Comforting and cozy, but still light and bright, a carrot cake with a tangy lemon glaze is just the thing for when you want a bit of fall flavor but aren’t quite ready to break into the pumpkin.
This simple loaf can be whisked together in a single bowl and baked in just about an hour, so your cravings are never too far from being satisfied. You can make it on a whim, and don’t even have to mess up your whole kitchen to do it. (You may love an elaborate baking project as much as the next quarantined cook, but, be honest: The recipes you return to time after time are easy, taste great — and, more important, don’t require a lot of cleaning up.) It also keeps beautifully on the counter for a few days, making it perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or morning treat.
Carrot cake lovers may have a lot of opinions about what should and shouldn’t be included: Nuts? Raisins? Pineapple? Think of this loaf as a blank slate, with a moist, tender crumb and no nuts or fruit in sight, though you can always add some, if that’s more your speed.
Instead, there’s a pared-back mix of spices — cinnamon and cardamom — for a warmth that’s not too overpowering. Carrot cake is traditionally made with oil, and you can use something neutral like canola or grapeseed. But, if you want to add a bit of savory flavor, substitute a mild olive oil, or a combination of the two.
Cream cheese frosting is the classic topper for carrot cake, but there is something irresistible about a confection topped with a crackly, citrusy glaze. It’s easier to make and lighter than frosting, and its tangy flavor still plays nicely off those warm spices and the earthiness of the carrot. There’s also a little bit of finely grated carrot in the finish, which tints it a gorgeous peachy color and adds a little sunshine and glamour.
The grated carrot is just for looks, but when the rest of the recipe is this easy, why not take another minute, and make it extra nice?