It’s spring break (meivakantie) here in the Netherlands, hence my excuse for this delayed post for my carrot cake recipe. I’ve been meaning to post it for quite some time now, at least before it was King’s Day, as it was my way of getting into the King’s Day spirit.
Earlier this week, on April 27th, the entire country celebrated the 50th birthday of our Dutch King Willem-Alexander. It is a Dutch national holiday, King’s Day (Koningsdag) and it is considered to be the biggest festival of the year, from old to young taking part in the celebration. Everyone gets into full gear party mode and nothing is allowed except a big fun crazy party. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that the entire country turns into orange madness (orangegekte). Just about everyone on this day dresses in some kind of orange clothing, sometimes from head to toe, and the crazier your outfit the more you will fit in.
King’s Day is also the only day of the year in the Netherlands when you can trade for free without a license. This is known as the vrijmarkt (literally ‘free market’). The streets turn into a massive street market where locals set up stalls in public places to sell and trade their old and unwanted items. Children also take part in this traditional King’s Day activity, selling their outgrown toys, hand-made creations and home-baked goodies. It’s a fun activity the entire family can do together.
As a non-Dutch I never understood why the free market occurs on King’s Day. Why do the Dutch celebrate their King’s birthday by selling their old stuff? What does this mean, and what’s the connection? Shouldn’t we be doing something more appropriate to celebrate the royal family? Perhaps dress rather in our nicest clothes and act more appropriate (doe normaal), especially on this particular day??
Upon this wonderment it occurred to me (just this year) what King’s Day is all about. It’s not just about the birthday of the monarch, nor a day to acknowledge the royal family, and certainly not about patriotism. Despite the name, it’s about community and friendship. For one day we can all be the same, equal, free, and most importantly celebrate life together.
You’re probably wondering how the carrot cake I mentioned earlier has anything to do with King’s Day. It really doesn’t, other than the fact that it is an orange cake. Carrot cake is still new to the Dutch but slowly rising in popularity. Maybe one day it will replace the famous ‘tompouce’, the more popular orange pastry eaten on King’s Day.
After years of searching for the best carrot cake recipe, I have finally found it. I normally tweak a recipe and never follow it precisely, but with this one I did not change a thing. I was disciplined and followed it exactly and good thing I did. It’s really REALLY good. Make it for a birthday, holiday or any other occasion. Enjoy and celebrate life. Cheers!
Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
This carrot cake is moist, flavorful, and has just the right amount of sweetness from the crushed pineapple and cream cheese frosting.
- FOR THE CAKE:
- 2-1/2 cups (312g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup canola (240ml) or vegetable oil
- 1-1/4 cup (250g) packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups carrots, grated (about 3-4 carrots)
- 1 cup (8 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
- 1 cup (125g) chopped walnuts (optional)
- FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
- 8 oz (224g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups (360g) confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- FOR THE DECORATION:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup grated or shaved carrots
- tablespoon maple syrup
- Step 1 FOR THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 Celsius) and grease a 9×13 inch pan.
- Step 2 In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and the last 3 spices). Set aside.
- Step 3 In a medium bowl whisk the oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Pour into the dry ingredients and whisk until well combined.
- Step 4 Fold in the grated carrots, crushed pineapple, and chopped walnuts.
- Step 5 Spread batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, depending on your oven. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Step 6 Allow to cool completely. I usually keep it in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight before I frost the cake.
- Step 7 FOR THE FROSTING: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the softened cream cheese and softened butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy.
- Step 8 Add 2-1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Taste and if you want it a little sweeter, add in more confectioners’ sugar.
- Step 9 Spread the frosting on a very cooled cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. This helps set the frosting and makes cutting easier.
- Step 10 Cover any leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Step 11 FOR THE DECORATION: Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add grated or shaved carrots. Then add maple syrup. Spread on paper towel and cool.
- Step 12 TIP: Grating your own carrots will give you a more moist cake. The store-bought shredded carrots are dry and will give less moisture to your cake.