Dessert wine is my favorite condiment: Carrot cake recipe & wine pairing

Before we get to baking, its important to share a few tips to get a successful result if this recipe is going to be worth its space on the internet.

How to make super fluffy frosting

I’ve made my share of wet, heavy, lumpy and even oddly transparent frosting. Through much error, I’ve learned a couple things you can’t skip if you want to get the fluffy frosting right:

1) Room temperature, always. Don’t try to shortcut by warming your cream cheese or butter from the fridge to “room temperature” in the microwave, oven, or any other way. Patience, budding baker. Let your ingredients sit on the counter for a few hours before you get at it. A botched frosting job will ruin your whole effort.

2) Wet before dry. Whip together your fat (butter, cream cheese) and extract well before adding sugar.

3) Sift it. Yup, powdered sugar is… already powdered. But you should still run it through a sifter before blending into your frosting. This will keep the clumps out. In fact, sift all the dry stuff: flour, baking soda/powder, spices.

4) Less is not more. More sugar not going to make it better. It will not make your frosting thicker if thin, and beating it more will only turn it into a runny mess (friction = heat, its possible to accidentally turn your frosting liquid!)

Cake baking hints

Two of the biggest risks are over-blending the batter, making for a tough cake, or under/over-cooking it.

Be careful to blend your cake ingredients until just barely combined, using a spatula to fold in the carrots, nuts (optional) and egg whites.

When it comes to bake time, have a plan: you’d be surprised how unevenly heated an oven can be. I usually set my timers at 12 minute increments, rotating the cake a 1/3 turn at 12, 24, and 36 minutes and then watching it like a hawk, every 2-3 minutes after that until done.


Let there be carrot cake!

Gather up…

For the cake,
1 cup safflower oil (or canola)
3 eggs, separated
1.5 cups cane sugar
1 can pumpkin
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups shredded carrots, tossed with 1 tsp corn starch
3 cups unbleached white pastry flour (I like to sub 1/2 cup white for whole wheat to add a little texture)
1.5 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

For the frosting,
8 oz cream cheese (full fat preferred) at room temp
1/3 cup butter at room temp (Grass-fed butter is sweeter and more flavorful. Trust me, its worth the money for the butter when you’re already saving by making the cake yourself!)
3-3.5 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated lemon zest

For the pans,
2 – 8″ round cake pans
line with parchment paper
grease the lined pans and dust with 1 tbsp flour each

Bakers gonna bake: preparing the cake

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a mixer, beat together oil, sugar, pumpkin, egg yolks and vanilla. Whip on high until very well blended. Use a sifter to blend together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then very gently blend dry and wet ingredients until just combined.

In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form.

Gently fold whipped egg whites into cake batter, and pour into prepared pans.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, rotating pans frequently for even baking. The cake is done when it springs back when poked in the center, and has pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan. If you’re unsure about the poke test, pierce the center with a knife and make sure the knife comes out clean.

After removing the cakes from the oven, slide a knife around the edges of the pan and let cool 5-10 minutes. Unmold the cakes, and let cool for several hours before frosting.

Prior to frosting, you may want to take a long knife (like a bread knife) to slice off the top of the cakes, so they lay flat. Disappointed to waste the crumbs? Make some cake balls out of the tops – this recipe will give you the basic idea, although you’ll be doing it on a smaller scale with your crumbs.

A tip on how much frosting to use where: use 1/4 of the frosting in-between the layers, 1/4 on top, and the remaining 1/2 of frosting for the sides. I don’t get into all the fancy piping details, so I can’t tell you about that! I might be a competent cake-baker, but I am not much of a cake decorator.


The happy accident: homemade powdered sugar

I made my own powdered sugar from evaporated cane sugar using my blender. I’ve used this homemade powdered sugar for a few applications before, mainly in cookies that were baked.

