an american experience – ginger-citrus carrot cake

by hungryrabbit on May 25, 2012

Ginger-Citrus Carrot Cake

This rabbit love carrots–straight up, juiced, in a salad, pureed in soup, roasted–you name it, I love them. Most of all, I adore carrot cakes.

I’d never heard of carrot cake until my great aunt brought one to our house, when I was about eight years old. She was the consummate homemaker, while remaining elegant and charming with all the social graces. She was also well informed about the Western (non-Chinese) culture, so I always looked forward to seeing her and learn what the other side of the world was up to.

By contrast, American/European style baking was not the norm in our home. We’d either buy Western cakes or make Chinese cakes, which are mostly steamed. So, when my great aunt arrived with a carrot cake she made from a recipe on some American TV show, it was something quite out of the ordinary. My family was skeptical–this carrot cake was just a naked dark-brown cake with flecks of orange. Chinese cakes and pastries are typically white, yellow, or other pale colors. My mother politely accepted the cake and put it aside as everyone carried on with the conversation.

Except for me. I expressed my enthusiasm for the exotic specimen, and asked if I could have a slice right away. My family was relieved that this crazy boy wanted to be the guinea pig. They watched as I took a small bite and revealed no particular response. I was trying to figure what it was. It was moist and not very sweet with spices you could smell. The taste wasn’t familiar, but it was pleasant enough and definitely made me curious to try another.

I finished the rest of my piece, but didn’t think much more about it–except I was proud of my willingness to try a new experience.

That creation of my great aunt was the extent of my carrot cake experience until I moved to the US, where I found the addition of cream cheese frosting enhanced everything. My fondness of carrot cake today stems from that memorable first encounter and my admiration for her. I will forever associate carrot cake as an American experience, even if it started for me in Hong Kong.

For this Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial American beginning of Summer, I offer a very gingery carrot cake with a citrus cream cheese frosting. An American cake with an injection of Chinese essence to salute my great aunt for broadening my life/culinary experience at a young age.

Ginger-Citrus Carrot Cake

recipe by hungry rabbit
yield: 10-12 servings/slices


1-3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon orange zest, freshly grated
1 teaspoon lemon zest, freshly grated
1 1/4 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) light brown sugar
3/4 cup coconut oil or vegetable oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-2/3 cups shredded carrots (4 medium carrots)


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 18 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet, line with parchment paper, and grease parchment. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt together in medium bowl.

2. Add zests and granulated sugar to a large bowl, knead wit finger tips until zests are fully incorporated into the sugar and resembles wet sand. Whisk in light brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together until mixture is smooth. Stir in carrots, add flour mixture and fold with rubber spatula until mixture is just combined.

3. Transfer batter to prepared baking sheet and smooth surface with offset spatula. Bake until center of cake is firm to touch, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack (do not remove parchment) and then reinvert onto second wire rack. Cool cake completely, about 30 minutes.

Citrus Cream Cheese Frosting


16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
2 teaspoons orange zest, freshly grated
2 teaspoons lemon zest, freshly grated
3 cups (12 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup malted milk powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 ounces cream cheese, chilled and cut into 12 equal pieces
2 cups (8 ounces) walnuts , toasted and coarsely chopped


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low, add malted milk powder, vanilla, and salt and beat until combined, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed.

2. Add cream cheese, 1 piece at a time; and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 30 seconds.


1. Transfer cooled cake to cutting board, parchment side down. Using sharp chef’s knife, cut cake and parchment lengthwise in 3 equal rectangles.

2. Place 1 cake rectangle, parchment side up, on serving platter and carefully remove parchment. Using offset spatula, spread approximately 3/4 cup frosting evenly over cake layer. Repeat with two more layers of cake and frosting, pressing gently on each layer to level. Use remaining frosting to coat top and sides of cake.

3. Press chopped walnuts onto sides with hand. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian @ A Thought For Food May 25, 2012 at 8:02 am

AHAHHAHAHA! I first read that as “this rabbit loves carrot cake – juiced” I share your love for carrots but gosh I am just the biggest fan of carrot cake! And add the ginger and citrus in there. Zam!

