The recipe I’m about to share with you is a lesson in appreciating the classics.
I had set out with big dreams. I would take my favorite carrot cake recipe and turn it into petit fours just in time for Easter. They would be adorable. I would add a delicious orange glaze filling to the layers of cake and top each petit four off with a piped carrot made from cream cheese frosting dyed orange and green.
Things didn’t go as planned. The cake, which is full of grated carrots and chopped pecans, wasn’t easy to cut into perfect little one-inch squares. The cream cheese frosting was a little too sweet, and it turned out way too runny to hold the shape of a carrot. Besides, I guess I’d forgotten how tiny a one-inch square really is, and there was no way that I was going to be able to pipe frosting into such tiny little carrots.
When get to this stage of testing a recipe – when all the components of your recipe are baked and your kitchen is a complete disaster and all that’s left to do is assemble everything but you’re sensing a major recipe fail – it can be pretty disheartening. BUT rather than toss all my hard work into the trash, I decided to revert back to a simple adaptation of what is my all-time favorite carrot cake recipe.
And so today I bring you carrot cake squares with orange glaze. Unlike the traditional combo of carrot cake and cream cheese frosting, the citrusy glaze provides a refreshing kick and is the perfect complement to the cake. And with the cake cut into two-inch squares, this treat is easily to share with family and friends this holiday weekend!
Carrot Cake Squares with Orange Glaze
for the carrot cake:
1 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups grated raw carrots (from about 5 medium/large carrots)
1 cup finely chopped pecans
for the orange glaze:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp lemon juice
2 T unsalted butter
2 T grated orange rind (from 1 medium orange)
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the applesauce and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Stir half of the flour mixture into the applesauce and sugar. Then beat one egg into the applesauce mixture. Add the remaining flour mixture alternately with the remaining eggs until all the flour mixture and eggs are combined into the applesauce mixture. Stir the carrots and pecans into the batter.
Spray the sides of a half sheet tray with non-stick spray and line the bottom of the tray with parchment. Pour the batter into the tray and bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Set the tray on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool completely.
While the cake is baking, make the orange glaze. In a saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch. Slowly add the orange juice and lemon juice and stir until smooth. Add the butter, grated orange rind, and salt and cook the mixture over low heat until it becomes thick and glossy. Allow the glaze to cool to room temperature.
Once the cake and glaze are cool, spread the glaze evenly over the top of the cake. Slice the glazed cake into 2-inch squares and serve.
Recipe adapted from a 1978 cookbook by Fire & Ice Restaurant in Middlebury, Vermont
P.S. I love this half sheet tray, which includes a convenient storage lid. The tray works perfectly for this recipe, and is also my go-to for baking cookies.