This cake was the first time I used it in a frosting application, and the result was a happy accident: I didn’t realize until after frosting the cake, that the powdered sugar wasn’t as lightly powdered as the store sugar, and the sugar crystals didn’t completely get powdered or dissolve in the frosting.

The result was delightfully fine crystals of sugar that gave the frosting a little tooth grit. Paired with the dessert wine, the frosting melted on contact, a lively and entertaining experience on the palate.

I’ve had a similar experience with a carrot cake that came garnished with sugar-crystallized, candied carrots. It’s amazing how much adding a little texture to the frosting changed the experience — in a good way.

When making powdered sugar, I would suggest adding no more than 1/2 cup of sugar to your blender at a time and pulsing until powdered. Tap the container in-between pulsing to drop the sugar from the sides, as it likes to static cling everywhere!


The best thing about dessert wine

If your baking skills go sideways, you can always just sip the dessert wine and call it a day!

Dessert wines are one of the simpler pleasures that can turn an everyday dining experience into something extraordinary.

Tasty dessert wines can be had in a variety of price ranges, so don’t fret about affording the fancy stuff. But hey, you saved all that money making a cake from scratch. Why not pop a cork to celebrate?

A couple easy things to think about when selecting a dessert wine:

1) Select a dessert wine that is sweeter than the dessert. Otherwise, the dessert will make the wine taste bitter.

2) Match the lightness of the wine to the lightness of the dessert (color, and body). Think about light pastry with bubbles and chocolate with port.

Of course, any cork dork will drone on about flavor nuances, spices and acidity – but these first two tips will get you started, as you experiment with the rest.

For this cake, I picked a Sauternes, which is a white dessert wine made from botrytized grapes in the Bordeaux region of France. Its sweetness trumps the cake, with flavors of honey, butterscotch and even a hint of sweet rye bread that mingle well with the flavors and spices of the cake. Wine Folly has a great lesson on Sauternes, and I suggest heading there for a deeper dive into the subject.

A tasty regional wine that would pair well with carrot cake would be a dessert wine made with Frontenac Blanc or Frontenac Gris. One in particular that comes to mind is Dancing Dragonfly’s Hula, an ice wine made from Frontenac Gris grapes.

Serving Dessert Wine

Dessert wines typically come in smaller bottles (375 ml or about 12 ounces, is 1/2 the volume of a table wine). You really don’t need more than 1.4-2 oz per guest, so a 375 ml bottle of dessert wine should be enough for 6-8 guests.

In general, you can consider the serving temperature on a scale along with their color: with light colored dessert wines chilled for 30 minutes in the fridge, and darker wines like port served at cellar temperature.

Bon appétit!

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🥕🍰I can’t imagine having one of these without the other. ⁉️What’s your go-to dessert and wine pairing⁉️ . . The #sauternes acts as a palate cleanser for the richness of the #carrotcake and cream cheese frosting. Sauternes is a #dessertwine made in the 🇫🇷#Bordeaux region of France, from #semillon #sauvignonblanc and #muscadelle grapes affected by #botrytis, also known as 👑“#noblerot”, a mold that depletes the grapes of some of their water, leaving behind concentrated sugar and flavor. The wine is sweet, but still alive with acidity, and bursting with tropical fruit flavors that are complimentary to the cake. 📝Want the recipe? I’ll get it up next week on the site! . . 🥳Happy birthday to my husband, who you might know as MN Uncorked’s unofficial and unpaid intern. . . #madefromscratch #wineandcake #winepairing #winepairings #cakeandwine #wineeducator #sommelier

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About The Author


Lauren Voigt

Lauren launched Minnesota Uncorked™ to nurture a community uniquely for Minnesota's wine culture — encouraging exploration on of wine, of Minnesota, and Minnesota wine. She is a Certified Wine Professional (CWP) through Saint Paul College and a student of the globally recognized WSET program (Level II, Distinction). Lauren can be reached at lauren@mnuncorked.com.
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