Back in my hospital food service catering days, we prepared and served a dinner for the Board of Directors each month. I liked to change things up — partially for boredom’s sake and little for spite as it meant I had to work late that night. So one month I served carrot cake — trying to pack a little nutrition into the dessert. Much to my surprise, one Board member came to me after the meeting and said, “that very large piece of cake was the best dessert you’ve ever served — it was delicious.” And Carrot Cake is delicious. It should be moist, with just a little spice and nutty flavor. Topped with a cream cheese icing, it makes a great dessert for the holidays. And so I’m making my carrot cake again this year.
If you’ve never made or served carrot cake before — you are missing out on a good dessert. You don’t really taste the carrots once you’ve added in spices and chopped pecans. The cake is made with oil — rather than butter — and is very moist. And so it is a little more nutritious and healthy than most cakes. The cream cheese icing compliments the dessert–don’t skip this icing. It makes a flavorful ending to any festive meal.
This year for local flair, I substituted Louisiana satsuma juice and peel for the crushed pineapple found in some carrot cake recipes. This gives the cake a little citrus zest! I added candied satsuma slices along with pecan pieces on top of the cake for decoration.
I have a satsuma citrus tree growing in my back yard and thought I’d give this carrot cake version a try. Louisiana satsumas ripen in November and December — now is the time to use this fruit in recipes or just for eating. Although my tree has a few fruit, I picked a basket from a friend whose tree is loaded with satsumas this year.
The satsuma citrus fruit is type of Mandarin orange which grows in the southeastern United States and in northern California. It was brought here from Japan in the early 1900’s. The fruit is sweet, juicy and with not alot of seeds. The skin is easy to peel. It is similar to a tangerine or clementine.
Our climate is warm enough that that we can grow this fruit tree here — although two years ago during the winter we had a hard freeze and many citrus trees in our area didn’t make it. I thought my lemon and satsuma citrus trees had frozen, too, but I left them alone and now they are both flourishing again with citrus fruit. Here is my friend’s satsuma tree. You can see that it is so heavy with fruit, that the branches pull down.
Making the Cake
This is a simple “one-bowl” cake — very easy to make. You don’t need an electric mixer to make it –it is hard to mess this cake up. Get all the ingredients ready first and then stir to combine them and bake the cake layers. The hardest part is grating the carrots and zesting the satsuma — three cups is about six carrots. Grate them finely using a hand grater.
Toasting the pecans to gives a little extra aroma and can be done while the oven heats up. Just place on a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for about 5 minutes. After toasting, I ground them a little finer using a mini-food processor (or you could chop them finer with a knife by hand). Grate the satsuma rind and then juice the pulp. If you don’t have satsumas — a small orange can substitute.
Here are the ingredients for the cake — sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda (yes, you use both), salt and cinnamon together. And it is important to sift these dry ingredients together to distribute the leavening agents evenly.
This cake uses oil — rather than butter — and four eggs. Combine and stir these together in a very large bowl, adding in both the white and brown sugars and mix. Dump in everything else in (flour mixture, carrots, satsuma juice and grated rind and pecans.) Stir very gently using a wire whip or spatula until just combined.
Pour evenly into two 9″ oiled round baking cake pans and bake in a slow 325 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the top springs back and is light golden brown and the cake pulls away from the sides. Remove from oven, cool on rack on counter. Then loosen sides and bottom and remove cake layers from pans.
The icing is a cream cheese icing. Not as healthy, but really good. Let the cream cheese and butter come to room temperature and soften. Then beat everything together (including the zest from one satsuma) with either a wire whip, hand or electric mixer.
Ice the cake — this isn’t my strong point, so I iced only the tops but there is clearly enough icing to ice the sides, too, if you have patience.
For fun, I made a few candied satsuma slices for decoration. Boil 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small skillet to make a syrup. Add in satsuma slices (very gently slice a small satsuma crosswise into four slices) and let the slices boil for a minute or two. Then carefully remove, drain and let cool on parchment paper.
Louisiana Satsuma Infused Carrot Cake
- 1-1/2 cups pecan pieces, divided
- grated rind from 2 satsumas (about 1 Tbsp)
- 1/3 cup satsuma juice (about 2 satsumas)
- 3 cups (about 6) finely grated carrots, loosely packed
- 2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder*
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1-1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 recipe cream cheese icing
- 3 candied satsuma slices (optional)
- mint leaves (optional)
- golden raisins (optional)
Method and Steps:
- Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees, oil two 9″ round dull cake pans. Set aside.
- Get everything ready: Place pecan pieces in single layer on baking sheet. While oven is heating, toast for about 5 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup pecan pieces and set aside. Chop remainder 1 cup pieces finer using either a mini-processor or sharp knife. Set aside.
- Grate 2 satsumas, to make about 1 Tbsp grated rind. Juice remaining pulp, removing seeds, to make about 1/3 cup juice. Set aside.
- Peel carrots, then grate by hand to make 3 cups finely grated carrots. Set aside.
- Make the cake: Sift all dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon) and set aside.
- In very large bowl, mix oil, white sugar, brown sugar and eggs, beating after each addition.
- Add dry ingredients, chopped 1 cup chopped pecans, satsuma juice and grated rind and grated carrots. Mix gently with wire whip or spatula.
- Pour evenly into the two prepared cake pans shaking gently to level tops.
- Bake in slow 325 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the top springs back and is light golden brown and the cake pulls away from sides.
- Remove from oven, cool on rack on counter. Then loosen sides and bottom and remove cake layers from pans.
- Ice with cream cheese icing and decorate with candied satsuma slices, reserved 1/2 cup pecan pieces, golden raisins and mint leaves.
*NOTE: If you have not used your baking powder container in awhile, thoroughly stir up the contents of the container before measuring out 2 tsp. The active ingredient in baking powder settles to the bottom of the container over time. The cake won’t rise if you just skim powder off the top of the container.
Cream Cheese Icing with Satsuma Zest
- 1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 box (1 lb) powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- zest of one satsuma
Method and Steps:
- Beat all ingredients well by hand, with hand mixer or on high speed with electric mixer.
- Spread on cake. Dip knife in warm water to help spread icing without sticking.
Candied Satsuma Slices
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 (or more satsumas)
Method and Steps:
- Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small skillet to dissolve sugar.
- Using a sharp knife, very carefully and gently slice satsuma(s) crosswise. Start at the stem end and remove a thin piece Then slice into about 4 slices. Remove seeds. It is better to cut slices too thick than too thin.
- Place a single layer of slices in boiling syrup, immersing slices. Boil a minute to two.
- Use a slotted spatula to remove slices and place onto parchment paper to cool and dry. Repeat with additional slices.
- May be made a day ahead.
Here’s what the University of Florida IFAS Extension Service says about the origins of the Satsuma tree in this country:
Satsuma mandarin may have originated in China, but it was first reported in Japan more than 700 years ago, where it is now the major citrus species grown. The first recorded introduction into the United States was in Florida by George R. Hall in 1876. The name “satsuma” is credited to the wife of a United States minister to Japan, General Van Valkenberg, who sent trees home in 1878 from Satsuma, the name of a former province, now Kagoshima Prefecture, on the southern tip of Kyushu Island, where it is believed to have originated.
During the period 1908-1911, approximately a million ‘Owari’ satsuma trees were imported from Japan and planted throughout the lower Gulf Coast states from the northern Florida Gulf coast to Texas, where an extensive tangerine industry developed. However, occasional severe freezes have reduced satsuma acreage. It is the major commercial citrus type grown in the southern parts of the states bordering the northern Gulf of Mexico.