You'll need to block out an afternoon to make this two-layer carrot cake, served daily at Milk & Honey Cafe (1920 W. Division St.; 773-395-9434), Carol Watson's stellar breakfast-lunch spot in Wicker Park. But the results will impress. Loaded with nuts and cloves, the cake is moist and dense under a blanket of fluffy cream-cheese frosting and shredded coconut. After icing the middle of the cake, pastry chef Kate Croell refrigerates the layers for at least an hour to prevent them from sliding.
–Jennifer Tanaka

Milk & Honey's Carrot Cake (Makes 1 two-layer cake)
4 cups (lightly packed) peeled and grated carrots
1 1/2  cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease and lightly flour two eight-inch round cake pans.
(1) Combine the carrots, walnuts, and raisins in a bowl and set aside.
(2) In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
(3) In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla together, and blend lightly with paddle attachment.
(4) Slowly fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture by hand and stir just until all dry ingredients are moist and blended. Do not overmix.
(5) Stir in the carrot mixture until just combined.
(6) Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 50 to 55 minutes.

Coconut Cream-Cheese Frosting (Makes enough for 1 two-layer cake)
1/2 pound (two sticks) butter, softened
16 ounces of cream cheese, softened
5 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened coconut, divided

(1) In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together until light and smooth.
(2) Add the confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition until smooth.
(3) Add the vanilla and mix on high speed for one minute to make the frosting fluffy.
(4) Fold in 2 cups of coconut, frost the cake, and press the remaining cup of coconut onto the outside of the finished cake. 


Photograph: Tyllie Barbosa