Carrot Cake with Pistachio “Glass”

Team Cake? Team Pie? Everyone wins!

by Chef Deb Traylor

We spend a fair amount of time talking (and dreaming) about pie here at Ginger and Baker. It is, after all, the original inspiration behind our project and the one dish that will be offered (in many sweet and savory variations) throughout Ginger and Baker, from the bakery to the coffee shop to the cafe and upstairs at The Cache restaurant.

But on occasion we have to face the fact that we have friends and family who love cake just a bit more than pie. It’s not that we’re not fond of cake, we are, and we’ll be baking up layers and layers of cakes at Ginger and Baker. Nonetheless, we’ll cheerfully admit we’re a little pie obsessed. That said, we must take heed that there are those who prefer the cakey side of life. We love cake people, and we want to make them happy as well. So in an effort to avoid dividing households and friendships into “team pie” and “team cake” we’d like to offer a little gift to everyone who prefers cake and frosting to crust and fillings.

To all my “team cake” friends, here is our version of Carrot Cake. The cake is moist, flavorful and not too sweet, and the cream cheese frosting gets a touch of brightness from orange zest and chopped ginger. On top, we’ve placed a few shards of sparkling pistachio glass (nut brittle) for a little extra pizazz.

XOX Chef Deb (team pie)

(originally published on May 3, 2017)

Carrot Cake with Pistachio Glass

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup whole milk + 1 tsp. vinegar)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or coconut oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 ½ cups grated carrots (about 1 pound)
  • 1 (4 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (Note: at our altitude here on Colorado’s front range, I take ½ cup of these walnuts and put them in blender to make flour.  It gives added structure to the cake)
  • 1/2 cup raisins, (cover in warm water and soak for 30 min., then drain and chop)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray three 8-inch round cake pans. Cut waxed paper or parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pans and then grease or spray the paper rounds (this will make it so easy to remove the cakes from the pan).

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, soda and spices. In a large bowl, whisk together granulated and brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla until fully blended. Add flour mixture, carrots, pineapple, walnuts and raisins, stirring to combine. Distribute batter evenly between the three prepared pans.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tops spring back and a tester inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then run a knife along pan edges and invert cakes onto cooling racks. Peel off paper and cool cakes completely while you prepare the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups (1 lb.) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. grated orange rind
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp. crystalized ginger, chopped into very small pieces
  • chopped pistachios, for garnish

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Slowly add sugar, followed by orange rind and vanilla. Fold in chopped ginger (and/or sprinkle on top of the cake).

Makes enough to frost top and sides of the cake, but we prefer to pipe a thick layer between each cake round, frost the top and leave the sides bare. Once the cake is frosted, top with additional candied ginger, chopped pistachios and Pistachio Glass.

Pistachio Glass

“Glass” is a very thin nut brittle made from caramelized sugar.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1 silicone baking mat (such as Silpat) on a rimmed baking sheet, 1 oiled offset spatula or wooden spoon

Place sugar and water in small pan over high heat and place a lid on top of the pan.  (Do NOT stir, the lid on the pan creates a process where the condensation will automatically push any sugar down the sides of the pan… trust me on this.)

Let the contents come up to a boil (without removing the lid). Once steam begins to stream out of the sides of the lid, gently remove the pan from the heat, and remove the lid, lifting it away from you to avoid the steam. Carefully look to make sure ALL the sugar crystals have dissolved.  If not, replace the lid and put the pan back on the heat for 2-3 more minutes.

Once all the sugar has dissolved, remove the lid (do NOT stir) and let the sugar mixture cook until it begins to begin to turn golden. Once the sugar begins to color (you usually see it in one spot first), CAREFULLY swirl the pan and contents to distribute the hot sugar. Don’t stir, just swirl the pan. Don’t leave the pan unattended at this point, it will begin to darken rather quickly.  You’ll want it to become the color of pecans, rather than a light golden color.

Working quickly, remove sugar from the heat, add pistachios, swirl the pot and pour the contents onto the silicone mat. Quickly (and carefully!) spread the mixture into a thin sheet with the oiled spatula or the back of the oiled wooden spoon. (Note this will become hard candied pistachio glass. It’s quite toothsome, so the thinner you can spread the glass the easier it is to eat.) Cool for 20-30 minutes. Break into shards for decoration. Store in covered container in a cool place (do not refrigerate) until ready to use.  Decorate cake with shards just before serving.


  • Use the small holes on a box grater for the carrots, it will take a bit longer, but we prefer the texture that results.
  • Pro tip – If you have them, put two latex gloves on the hand you use to grate the carrots in order to protect your knuckles.
  • We added the chopped ginger to the top of the cake for decoration, but we also like to fold it into the frosting.  The bits of ginger will make the frosting difficult to pipe onto the cake but it will spread easily with a spatula.
  • Feel free to use walnuts, pecans or pistachios in this cake, all work wonderfully well.
  • We used chopped pistachios to decorate the top of the cake because we love their color, but any chopped nut will work.
  • If you make the pistachio glass, place the shards on the cake just before serving or the sugar decorations will melt.

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