Happy May! Spring has sprung in Texas but in reality it’s more like pre-summer. There are really only two seasons in Texas: summer and winter. Then we have a tiiiiny little amount of time that’s pre-spring and pre-winter. But right when the warmer weather peeks its head through the clouds I get out and about.
Thanks to such outdoor excursions my boyfriend, Q, and I recently found ourselves at a (also the only) Kosher Israeli market in Dallas. It was amazeballs. I love love love going to ethic markets and almost any given weekend you can find me trolling around one of the many K-towns around town. Anyway, the whole time I had a huge smile plastered to my face and resisted texting an old roommate who is Jewish but still might. (What up Petra!). 1) There are some incredible sesame based spreads like chocolate tahini spread – move over Nutella. 2) All of those who keep kosher must have passed over this shop because there was no more matzo left over after Passover last week. Oy vey!
Inspiration struck my encyclopedic little brain knowing what produce was in season and I immediately concocted a little sweet and savory cake and all of a sudden had weekend plans. Desserts that are too sweet are too much of a shock for my body to handle but there’s a fantastic balance between sweet and savory. It’s on the perennial “List of Yum Yums” that is kept on my phone, comforting me at all times.
This spring day was perfect to keep the windows open and listen to the sounds of Q. He is my forever favorite background music – the ever present soundtrack to my cooking and a faithful recipe tester. He serenades me and all of my little plant babies. If he’s not playing music then I’ll spin some of my favorite vinyls like Allen Toussaint, Wes Montgomery or my birthday wonder-twin, Stevie. (Happy birthday month to us!)
This is a toasty, slightly savory, slightly sweet cake that I definitely don’t mind eating for breakfast for even more morning glory. I like raw sugar and whole wheat flour for the body and flavor it contributes to the cake. Za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend that’s easily found in ethnic or specialty markets that will add an herbal element. Tahini, a sesame seed spread, is becoming more readily available in large chain stores and give these babies there moreish draw.
My roommates and Q are all very thankful for scraps at the end, too. And honestly so am I! You can make them pretty and enjoy them just as much as the “finished product”. I always like to give away and share my delicious baked goodies. Smiles for everyone! My friends aptly call them “tasty cakes” and I can’t say that I disagree.
Whole Wheat Carrot Cake with Tahini Buttercream
What You’ll Need
1 1/2 cups neutral oil
2 cups raw sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cardamom
2 cups carrots, shredded
1 cup. raisins
1 cup. walnuts, coarsely chopped
Tahini Buttercream (adapted – but hardly departed – from Molly Yeh’s recipe)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered suger
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup tahini
1/8 tsp. cardamom
Topping (optional but taaaasty)
Toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling
Za’atar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 jelly roll pans (12″ x 17″) with parchment paper and set aside.
With the paddle attachment of a stand mixer beat together the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla extract until fully combined.
In a separate bowl sift together the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, slowly add in the dry mix to the wet until just combined. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is mixed in. Then beat the batter on medium-high speed for 60 seconds.
Fold in the carrots, raisins and walnuts**. Let the cake rest for 10 minutes to allow the moisture of the batter to soften the whole wheat flour.
Divide the batter evenly between the two jelly roll pans in a thin layer. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until fully baked through – good clue: you should be able to smell the deliciousness of the cake when it’s just about done.
Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely.
*Optional but totally worth it: In a medium skillet over medium heat toast the flours for 6-7 minutes – should smell lightly nutty and almost like popcorn. Adds a toasty, nutty depth of flavor to an already warm and comforting cake.
**Also optional, but you might be sad if you don’t: Toast the walnuts in an oven at 350F for 10 minutes before chopping.
While the cakes are cooking start making your buttercream. With a hand mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment beat the butter and tahini together until smooth. While mixing add in the powdered sugar, cardamom, and salt. Continue to beat until completely smooth and slightly lightened in color, about 1-2 minutes on medium speed.
You can really do what you’d like here. For a quick snack cake ice the cakes with the buttercream, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and za’atar and cut into equal pieces whether 2″ x 3.5″ rectangles or circles with a biscuit cutter.
How I did it: With a ring cutter cut and remove as many equal pieces as possible. Save those scraps!! With a piping bag loaded up with that super tasty icing and a wide piping tip pipe equal amounts of buttercream on each circle. Using a small offset spatula or a knife spread the icing over the surface of the cake and stack 2 high. Sprinkle each top with a little bit of the toasted sesame seeds and dust with a little bit of the za’atar.
If you want it to taste less savory omit the za’atar. (But don’t….but it’s okay if you do.)