Monday, August 04, 2014

Double Chocolate Carrot Cake with Mocha Frosting

This LCBO recipe concludes the carrot cake saga (the first installments were in French: here, here, and here). I was saving this particular recipe for Montreal because it calls for cream and mascarpone, the latter of which I had to make myself – so really, a lot of cream, but all lactose-free thanks to the options we’ve got in Quebec.

To make mascarpone cheese, I used this post on Purple Foodie. In a nutshell, a liter of cream and about 2 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice will yield 2 cups of mascarpone cheese. It’s a lot like making ricotta, really. I have to say I found the mascarpone bland, but then again, it wasn’t meant to be eaten on its own. You can add more citrus juice if you feel like it’s not curdling enough. (I used 1 ½ cups of mascarpone for this recipe, and the rest went into a pumpkin cream pie with maple whipped cream. Let’s just say I’m happy that I’m not getting my cholesterol levels tested in the near future.)

For the lactose-free mascarpone
1 liter (4 cups) lactose-free cream
1 ½ limes, juiced (about 2 Tbsp. juice; or more, see note above)

Heat the cream to 190 °F over a double boiler, stirring it every little while. It took about 15 minutes to reach this temperature.

Squeeze in the lime juice and stir so that it is mixed evenly. The mixture will curdle. Keep mixing until the cream starts to thicken, then take off the heat and let sit about 20 minutes to cool.

Pour the mixture into a sieve lined with cheesecloth set over a bowl, to drain off the whey. Let it sit on the counter until it is at room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or ideally 36 hours. This will yield about 600 grams (about 2 cups).

Then I got started on the cake. The unexpected combination of chocolate, coffee and carrots really works, thanks to the warm spices traditionally associated with carrot cake. I found the frosting a bit too liquid, but it might be because I made my own mascarpone cheese, because I overmixed it or because I didn’t refrigerate it long enough. In any event, the cake was delicious! It earned the Engineer’s seal of approval, too.

For the cake
5 cups grated carrots
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup cocoa
4 oz. (125 g) semi-sweet chocolate
¼ cup lactose-free milk
¾ cup vegetable oil
1¼ cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

For the frosting
1½ cups mascarpone cheese
1 cup cold lactose-free cream
2 Tbsp. instant coffee granules
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sifted icing sugar

Preheat oven to 325 °F. Spray or lightly oil two 8- or 9-inch (2- or 2.5-L) square cake pans.

Place flour in a large bowl. Sprinkle with baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa. Stir until blended, then make a well in the center. Separately, coarsely chop chocolate and place in a small microwave bowl or saucepan. Add milk.

Combine oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Microwave chocolate and milk combo on medium for 1½ minutes. Stir, then heat on medium for 1 more minute. Stir until smooth. Or on stovetop, stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. Pour into cake batter while beating on low speed. Scrape into well in flour mixture and stir with a spoon or spatula until even in color. Stir in carrots. Batter will be thick.

Divide batter between pans, adding about 3 cups to each. To remove air pockets, bang pans on counter 5 to 6 times. Bake until centers seem set when lightly tapped and cakes start to come away from sides of pans, 35 to 38 minutes. Remove pans to a baking rack to cool. After about 15 minutes, turn cakes out of pans and finish cooling on racks. It’s best to bake cakes a day ahead of icing and leave at room temperature overnight.

Place mascarpone in a bowl. Microwave ¼ cup cream in another small bowl or heat in a small saucepan until bubbles appear around edge. Stir in coffee until dissolved. Then, beating mascarpone on low, gradually add hot coffee-cream. As soon as no lumps remain, beat in cold cream and vanilla. Gradually beat in icing sugar. Beat about 30 seconds. Beating too much will cause thinning. Refrigerate until frosting has a good spreading consistency, about a half-hour, before icing cake.

To assemble, place 1 cake, flat-side up on a platter. Generously spread with icing, leaving a narrow border of cake around the edge. Top with the second cake, flat-side down and gently press down. Smoothly spread icing over the sides of the cake, then the top. Garnish top of cake with shaved chocolate, if desired. It’s best to refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving.

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