Martha's Hummingbird Carrot Cake

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, it's been a week indoors for my partner and I, aside from the daily walk we take around the neighbourhood to get some fresh air and stretch our legs. With so much time on our hands there have been moments when the isolation feels a bit stifling. Just knowing you CAN'T go out to a restaurant or to a movie or to the local pool increases that feeling of being walled in.

Baking has been a source of pleasure for me since I first experimented with some of Martha's recipes about fifteen years ago. While I don't bake all that frequently, there is something so comforting about creating something delicious by hand.

Yesterday, when I awoke to a foggy, rainy day and the prospect of not being able to go outdoors at all, I was determined to bake. I knew exactly which recipe to choose, too. On page 69 of the April issue of Martha Stewart Living there is a glorious cake, a confectionery hybrid of sorts, by food editor Greg Lofts. It's a combination Hummingbird/Carrot cake complete with candied carrots on top, just to gild the lily.
The recipe is quite simple to make but does require some patience. The total time is over 3 hours, mainly because of the baking and refrigeration times required to complete it before serving. You can click here for the recipe.


What makes the recipe so delicious is the addition of pineapple puree and sweetened coconut flakes to the batter, which also takes three cups of grated carrots, making it a rich, textured, moist cake. The recipe calls for the baker to grate the carrots using the fine side of a box grater to achieve smaller 'flakes' of carrots that will absorb well into the batter. I attempted this but found it very labour intensive to reach three cups worth. I instead used my food processor, first shredding the carrots on the grating attachment and then using the blade attachment on pulse to further chop them. The batter is divided into two 8x2 inch cake pans and baked for 35 minutes. It comes out beautifully: light, moist and textured.
The frosting is the traditional cream-cheese icing we're all familiar with - and there is a lot of it for this recipe, which calls for the baker to slice the two cakes into halves, creating four layers. The tops of each of the three layers, plus the cake itself, need to be iced. I opted not to slice the cakes into halves and instead reserved the remaining two cups of frosting for some carrot muffins I'll be making tomorrow.
The candied carrot swirls were a fun and unusual addition. I almost didn't make them but they really make the cake look professional and beautiful. Simply slice broad strips of carrot using a squash peeler and then boil them in a simple syrup of 3/4 cups of sugar to 3/4 cups of water. (Selecting large carrots at the grocery store helps with making thicker strips). Preheat the oven to 225 degrees while letting them simmer for 20 minutes. Cool them in the solution for a further ten minutes. Remove them and place them flat on a wire rack set into a baking sheet. Bake them for 30 minutes at 225 until they're no longer wet but still sticky and malleable.

The recipe suggests curling them around the handle of a wooden spoon, or even your finger, to make the curls. I found it much easier to to lie the sticky carrot slices flat on a clean baking sheet and twist them: hold one end of the slice with one finger and then twist the strip with your other hand until a curl forms. Covering the pan with a sprinkling of sugar prevents them from sticking and also coats them nicely with some extra sweet crunch. Let them stand for about one hour until they stiffen.
I served each piece with some of the candied carrots. It is truly one of the best cake recipes I've tried. It's now a family favourite. The cake will keep in the fridge for up to a week, although I doubt it will last that long! You can also freeze carrot cake for up to three months.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A simple internet search allows the curious to learn that in 1978 Southern Living magazine published a reader's Hummingbird Cake recipe. Editors gave full credit to the reader and further explained the cake has Jamaican origins as the Doctor Bird Cake. Love a good cake back story.