The first time I visited South Padre Island I was eighteen years-old.
The reason for my visit to the Island of Padre, Spring Break.
I remember begging my parents to allow me to spend a week with all of my girlfriends unsupervised at one of the biggest spring break destinations known to man. I couldn’t believe they didn’t immediately say yes. Am I right? All I wanted to do was sip tropical drinks on the beach, flirt with boys from the Lone Star state, and dance until the sun rose above the horizon. What’s so wrong with that?
Anyways, after praying endlessly to the party gods my parents finally said yes. So a gaggle of my favorite girlfriends and I made the sixteen hour drive south to what would become the greatest week our young adult lives…
This is the part of the story where I spare you the details of how we partied into the weeeee hours, ate cheeseburgers from Whataburger almost every night, and somehow ended up in Mexico. That, my friends, is for another time and post. Trust me.
There is a point to all of this. I promise.
The one night we didn’t eat at Whataburger, we actually dined at a nice restaurant. Whatever that means when you’re eighteen. I considered Chili’s to be fine dining back then.
From what I can remember, I do recall eating a steak with mashed potatoes and some weird green vegetable on the side. Probably spinach. Of course I decided not to eat the vegetable and instead, saved room for dessert – carrot cake
with cream cheese frosting. Since the portion size of the cake was the size of my head, I shared it with my girlfriends. We devoured that decadent dessert in 2.2 nano seconds. We left the restaurant happy, full, and ready to get our groove on.
Fast forward five hours later (insert your imagination here), carrot cake was no longer a prized dessert in my world.
Which brings me to the point of this entire post! Phew. We made it.
After that evening I swore up and down that I would never eat carrot cake again. Well, I broke that promise this past weekend. I was searching for spring desserts and I stumbled upon this version of carrot cake in the Bluestem cookbook. I figured there was no way I would be able to eat a single bite, but I knew I had to try because it had ginger, orange zest, and a streusel topping. It couldn’t be that bad? Could it?
I whipped up the batter faster than you could blink your eye. My curiosity was at a maximum high. Was this the answer to my carrot cake problems? Would I finally be able to eat this vegetable inspired dessert?
Well, folks we have a winner. The cake itself is moist and warm because of the ginger, allspice, and cinnamon. Plus, the orange zest adds the perfect citrus balance. Oh, and can we please talk about the streusel topping? Forget.about.it. Brown sugar, butter, and walnuts give the tired ol’ cream cheese frosting a run for it’s money.
So what do you say? Try this new version of carrot cake and you’ll feel like you’re on Spring Break, minus the hangover.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
for the streusel:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, optional
for the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
3 cups peeled and coarsely chopped carrots
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped, optional
whipped cream, garnish
for the streusel:
In a large bowl or a food processor, combine the flour, sugars, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and walnuts (if using). Pulse in the processor for a couple of seconds and then add the cold butter. Mix until the ingredients form pea-size crumbles. Cover and refrigerate the streusel while you make the cake.
for the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger. In another bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the oil, eggs, sugar, and orange zest for approximately 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients in thirds, making sure that they are well incorporated. Fold in the grated carrots and walnuts (if using).
Transfer batter to prepared round. Bake for 30 minutes to 35 minutes. Remove from oven, spread the top with cold streusel, return to oven, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more. When the cake is finished, remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes to cool. Serve a slice with whipped cream on top.