Brazilian carrot cake, an English tearoom staple with a hit of samba! As it turns out, the staid classic has its Latino version too.
Carrot cake: as English as a teapot?
Carrot cake, you might think, is a beloved treat of English tea rooms, not likely to be enjoyed worldwide.
After all, the English carrot cake has a long-standing tradition that emerged during medieval times, when carrots were used as a sugar substitute. It gained popularity during World War II as a resourceful alternative to conventional cakes when luxury ingredients such as sugar were rationed.
But as it turns out, carrot cake isn’t confined just to the British Isles. It is very popular in Switzerland: the Swiss version though, called Rüblikuchen, is usually made with ground almonds instead of flour, thus making it gluten free.
And of course it was exported to America, too. Here it has tripled in icing (called ‘frosting’, naturally), made with cream cheese and whatnots: pecans, caramel, coconut, applesauce.
Brazilian bolo de cenoura
I assume that the Brazilian version of carrot cake must have travelled there via North America, but Internet is unresponsive on that question. Either way, the recipe must have wandered there with European immigrants, since carrots are as unlikely in Brazil as guava, passion fruit, yams, cassava and coconut are common.
It often comes with brigadeiro topping which is rather over the top: cooked down mixture of condensed milk and cocoa powder or chocolate. Not my thing: I prefer to go for a spartan dusting of icing sugar mixed with a little cocoa.
How to make Brazilian carrot cake batter?
Its unique proposition as in the New York Times Cooking article is supposed to be ‘no grating’, but instead, you’re required to own a food processor or at least a blender. In case you don’t, grating is back on the scene, I’m afraid.
But the rest is easy: mixing or blending the wet ingredients i.e. eggs, oil and sour cream or yoghurt with sugar and blitzed carrots, then folding the mixture into the dry mix of flour, baking powder and spices.
Although the NYT recipe does not include spices in the ingredients, I believe you cannot have a carrot cake without at least some cinnamon or it will be very boring indeed, brigadeiro or not.
Baking, topping and variations
It bakes for just under an hour, and once cooled in the tin, it can be restrainedly dusted with cocoa icing sugar, as per my suggestion, or given the whole Rio Carnival treatment with brigadeiro, a chocolate ganache or melted chocolate topping.
My recipe does not include any embellishments to the sponge, either, as I was mainly interested in how the Latino version would differ from the English one (answer: not at all). But you can happily add some chopped nuts to the batter, as well as raisins, coconut chips or chunks of dried pineapple.
More carrot cake recipes
Carrot and ginger cake, two of the best cake flavours together, with cream cheese frosting on top. Easy to make like all carrot cakes but the end result is stunning.
Carrot cake, simple and easy but unconventionally filled with apricot jam and decorated with chocolate ganache. Classic carrot cake with a zing!
Carrot, orange and pistachio cake layered with lemon cream cheese frosting. Dan Lepard's recipe for moist, spiced carrot cake with a couple of unusual ingredients.