One of the best ways my mom communicates love is through carrot cake. Seriously. Her co-workers know that it’s gonna be a great day when she shows up to the hospital (she’s a psych nurse) holding the covered dish that houses her famous 3-layered orange carrot cake sandwiched with orange cream cheese frosting. It’s insanely good, and most years, we convince her to make the cake for one of our family holiday gatherings — so, for our latest holiday post with McCormick, I decided that it would be fun to put a spin on her cake by deconstructing it and serving in trifle version. These cuties have all the flavors of the original without requiring any cake decorating skills – plus it’s fun to serve up little individual-sized portions at a party. They’re so good, I may have just started a new tradition of my own (watch out, mom.) Keep scrolling to see how these orange carrot cake trifles come together, and don’t miss a fun giveaway at the end that you can enter by sharing your own family’s favorite holiday recipes.
photos by kristen kilpatrick
The ingredient list on these trifles is a little longer than what I usually post, but trust me when I say that it’s worth it — and isn’t it the perfect time of year to set aside an afternoon for a baking project? While the cake is baking, you can make your candied orange zest and whip up the creamy filling, then relax with a cup of tea while the cake cools.
I love the concept behind McCormick’s #noflavorlikehome campaign that’s all about the personal stories behind family recipes. I truly believe that one of the best ways to gain a deeper understanding of someone’s story is to learn about the flavors that defined their past, and the holidays are especially ripe with traditional tastes. Think about how you feel when you come in from the cold and are handed a steaming mug of spicy cider, or sit down for Christmas dinner to a table filled with roast chicken or pork enchiladas or whatever your family’s traditional meal includes.
Assembling these trifles is a great project for your guests (or kids) to help out with. After letting the carrot cake cool, you crumble it up (fun!) then dollop on the cream and cookies and repeat. The whole process requires zero culinary skills and looks even better when done a little imperfectly.
This candied citrus zest is officially my new favorite little baking trick! It’s as simple as boiling the orange peel in a mixture of sugar and water, then letting it dry. The result is gorgeously bright peel that looks so pretty topping all kinds of desserts – plus a yummy sweet-bitter combo that adds a flavor complexity to everything from cupcakes to a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
As much as I love experimenting with new recipes and innovative flavors the rest of the year, there’s something about these winter months that just calls for the comfort foods of childhood and the familiar flavors that always make an appearance on the holiday table. Although I often can’t help myself from adding one new item to our holiday menu each year, I know that keeping these beloved traditions alive is sacred.
I learned how to cook by watching my mom in the kitchen, and we always had McCormick spices and extracts lining our spice drawers — one of the best little secrets she passed on to me was to always double the vanilla extract that any recipe calls for, and to this day I still follow her advice.
Here are a few other recipes I love to make that were inspired by McCormick spices:
There are lots more delicious holiday recipes over on McCormick’s site, so hop on over to check them out.
And a fun giveaway where you can win a personalized gift bag of McCormick Spices, just in time for holiday baking! All you have to do is enter the #noflavorlikehome giveaway by sharing a photo of your family’s signature dish right here. Happy holiday cooking, and let me know in the comments if you give this one a try!
for the orange carrot cake:
- 2/3 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon McCormick Ground Cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon McCormick Ground Cloves
- 1 1/2 cup grated carrots
- zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon McCormick Pure Orange Extract
- 1 teaspoon McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
for the candied citrus
- 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- zest of 2 oranges
for the cream filling
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
- zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Pure Orange Extract
- 8 amaretti cookies or almond biscotti, crumbled
- McCormick Ground Cloves, for garnish
- First, make the carrot cake. Preheat oven to 325. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, then lightly coat paper and sides of pan with a little olive oil.
- Beat oil and sugars well, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Whisk in flour with baking powder, soda, salt, cloves, and cinnamon, then blend gradually into sugar mixture. Stir in carrots, zest, both extracts, and walnuts.
- Pour into prepared cake pan. Bake for 35 min. or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Cool 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and let cool on a baking rack. When the cake is cool, use your hands to crumble the cake into bite-sized chunks.
- While the cake is baking, make the candied citrus. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes until very syrupy. Let the zest cool in the syrup, then remove to a paper towel-lined plate and let dry. Zest will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.
- Make the cream cheese filling: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a separate bowl, rinse out the mixer bowl, then combine cream cheese with confectioners sugar, orange zest, vanilla extract, and orange extract. Beat until light and smooth, then fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.
- Assemble the trifles: In 6 serving dishes, layer a few cake crumbles, then top with a dollop of the cream cheese filling and a few cookie crumbles. Repeat with another layer of cake and cream, then top with candied orange zest. Eat!