Brazilian Carrot Cake Is A Cozy Dessert Topped With Chocolate Frosting

Full of texture and rich flavors, carrot cake is one sweet treat that has stood the test of time. First appearing in a French cookbook in 1827, the veggie-based confection has been passed down for almost two centuries and perfected into the ultra-moist creation that exists today. That means it's also been around long enough for creative bakers to transform this classic cake into delicacies that align more with their home country's culinary traditions. Brazil is one such country, where the process for making carrot cake, or bolo de cenoura, has been both simplified and blended with ingredients from the nation's most famous dessert, the brigadeiro.

In addition to their tender bite, Brazilian carrot cakes are known for their warm orange color, which contrasts with the dark, mirror-like chocolate glaze dripping down the sides. Its picture-perfect presentation always makes it a hit at celebrations and fancy events, tempting hungry masses with its decadent looks. Overall, this iconic Brazilian food isn't overly sugary like a regular carrot cake tends to be, and instead leans on the luscious flavors of cocoa and condensed milk.

The history of Brazilian carrot cake's brigadiero frosting

While the Brazilian carrot cake itself doesn't have a singular point of origin, the ingredients for the cake's rich frosting are the same as those found in this South American country's classic brigadiero recipe, which has an interesting history. Brigadieros are typically fudge-like balls of buttery chocolate goodness, covered in sprinkles or other topping variations like shredded coconut or crushed nuts. This beloved dessert was first created in Brazil around 1945, during the post-WWII political campaign of Eduardo Gomes, who many voters were head over heels for — especially the ladies. In an attempt to sway voters in favor of Gomes, his advocates chose to appeal to the stomachs of voters instead of more expected merch like buttons or T-shirts.

The brigadiero origin story tells us that a confectioner named Heloisa Nabuco de Oliviera developed the first recipe for these small treats in Rio de Janeiro for Gomes' campaign. During this time, there was a huge shortage of commodities like sugar and chocolate, so Oliviera had to come up with other alternatives that produced an equally tasty result. Its name comes from Gomes' military title as Air Force Brigadier, and between his candidacy and Nestle marketing its cocoa powder and condensed milk in Brazil, these chocolatey treats became very popular. Ultimately, Gomes ended up losing the election and others after that, but at least something good came from the experience.

Differences between carrot cake and Brazilian bolo de cenoura

Traditional carrot cake and Brazil's bolo de cenoura may share many similar ingredients, but they do differ in a few distinct ways. In America, it's common to toss aromatic spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger into the cake mix to balance out the taste of the carrots. In contrast, Brazilian carrot cakes require no spices, and instead of tediously grating the carrots, you employ the efficiency of a blender or food processor to do the heavy lifting for you. Its simplicity is one big reason why this bake has become such an enduring favorite, often reminding Brazilians of sweet childhood memories.

Besides the difference in technique and batter ingredients, Brazilian carrot cakes are frosted with the country's renowned brigadiero chocolate instead of cream cheese frosting. It's made with cocoa powder and condensed milk, and creates a delightfully full-bodied flavor and fudge-like texture that does a good job of balancing the starchiness of the bake.

How Brazilian carrot cake is made

To make this traditional Brazilian carrot cake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit before buttering your cake pan and sprinkling it with flour. Next, gently mix a tablespoon of baking powder and 2 cups of sifted flour into a bowl. Not sifting flour can ruin a bake, as it helps eliminate any thick clumps in your batter. Now it's time for the blender to work its magic on 2 cups of carrots, which is roughly equal to just over 4 ½ medium-sized, crisp carrots. Whether you peel or scrub your carrots doesn't matter, as long as you blend them well. Once sufficiently blitzed, add 4 eggs, 1 ½ cups of sugar, 1 cup of vegetable oil, and a pinch of salt into the blender and mix evenly. Combine the blender's contents with the dry ingredients, then dump your batter into a pan and pop it into the oven for 50 minutes. Be sure not to mistakenly open the oven too early, or your cake may sink.

Once your Brazilian carrot cake is finished baking, start making the brigadiero chocolate glaze, as you need to wait 10-15 minutes for the cake to cool. Place a tablespoon of butter, ⅓ cup of sugar, ½ cup of cocoa powder, and ⅓ cup of water in a non-stick pan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Once it's boiling, stir for another 1-2 minutes before removing it from the stovetop and pouring over your carrot cake. Bon appetit — or as they say in Brazil, bom proveito!