RECIPE: Apple syrup is key to moist carrot cake

Carrot cake from Mercer Street Meals can be rich and satisfying even without a lot of icing. (Courtesy of Mercer Street Meals)
Carrot cake from Mercer Street Meals can be rich and satisfying even without a lot of icing. (Courtesy of Mercer Street Meals)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

A couple of weeks ago, carrot cake happened to be the dessert course for a prix-fixe takeout dinner I ordered from fledgling Mercer Street Meals, a business that chef Lance Gummere launched with his wife, Gracie.

I’ve long associated Gummere with chicken, not cake. After all, he co-founded local chain Bantam & Biddy. But one bite of that fresh, from-scratch cake revealed quite a knack for sweet endings. The cake, inspired by a recipe Gummere ran across in Saveur, was remarkably moist. The secret, it turns out, is an apple syrup slicked on top of each layer prior to frosting.

If you’re counting calories, just lighten up on the cream cheese frosting. The mini version that Gummere tucked into my meal was not frosted on the sides, yet still plenty rich and satisfying.

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Carrot cake from Mercer Street Meals. (Courtesy of Mercer Street Meals)
Carrot cake from Mercer Street Meals. (Courtesy of Mercer Street Meals)

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Mercer Street Meals Carrot Cake
  • For the cake:
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or lard or pan spray), for greasing pans
  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and grated
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 pound brick-style cream cheese, not softened
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For the syrup:
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with butter, lard or pan spray. Dust each greased pan with 1 tablespoon of flour, and shake the pan to spread and coat the flour over the oil. Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, the sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, salt, oil, eggs and carrots, stirring until the batter is smooth. Divide the batter between the 2 greased pans. Bake until the cake starts to pull slightly away from the sides of the pan, about 25-30 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, remove the cakes from the pans.
  • Make the frosting: Place the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt in a mixing bowl. Use a tabletop mixer, or an electric beater to combine all ingredients until smooth.
  • Make the syrup: Add the grated apple, sugar and water to a small saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, then remove from heat. Strain the mixture through a strainer and discard the solids.
  • Assemble the cake: Using a serrated knife, remove the muffin-like top from both cakes. Discard the removed part or feed it to your children or your chickens. Using a pastry brush, lightly glaze the top of each cake with about 1 tablespoon of the syrup mixture. You will not use all of the syrup. Discard what you don’t use or save it to mix with recreational spirits. Spread 1/3 of the frosting on top of 1 of the cakes. Set the other cake on top to create 2 layers. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of the cake. Serves 12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 738 calories (percent of calories from fat, 42), 6 grams protein, 103 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 35 grams total fat (15 grams saturated), 107 milligrams cholesterol, 528 milligrams sodium.

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