Carrot and Orange Cake with Sour Cream Glaze


There’s something extremely delightful in peeling an orange to reveal the sweet and sour flesh hidden inside the fruit. It begins with the intensely aromatic essential oils that form a little cloud of scent around you. Then there’s the tingling sensation that erupts on your lips when you taste your first slice of fruit. This sensation is called chemesthesis; it plays a big part in the flavor experience of eating.We deal with the phenomenon of chemesthesis daily: in how we encounter the heat hidden inside a green or red chile, the warmth of a stick of cinnamon, the cooling sensation evoked by mint and green cardamom. When the nerve endings lining the surface of your mouth and lips come into contact with certain chemicals present inside these ingredients, they get irritated and send signals to the brain, which then tells you what’s happening and how to respond, all in a fraction of a second. Over time our brains evolved to interpret this irritation as a pleasurable experience, compelling us to cook with spices, herbs, and ingredients such as oranges and lemons.My Carrot-and-Orange Cake with Sour Cream Glaze celebrates the way oranges trigger our senses. Pay attention and notice your own responses as you scrape the zest from the orange. Rub a piece of zest across your lips and feel your nerves dance in response. The feast for the senses doesn’t end there, of course: the bright sweetness of the juicy oranges marries with the rich orange pigment carotene in the sweet spring carrots. Chopped pieces of dried apricots and candied orange peels give each slice of cake of spot of unexpected fruit sweetness, while the pistachios add texture to the soft cake. Serve it with a cup of warm tea or coffee to complete the experience.

Carrot Cake Recipe
Photo: Antonis Achilleos
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs
Makes 1 (9-inch) cake



  • Baking spray

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and finely grated (about 4 cups)

  • 3 ounces dried apricots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

  • 2 ounces candied orange peels, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

  • 2 ounces raw pistachios, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 1/2 cups grapeseed oil or other neutral-tasting oil

  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest plus 1/2 cup fresh orange juice

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground green cardamom

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided

  • 1/4 cup sour cream

  • 1/2 tablespoon grated orange zest plus 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice, plus more orange zest, for garnish


Make the cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a tube or Bundt cake pan with a generous amount of baking spray. Combine carrots, candied apricots, orange peels, and pistachios in a large bowl. Combine oil, brown sugar, eggs, and orange zest and juice in a high-speed blender or the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on high speed until mixture is emulsified (about 10 pulses). Fold oil mixture into carrot mixture in bowl.

  2. In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cardamom, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add carrot mixture, and fold to incorporate until there are no visible flecks of flour left behind. Spoon mixture into prepared pan; shake pan lightly to even out the batter and release any air bubbles.

  3. Bake in preheated oven 55 minutes to 1 hour, rotating pan on rack halfway through baking time. (The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean when inserted in center of cake and top of cake is firm to the touch and golden brown.) Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack. Let cake cool completely.

Make the glaze

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl, and add 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Beat on low speed until mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Add sour cream and orange zest and juice, and beat on low speed 1 minute. Add remaining 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and beat on low speed until sugar is completely incorporated, about 45 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl, and increase speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is well combined. Drizzle glaze on cooled cake; garnish with orange zest.

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