Ben Starr's Pumpkin Carrot Cake


by gmt

Posted on August 15, 2011 at 8:30 AM


2 sticks butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup brown sugar
With a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until they are light and fluffy. Add:
3 yolks

Beat until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Add:
1 ¼ cups pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin is okay, or in off season, microwave butternut squash or sweet potatoes until soft, then puree)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
In a separate bowl, combine:
2 ½ (12.5 oz) cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 Tablespoon ground cardamom
½ tsp each nutmeg, cloves, allspice
1 teaspoon salt 
Stir around with your fingers until they’re well mixed. Then pour them into a strainer or sifter and dust them into the bowl with the creamed butter and sugar. Beat on low speed for a few seconds until all the flour is moistened. 
Then add in:
2 cups grated carrots
Beat on medium speed for one minute to fully incorporate everything. 
Remove to a large bowl. Thoroughly wash your mixer bowl and paddle/whisk with soap and water to remove any trace of fat. Then add:
6 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar (optional, just helps the egg whites remain stiff)
Beat until whites reach stiff peaks. Take 1/3 of the whites and add them to the cake batter, and fold them in to lighten the batter. Then add the remaining 2/3 of the whites and fold them into the batter VERY gently until you can no longer see any clumps of white.
Divide the batter equally among three 8” or 9” round, greased and floured cake pans that have been lined on the bottom with parchment or wax paper to ease removal. Gently smooth the batter into the pan, making sure there are no large air bubbles.
Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Then dump upside down (gently!) onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
I like to chill my cakes before I slice and frost them. They hold up better. 45 minutes in the freezer is perfect, just make sure they are fully cooled before freezing them or you’ll melt everything in your freezer! 
While the cake is cooling, make up the frosting and the candied nuts.
16 ounces cream cheese (or mascarpone or lebni)
1 stick butter, softened
Cream together cheese and butter with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until it’s light and fluffy. Then slowly begin to add:
1 pound powdered sugar
Add the sugar gradually, beating constantly. I like to start with low speed right after I’ve added sugar to keep it from flying everywhere, then increase the speed as it gets incorporated. Continue adding sugar in small batches and mixing thoroughly until all the sugar is gone. Then add:
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat on slow speed until the vanilla begins to get mixed in, then beat on the highest speed possible for 4 minutes to ensure a light and fluffy frosting.
After the cakes have firmed up in the freezer, take a long serrated bread knife, set the cake flat on a countertop with your palm gently pressing down on top of it, hold the knife perfectly parallel to the counter, and make shallow slicing motions back and forth. Keep turning the cake with your palm as you slice. Eventually you will have sliced the layer into perfect halves, producing 6 layers.
Frost the cake liberally. Don’t worry too much about crumbs getting into the frosting, because you’re going to press candied nuts into the frosting anyway, so it’s not critical to have a perfectly clean frosting job.
Spread out a piece of parchment, waxed paper, or foil (or, ideally, an ungreased silicone pad) onto a countertop and butter it or spray it lightly with canola oil.
Into a very heavy skillet, put:
½ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon water
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Once the mixture is at a full rolling boil, continue stirring and boiling for 3 minutes until the mixture is deep brown and fragrant. Then add:
¼ - ½ chopped nuts (I like to use hazelnuts when I can find them, pecans if I can’t)
Stir the nuts into the boiling sugar, making sure they are well-coated. Then remove the pan from the heat and pour the nuts onto the oiled wax paper. Let them cool completely before the next step.
Pull the candied nuts off the paper and place them in a zip-top bag. Pound them with a rolling pin or wine bottle to break them up, then roll over them back and forth until they are well pulverized, but not powdered.
After you’ve frosted the cake, sprinkle the nuts on top. Then place some in your palm and press them up against the sides of the cake. (It’s messy, but it works.) Continue around the cake until the sides are coated with nuts.
This cake tastes best at room temperature, and it does disappear fast, but if you’ve got a small crowd eating, you’ll want to refrigerate it after serving. Then let it sit on the countertop for an hour before serving again.