Natasha Pickowicz’s Carrot Cake
Café Altro Paradiso, Estela, and Flora Bar, NYC
Pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz sold slices of this crowd-pleasing cake at the Third Annual Café Altro Paradiso Annual Bake Sale benefiting Planned Parenthood of New York City. Her rendition is a bit unorthodox, made with coconut, pineapple jam, and a bit of whole wheat flour (no nuts or raisins here). But the fluffy cake, tempered with a chewy tangle of carrots and coconut and nutty, brown sugar flavor, will slay carrot cake superfans and make converts out of doubters.
10 to 12 servings
- 1 1/4 cup (150 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons (30 grams) whole wheat flour
- 1 3/4 cups (135 grams) unsweetened and untoasted shredded coconut
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (155 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (35 grams) packed dark brown sugar
- 1 cup (250 milliliters) grapeseed oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 pound (225 grams) carrots, grated on the largest hole of a box grater or on the shredding disk of a food processor
- 1/2 cup (165 grams) pineapple jam
- 1 pound (450 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 pound (450 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 pound (450 grams) sifted confectioners’ sugar
- Salt to taste
Make the cake: preheat the oven to 325ºF. Spray a half-sheet pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray, line with parchment paper so it adheres to the sides and bottom of the pan with parchment, then spray again with non-stick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, coconut, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (a hand-held mixer is okay, too), whip the eggs for about 1 to 2 minutes on medium speed, until fluffy. With the mixer still on, slowly stream in the granulated and brown sugars. Turn the mixer up to the highest speed and let run for at least 5 to 6 minutes. The mixture will double in volume, lighten in color, and the sugars should completely dissolve into the eggs. With the mixer still running, stream in the oil and vanilla extract and mix another 5 to 6 minutes. The mixture will deflate; this is okay.
Transfer the oil and egg mixture to a large, wide bowl. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and, using a spatula, gently fold until it’s halfway mixed in, with some dry patches of flour visible. Add the carrot and pineapple jam, and fold very gently until combined. Do not overmix!
Pour into the prepared half-sheet tray and smooth the surface with the spatula. Bake until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Make the frosting: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add the cream cheese, and cream together until smooth. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until the mixture thickens. Season with a generous amount of salt. Divide the frosting in half, placing in two containers, and refrigerate until ready to use.
Assemble the cake: cut the cake into thirds, crosswise, so you have three rectangular bars.
Take one container of frosting out of the refrigerator. Place one bar of the cake on a serving platter. Smooth half of the frosting on top of the cake. Gently place another bar of the cake on top. Add the other half of the frosting. Place the final bar of cake on top. Chill at least 1 to 2 hours to let the cake set.
When ready to ice the outside of the cake, gently spread the remaining frosting on the sides and top of the cake, smoothing it out as you go. Chill again for 1 more hour, until set. The cake is even better if made one or two days in advance, so the frosting and cake can meld. The cake can also be frozen and thawed out for an hour before serving.
Slice into thin slabs, sprinkle with finishing salt, and enjoy!