Naked Habanero Carrot Cake

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by Candace Brower
Photography by Cedric Smith for Savannah Magazine
Production Assistant: Anthony Lunsmann 

For this alleyway dessert course I paired the richly layered cake with strong Kentucky whiskey and set up a noir crime scene splattered with orange instead of red.

Habanero Carrot Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting from Libbie Summers (photography by Cedric Smith)

Naked Habanero Carrot Cake
(chocolate cream cheese frosting)
serves 20…a thin slice goes a very long way

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of ground cayenne
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1⁄2 cup applesauce
3⁄4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups grated carrots (about 10 medium), using the large side of a cheese grater
1 habañero chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe to follow)
Whole small carrots with tops for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray 4 8-inch round baking pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, or in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the eggs, both sugars, pineapple, applesauce, oil, and both extracts until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture and continue to beat until fully incorporated. Fold in the carrots and chile. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 20 minutes). Let cool in the pans completely, then remove the cakes. Frost between layers and on the top with Chocolate Cream Cheese frosting and garnish with carrots.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
yields 3 cups

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (sifting is a must!)
4 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly


In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla paste and mix thoroughly. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Stir in melted chocolate. Refrigerate for 15 minutes before frosting cake. Frosting can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week

Habanero Carrot Cake with chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting from Libbie Summers (photography by Cedric Smith)
Who says you can’t strap a cake on the back of a bike and ride it over to make a friends day?