"My mama is a busy, busy woman. If she were baking this cake, she would probably opt to buy pre-shredded carrots from the supermarket. She likes baking shortcuts, and it's quite possible she doesn't know where her box grater is (or if the handle is still attached to it). I'm not going to lie. I've bought pre-shredded carrots, and the results weren't one bit terrible. But at the farmers' market, they've got yellow carrots and purple carrots and orange carrots that actually taste like something. And they will make your cake better if you use them." You'll need to begin this recipe a day ahead.
- 60 ml milk, for brushing (¼ cup)
- 225 gm cream cheese
- 150 gm white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp cornflour, mixed to a slurry with 2 tbsp milk
- 115 gm butter, at room temperature
- 120 gm light brown sugar
- 100 gm white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 60 ml grapeseed oil (¼ cup)
- 200 gm plain flour (1 1/3 cups)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- 225 gm shredded carrots (about 3)
- 20 gm plain flour
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 10 gm white sugar
- 30 gm milk powder
- 25 gm butter, melted
- 45 gm white chocolate, melted
- 80 gm Graham cracker crumbs or crushed digestive biscuits
- 10 gm milk powder
- 15 gm white sugar
- 115 gm butter
- 30 ml pouring cream
- 80 ml milk (1/3 cup)
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar (firmly packed)
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1For liquid cheesecake, preheat oven to 150C. Beat cream cheese in an electric mixer to soften (2 minutes). Scrape down sides of bowl. Add sugar and beat until completely incorporated (1-2 minutes). Scrape down sides of bowl. Whisk egg into cornflour mixture, then with mixer on low speed, add to cream cheese mixture with ½ tsp sea salt and beat to combine. Spoon into a 15cm square cake tin greased and lined with baking paper, smooth top and bake until firm around the edges with a slight wobble in the centre (13-15 minutes; the cheesecake shouldn't brown). Cool completely. The final product will resemble a cheesecake, but it will be pliable enough to easily spread or smear. Cheesecake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week.
- 2For carrot cake, preheat oven to 180C. Beat butter and sugars in an electric mixer on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl, add the eggs and beat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes, then scrape down sides of the bowl once more. On low speed, stream in the oil. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is almost white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogenous (4-6 minutes). Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On very low speed, add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, and 1¼ tsp sea salt salt, mix just until your batter comes together (45 seconds-1 minute), scrape down the sides of the bowl, then fold in carrot. Spread in an even layer on a 25cm x 31cm baking tray greased and lined with baking paper. Bake until cake is golden and puffed and centre springs back when pressed (25-30 minutes). Cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the refrigerator or freezer (don't worry, it's not cheating). Carrot cake will keep refrigerated, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 5 days.
- 3For milk crumbs, reduce oven to 150C. Combine flour, cornflour, sugar, 20gm milk powder and ½ tsp sea salt in a bowl. Toss with your hands to mix. Add melted butter and toss with a spatula until the mixture starts to form small clusters. Spread on an oven tray lined with baking paper and bake until sand-coloured (15-20 minutes); your kitchen should smell like buttery heaven. Cool crumbs completely. Crumble any clusters larger than 1cm in diameter, transfer to a bowl, add remaining milk powder and toss until evenly distributed. Pour white chocolate over crumbs, toss until your clusters are enrobed, then toss every 5 minutes until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky. The crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for a month.
- 4For Graham frosting, toss cracker crumbs, milk powder, sugar and ¼ tsp salt with your hands in a bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients. Melt 30gm butter in a small saucepan over low heat, remove from heat and whisk in cream. Add to dry ingredients and toss again until small clusters form. Transfer to a food processor or blender, add milk and process until smooth and homogenous (1-3 minutes). Set aside. Beat remaining butter, light brown sugar, icing sugar, cinnamon and ½ tsp sea salt in an electric mixer until fluffy and speckled yellow (2-3 minutes). Scrape down sides of bowl, then with mixer on low speed, add crumb mixture. Beat on medium-high speed until a uniform pale tan colour (1-2 minutes). Set aside at room temperature or refrigerate for up to a week (bring to room temperature before using).
- 5To assemble carrot layer cake, place a piece of baking paper on a work surface and invert carrot cake onto it. Cut out two 15cm-diameter circles (reserve scraps). Place a 15cm-diameter cake ring (no base) on a tray lined with baking paper, line the sides with a 7.5cm x 50cm piece of acetate (see note), then press reserved cake scraps into ring. Brush generously with milk, then spread with half the liquid cheesecake. Scatter with one-third of the milk crumbs, then spread with one-third of the Graham frosting. Gently tuck a second 7.5cm x 50cm piece of acetate into the cake ring, overlapping the first strip of acetate by 5mm, so that you have a ring of acetate 12.5cm-15cm tall to support the height of the finished cake. Place a round of carrot cake over the Graham frosting. Repeat layering with remaining liquid cheesecake, half remaining milk crumbs and half remaining Graham frosting. Top with remaining carrot cake, then remaining Graham frosting. Smooth top and scatter with remaining milk crumbs. Freeze for 12 hours to set (cake will keep in the freezer for 2 weeks). Three hours before serving, remove cake from freezer and pop cake out of ring. Gently peel off acetate, transfer to a platter or cake stand and thaw in refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving. (Cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 5 days.) Serve cut into wedges.
Acetate sheets are available from craft and office supply shops.