It’s that time of year, it feels like, when your body starts craving things that refresh and nourish. Bright and sunny citrus, fresh crunchy vegetables with vitamins and nutrients. Of course, where other lovely folks take those cues by going raw, making stunningly vibrant fresh-pressed juices, or whipping up drool-worthy tahini berry smoothie bowls … I make cake.
Somehow I’m not sensing an abundance of surprise here.
But guys, this cake is super good. It’s the result of a few months of tinkering — as with other small-batch projects I’ve undertaken in the past, it had its rocky beginnings when I first began to figure out how to scale it down. (RIP gummy, fallen cake dumplings.) But the end result of all those batches is this, a fluffy, warmly-spiced baby-cake with a perfectly moist crumb, thanks to plenty of carrot and a healthy dollop of Greek yogurt. It’s equally good as a zucchini cake, and has become my go-to for small cake gifting — it’s made appearances as everything from a miniature birthday cake, to a going-away cake, to a random cheering-up cake … to me eating it furtively at my desk cake. (Yeah, that good.)
My favorite part of this cake, though, has to be this frosting. It’s a mix of creamy goat cheese (again, an absolutely impeccable showing by Vermont Creamery!), cream cheese, and a smidge of butter for sturdiness, with plenty of citrus zest and a touch of juice. The result is brightly complex, with a lively tang from the goat cheese that is present but not overwhelming — definitely one of the best frostings I’ve ever made.
I should mention, too, the lovely little kumquats that made an appearance were inspired by a friend of mine who found them in a market near our offices. I originally planned to zest them in the frosting, but it turns out those little nubbins are strangely hard to zest, so a few drops of the juice went in instead. And, of course, they make lovely toppers.
Like the other mini cakes I’ve made, this is eggless, made by baking three mini-layers in 4-ounce porcelain ramekins. It yields a single baby-cake that’s about the equivalent of four to six regular cupcakes. But if you feel like going the other way, and want to make lots of little mini cakes that add up to one mama cake, check out these babies that have captured my heart recently:
- Mocha and vanilla bean mini cakes (gluten-free and dairy-free!) by Lindsey at Dolly and Oatmeal
- Matcha, red velvet, and chocolate rainbow mini cakes by Molly at My Name is Yeh
- Mini cakes with sour cherry vanilla bean frosting by Sarah at The Vanilla Bean Blog, via Handmade Charlotte
Lastly, if you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to enter this Share the Love giveaway for a 14-cup Cuisinart food processor, hosted by Sherrie at With Food + Love and Gina at So…Let’s Hang Out, among other phenomenal bloggers. You have until noon EST today, 2/25! Good luck, and happy Tuesday! The giveaway has ended! Check with Sherrie at With Food + Love for the winner.
If you don't have ramekins on hand, you can use tin cans, or simply a regular cupcake pan. This will yield about four to six cupcakes, depending on how much you fill the liners.
- for the cake:
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch ground nutmeg
- pinch ground cloves
- pinch ground ginger
- pinch salt
- 1/3 cup grated carrots, packed, with moisture
- for the frosting:
- 1 oz (2 tbsp) creamy or fresh goat cheese, room temperature (I used Vermont Creamery's creamy)
- 2 oz (4 tbsp) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 tbsp butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, more if needed
- 2 tsp citrus zest of your choice (I used mandarin orange)
- about 1 tsp citrus juice, depending on consistency of frosting (I used kumquat)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line the bottoms of 3 4-ounce porcelain ramekins with parchment paper circles. (Alternatively, you can use a regular cupcake pan, lined with cupcake liners.)
- In a medium bowl, cream together both sugars, oil, and Greek yogurt.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and salt (everything but the carrots). Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix gently until incorporated. Finally, fold in the carrots, again until incorporated.
- Distribute evenly between the three ramekins and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until tops have set and bounce back when touched, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If using a cupcake pan, bake 12-15 minutes, keeping a close eye on the cupcakes to ensure they don't dry out.
- Run a knife around the edges of the cakes and invert. They should drop out easily. Peel off parchment paper, flip rightside up, and set aside to cool.
- To make the frosting, cream together goat cheese, cream cheese, and butter until smooth. Mix in confectioners' sugar 1/4 cup at a time until frosting reaches a thick consistency. It should be a little too thick to spread at this point. Add citrus zest and citrus juice, a few drops at a time, until the frosting is at the right consistency. If it becomes too runny, don't add any more juice, but simply add confectioners' sugar a few tablespoons at a time until it reaches your preferred thickness.
- Frost as desired, and serve. For instructions on how to frost a layer cake and for links to other tutorials, see this recipe.
If you're using Neufchatel or low-fat cream cheese instead of regular, omit the citrus juice, as low-fat cheese will tend to be a bit runnier.
Finally, I am not a walnut-raisin-carrot-cake-gal, which is why my recipe is a bit simpler -- but absolutely feel free to add a tablespoon of either or both if that's your speed.