fold in the coconut.

Divide the batter into the two prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Let cakes cool completely in the pans on a wire rack.

Make the icing by blending the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon extract, lemon juice, confectioners' sugar and Lyle's Golden Syrup, until smooth.

Put one of the layers of cake on a 9-inch cardboard round and then top it with 1 cup of the cream cheese icing.

Cover the cake with a thin crumb coat ( watch a video for crumb coat instructions). Then finish with a smooth coat of icing on the cake ( watch a video for smooth icing instructions). I ran my spatula tip around the icing to create the swirls, but you'll be pressing coconut on the outside, so don't worry about getting this effect.

Before moving the cake to the platter, lift it and gently press the shredded coconut onto the top and sides.

This cake is wonderful the next day or even the following. Just wrap it well and refrigerate....if there is any left!

Zoë François, author of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day  and Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads in Five Minutes a Day , studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She now calls Minneapolis her home, where she has worked with some of the top talent in the culinary world — Steven Brown, Andrew Zimmern and many chefs at the D’Amico company. In addition to writing, Zoë teaches baking classes and consults at restaurants. You can find her writing and recipe creations on Devour, on her baking blog, zoebakes.com and on the site, www.breadin5.com.

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