Food & Drink

Three Spice Carrot Cake

Atlanta chef Asha Gomez shares her mother’s favorite carrot cake recipe

Photo: Evan Sung

“I can think of no better tribute to my mother than sharing her favorite carrot cake recipe. And because my mother enjoyed using the best of her masala dhabba, or spice tin, this carrot cake surprises both your eyes and your taste buds. The cream cheese icing retains its ivory hue, but it’s flecked with cracked black peppercorns. And while the consistency of the cake will be familiar, a closer look at the moist crumbs reveals tiny hints of cardamom and clove. Since my mother made this cake with care and love every single time, I consider the gift of her recipe a treasure. I am honored to offer it now as a gift to you.” — Chef Asha Gomez


    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for greasing cake pans

    • 3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting

    • 1 tablespoon baking powder

    • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda (see notes)

    • 1 tablespoon fresh coarsely ground black peppercorns

    • 2 teaspoons clove powder

    • 2 tablespoons green cardamom powder

    • 2 cups white granulated sugar

    • 9 large eggs

    • 1 ¾ cups canola oil

    • 6 carrots, peeled and grated (3 cups)

  • Cream Cheese Icing

    • 1 ½ pounds (2 cups) cream cheese, at room temperature

    • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter

    • 2 ½ cups powdered confectioners’ sugar, sifted

    • 1 tablespoon fresh coarsely ground black peppercorns

    • 1 tablespoon green cardamom powder

    • 1 teaspoon clove powder


  1. For the cake: 
    Heat the oven to 350°F degrees. Grease two 10-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper, and grease the paper and sides of the pans. Dust the paper and sides with flour, tapping out any excess.

  2. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda together, then mix in the pepper, clove, and cardamom. Set aside.

  3. In an electric mixer on medium speed, whip the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With mixer running, add the oil slowly to maintain the emulsion.

  4. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar, egg, and oil mixture, and mix on medium speed for another 3 minutes. Add the carrots and mix for another 2 minutes.

  5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans, dividing evenly between the two. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into the centers of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pans on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes to loosen, then turn them out onto a rack and let them cool completely. Make the Cream Cheese Icing.

  6. For the cream cheese icing:
    In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter at medium speed until creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, pepper, cardamom, and clove while beating at low speed until blended for another 3 to 4 minutes.

  7. Frost the cakes:
    Using a serrated knife, trim the rounded tops of both cakes. (Gobble up all the scraps!) Place one trimmed cake, cut-side up, on a serving platter. Spread 1 ½ cups of the frosting over the cake. Top with second trimmed cake, cut-side down. Spread 1 ½ cups frosting over cake. Spread the remaining cream cheese icing over the sides. Refrigerate the cake 1 hour before serving.

  8. Notes: Baking powder loses its freshness when exposed to humidity. Write down the date on a newly opened can to help keep track of hold old the powder is. To check for freshness, mix 2 teaspoons of baking powder in very hot water: it should fizz and pop right away. If it doesn’t, discard the remainder and pick up a fresh can. Your baked goods will thank you, especially this cake, which needs a lot of oomph to raise the batter filled with carrots.

  9. For checking if the cake is done, if I can’t lay my hands on a wooden skewer, I’ll use a piece of spaghetti to test for doneness.

Reprinted with permission from My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen © 2016 by Asha Gomez with Martha Hall Foose, Running Press