for the cake
1 cup chopped pecans
1 pound carrots
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the frosting
3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners sugar
For the Carrot Curls
5 large carrots (preferably fat)
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
First you should make the carrot curls. These are very time consuming, but can be made up to a few days ahead of time and kept in an airtight container. Peel layers from carrot lengthwise on one side with peeler until you begin to get wide slices. Peel wide strips, reserving them, until you get about 15 from each carrot. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add carrot strips and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.
Strain through a sieve into a bowl, discarding syrup. Let stand 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 225F. Line a large baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper (imperative), then arrange candied carrot slices flat in 1 layer on sheet. Bake until dry but still flexible, about 30 minutes. Leave oven on. Wind carrot strips, 1 at a time, around end of handle of a wooden spoon in a loose spiral, then slip off each curl and return, seam sides down, to lined baking sheet. Return curls to oven to dry until crisp, 30 to 45 minutes more. Cool completely on baking sheet. (Don’t put them on your cake until just before serving or they will get soggy.)
Now for your cakes. Preheat the oven to 350F. Generously grease (or use cooking spray) your pans. I used 2 8-inch springform pans to make 2 cakes.
Toast the pecans in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Rinse the carrots and peel the rough skins off, then grate the carrots.
Place the carrots, buttermilk, oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and orange zest together in a bowl and whisk thoroughly. In another bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture, being sure not to overmix. Fold in the toasted pecans until evenly incorporated.
Scoop into cake pans about 1/2 to 3/4 full and bake for 19-21 minutes at 350F. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before taking the cupcakes out of the cupcake tin and allowing them to fully cool on a wire rack.
For the frosting, cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.
When the cakes are cool, frost them generously, place a handful of carrot curls on top and serve. Note: Don’t put your carrot curls on your cakes until just before serving or they will get soggy.