When I set out to make bolo de cenoura, a carrot cake found in Portuguese and Brazilian cuisines, I wanted to re-create what I'd had at bakeries or seen on Instagram: perfectly plated slices in vivid contrasting colors, an orange-amber crumb under a dark chocolate glaze.
Often made at home in a blender or food processor and sold at traditional bakeries, bolo de cenoura comes together with just five key ingredients: carrots, flour, sugar, eggs and oil. For celebrations, the Brazilian version is usually topped with a semi-glossy chocolate frosting called brigadeiro that's anchored by condensed milk and cocoa powder. It adds more than just a little sweetness: It turns a bright, starch-forward cake into a rich dessert.
Mariana Vieira, a professional baker originally from Bauru, Brazil, makes a classic bolo de cenoura at Brigadeiro Bakery, which she co-owns, in New York.
"It's very homemade, and it's not a fancy cake," Vieira said. (At the bakery, she makes it only in single batches.)
The steps are straightforward: Gather your ingredients, purée in the blender, pour in a prepared pan and bake. Then, make the brigadeiro while the cake cools.
The carrots can be peeled or just scrubbed. The most important thing, Vieira said, is that "they should be very crispy," in order to make the cake moist and ensure a soft crumble with every pass of a ravenous diner's fork.
Although I love the classic version, I sneaked in a few changes to suit my taste. I folded a spoonful of sour cream into the batter for a delightful tang and used sweetened condensed coconut milk in the brigadeiro frosting for a creamy coconut-flavored topping that coats every bite.
At home, Vieira serves bolo de cenoura with guava jam or butter, or drizzles it with a simple ganache.
"It's such a versatile cake," she said. "It's amazing."
Bolo de Cenoura (Carrot Cake)
Bolo de cenauro, a carrot cake often found in Portuguese and Brazilian bakeries, is thrilling in its simplicity. A few key ingredients (carrots, flour, sugar, eggs and oil) and a blender or food processor are all you need to bring together the batter. The carrots give the cake its tender orange-amber crumb, which is finished with a brigadeiro frosting, anchored by a condensed milk and cocoa powder, that's made while the cake cools. A spoonful of sour cream, a nontraditional addition to the batter, adds a slight tang here, and condensed coconut milk lends a subtle nuttiness to the frosting.
Yield: 12 servings
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus cooling
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil, such as safflower or canola, plus more for pan
2 large or 3 medium carrots, trimmed, scrubbed and roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
For the brigadeiro topping:
2 (7.4-ounce) cans sweetened condensed coconut milk
5 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
2 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles
Make the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Generously brush a 9-inch round cake pan with oil.
In a blender or food processor, finely chop the carrots by pulsing 6 to 10 times until minced. Add the sugar, and pulse until just combined, about 30 seconds. Add the oil and eggs all at once. Pulse until the mixture is combined and looks a bit foamy, 30 seconds. (You can also do this step without a blender or food processor: Grate the carrots into a medium bowl using the fine side of a box grater. Add the sugar, eggs and oil, and use a whisk to combine.)
Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and, using a whisk, mix until just combined. Gently mix in the sour cream, and pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Bake until the sides pull away slightly from the edge of the tin and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
Move the cake to a baking rack set in a sheet pan, and let it cool slightly in the pan, about 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the baking rack, and let cool completely.
While the cake cools, make the brigadeiro topping: In a small saucepan, combine the sweetened condensed coconut milk, cocoa powder and salt. Stir with a whisk over medium-low heat until the cocoa powder is fully incorporated. Increase heat to medium, and simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture forms large bubbles and thickens, 12 to 15 minutes. It should fully coat a heatproof rubber spatula and drizzle off in a slow stream. Remove from heat, and allow the topping to cool completely, stirring frequently to prevent a skin forming on top and until the brigadeiro topping streaks when stirred and is thick and fudgy, 25 to 30 minutes.
Spread the cooled topping over the cake, swirling the topping over the center and allowing it to drip over the edge. Let it set slightly, about 10 minutes, then shower a handful of chocolate sprinkles over the top. Cut the cake in wedges to serve.
-- By Yewande Komolafe