The Two Ingredients You Should Toast For The Ultimate Carrot Cake

The perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea, carrot cake has a wonderfully robust natural sweetness plus a hint of root vegetable earthiness, seamlessly combined with layers of cream cheese frosting. The addition of various spices makes a slice of carrot cake delightfully warming and comforting. While the origins of carrot cake trace back to the Medieval era, this dessert could still benefit from a few tweaks and improvements.

Lightly toasting nuts and coconut can amplify their flavor and add a more profound nuttiness to your cake. There is some debate over the health benefits of roasted nuts versus raw. While toasting nuts can enhance the flavor, it can also increase the fat content. With regards to carrot cake, the increase in fat content from the nuts is probably the least of your concern, especially if you're using cream cheese in the frosting. So what's a little more, hey? To achieve the ultimate carrot cake, toast the nuts and coconut beforehand and see the remarkable difference this makes to the taste and texture.

Perfection is just a toasted (coco)nut away

Toasting the nuts before adding them to your cake is a brilliant way to elevate the taste. To toast, you only need to spread the nuts on a baking tray and pop them into a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven. Lighter nuts like pecans, walnuts, and pistachios can take six to eight minutes, while thicker nuts like almonds and hazelnuts can take eight to 10 minutes. You can even perfectly toast nuts in the microwave to save a few minutes. Ovens and microwaves differ in strength, and predicting an exact toasting time can be difficult. It's best to check them every 30 seconds to a minute and wait for the nuts to start turning brown. If you want to use the nuts for decoration, adding them just after you've frosted the cake is best. The icing will still be soft, allowing the nuts to stick.

When toasted, the nuts release their natural oils, amplifying their aromatics. This attaches a deeper nutty fragrance to your cake mix and a more satisfying crunch. Flaked or shredded coconut can also be toasted, transforming the coconut entirely. From a buttery taste and soft texture, the toasted coconut develops a slight caramel flavor while the texture becomes crispy. Too much toasting will make the coconut bitter, so it must be monitored closely while in the oven.

Other ultimate additions

A great range of other ingredients will elevate your carrot cake. Toasted coconut would pair nicely with some boozy rum-soaked raisins, while pistachios would work well with tart lemon juice or zest. If you are allergic to nuts, you can substitute these for toasted seeds; sunflower or pumpkin could work. They're great for adding a crunchy dimension and as a decoration. Dried cranberries can also work, but they will lack the snappy bite that comes with toasted seeds.

If you want to double down on the nutty aromas in your cake, consider swapping out the vegetable oil with brown butter. It'll develop that toasty, nutty flavor that complements the sweet carrots and warm, spicy cinnamon. Meanwhile, if you're looking for alternative nut decorations, julienned orange zest is a beautiful way to create a visually appealing cake. The next time you plan to bake a carrot cake, toast your nuts and coconut beforehand and see what a difference it makes.