Jenny May 25, 2012 at 8:23 am

I love carrot cake and this one looks phenomenal.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar May 25, 2012 at 8:31 am

I adore carrot cake too, and this one sounds so awesome! Love it!

Carol Sacks May 25, 2012 at 8:34 am

Ken, what a lovely post. Enjoyed reading about your introduction to this American, classic dessert as a boy in Hong Kong (one of my favorite cities!). Recipe looks divine, too. Happy start-of-summer to you and yours!

Georgie May 25, 2012 at 9:46 am

This is a perfect dessert recipe for the holiday weekend. I make one Carrot Cake every June for my BD & because Carrot Cake is my favorite. I’m giving this one a whirl. I love how you can see all the scrumptious ingredients in the shots above.

Tina@flourtrader May 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

Love this spin on the standard carrot cake! The ginger and citrus are very unique flavors to pair with the cake, but it does sound like it would work deliciously. Your picture here does some convincing on its own as well!
Great food memory story as a lead in. Have a great weekend!

Meeta May 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Oh Ken I just adore this story and I can see your gingery nibbling on that slice of cake. I must say I am really loving your take on the cake, bursting with lovely flavors!

LiztheChef May 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Wonderful story – and I love the malted milk powder in the frosting.

argone May 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I love this version of the carrot cake ! would love to try it !

Deb May 26, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I very much enjoyed reading about your introduction to Carrot Cake. I am very fond of Carrot Cake and even choose it as our wedding cake! Cream cheese frosting and fresh flowers covered the scrumptious orange cake. I often try new Carrot Cake recipes, looking for one to keep as a favorite, as many are too rich and heavy. (Some include pineapple and coconut.) I am tempted by your recipe and can’t wait to bake the afternoon away! A wonderful post!

Jesica @ Pencil Kitchen May 27, 2012 at 6:21 am

I wonder how you do it, you got me interested in ginger! That’s incredible, you must know!

DB-The Foodie Stuntman May 27, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Looks good. Congratulations on making the foodbuzz Top 9!

ceecee May 28, 2012 at 11:08 am

Congrats on top 9. Lovely cake and great photos.

Lisa D (@This Little Piggy Went to The Farmers Market) May 28, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Beautiful looking (and tasting) cake. I love the addition of ginger to carrot cake. I implore you to stop baking these cakes I need to wear a bikini soon and your photos and recipes are not helping.

Lynn May 29, 2012 at 10:36 am

Can’t wait to make this cake. Carrot cake was one of the first cakes I truly enjoyed because the carrots made me feel like I wasn’t totally indulging. Now it’s anything in moderation. Fantastic story!

Jamie May 29, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I never really ate carrot cake until I was at college! And loved it although I often find the cream cheese frosting too sweet. I think your citrus twist would solve that and add an amazing flavor. Anyway, all of your cakes are so stunningly gorgeous and I’ll bet they taste amazing! This looks perfect!

Chez Us May 29, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Yes, I am going to be making this in July. Someone loves carrot cake for his birthday, and I am always looking for a new recipe to try out. I love the combo of ginger and citrus ….

Betty Ann @Mango_Queen May 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm

This ginger citrus carrot cake is amazing!!!!! I love your gorgeous photos. I’m sure in person, this carrot cake was a delight! Enjoyed your story about how Asian families view the “Western cake”. I know all about that :-) Thanks for sharing this recipe, Ken. If I’m brave enough, I may try it! Hugs!

ribbonclown May 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Hi Ken,

I’ve tried this and it is definitely the most delicious carrot cake I’ve ever made.. Thank you for sharing this. May I share the recipe on my blog, pls?

hungryrabbit May 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I’m so glad you love the cake. Of course you can share it on your blog. Please credit the recipe and/or photos to Hungry Rabbit. -Ken

Russell June 2, 2012 at 11:47 am

Yummy!! I love the addition of ginger.

Betsy July 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I think I’m in love with this cake. As if carrot cake couldn’t get any better!!

Jen December 31, 2012 at 1:13 am

I love this cake (and my husband too!). Thank you so much for sharing!

Jackie July 3, 2013 at 12:36 am


Can this cake be baked in round cake pans.

A December 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I made this cake and it was wonderful!!! Delicious!! 😀

hungryrabbit December 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Hi A, I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe. Happy Baking! – Ken

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