This article is part of the Basically Guide to Better Baking, a 10-week, 10-recipe series designed to help you become a cooler, smarter, more confident baker.
For this carrot cake to truly channel my mother’s carrot halwa, it wasn’t enough to incorporate brown butter, chopped pistachios, and a generous amount of warm spices and call it a day. See, this fudge-like carrot candy found throughout the Middle East and South Asia has a lot going for it—nutty ghee, floral cardamom, sweet cinnamon—but all I really care about is the sweetened condensed milk (added once the shredded carrots are totally tender) that makes it sticky, soft, and sweet. I needed a glaze that would mimic that milky, long-simmered quality.
In order to achieve it, I cooked down a mixture of equal parts cream, sugar, and carrot juice until thick and caramel-y, then finished with a bit of butter to keep the glaze tender (instead of a stick-to-your-teeth situation). The result? A thick, bright orange icing that drips dramatically over the sides of the cake.
You’ll be blown away by how stupidly simple this glaze is—you really do throw it all in a pot and let ‘er rip. That said, there are a few keys to mastering it on the first attempt:
1. No stirring!
You might be tempted to stir together the ingredients—but don’t. Add all of the ingredients to the pot, then turn the heat to high. As it simmers, the sugar (which is heavy) will sink to the bottom, forming a protective layer that prevents the cream from scorching. This only works if you do not touch it. Even a gentle stir will dissolve the sugar into the mixture, where it will be too dispersed to insulate the sensitive cream.
2. Fear not the foam.
Initially, the glaze will get very foamy, likely reaching the rim of the pot, before settling back down. It’s going to be scary at times, but trust that no matter how close to the edge you get, the glaze will not boil over. The fat in the cream breaks the surface tension that otherwise enables water to crawl up and over the sides of the pot, as when cooking beans or milk. You’ll know you’re close to thick, sticky, sweet success when the foaming subsides, an indicator that much of the excess water has boiled off.
3. Do the cold plate test.
To judge whether your glaze has sufficiently reduced, you’ll do the same simple test that’s used to ensure that jams and jellies are set. Stick a plate in the freezer, then drip a line of the glaze on the cold plate when you suspect it’s finished. If your glaze is ready, the line will hold its shape and you should be able to run your finger through it and leave a mark without the two sides running together. And remember: It’s better to test too early than too late! You can always return the pot to the stove and reduce the mixture for a couple more minutes.
4. Let it cool.
When your glaze is finished and you’ve added the pat of butter, let it cool for 15 minutes, until it’s warm to the touch but not hot. If the glaze is too hot when you pour it over the cooled cake, it will spill right off, but you need it to still be just a touch warm in order to achieve a smooth finish.
Once your cake is glazed, it’s best to eat it that day. Since I’m only feeding myself and my husband these days, what I like to do is keep the cake bare and the glaze in a container in the fridge. I eat the cake by the slice, with a little (or big) spoonful of glaze on top.
When I close my eyes and take a bite of this glazed cake, my entire childhood flashes before my eyes: the thick-rimmed red plastic glasses, eating lunch alone in the bathroom, having no date to prom…but you know, in a warm, fuzzy kind of way. It really, truly gives me all the carrot halwa vibes I was searching for.
Get the recipe:Sohla El-Waylly
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit