Seasonal ingredients like Midwestern rhubarb and exotic citrus have long inspired Chicago’s own Great American Baking Show winner, Martin Sorge. But as his skills flourished, he began exploring beyond the produce department. “I discovered the array of grains and flours that could add flavor to my creations,” he says. “I also discovered Janie’s Mill, a farm and grain mill in Ashkum, Illinois.” On a recent tour there, Sorge was struck by the beauty of a stark black stalk of emmer, an ancient wheat variety with Middle Eastern roots and a nutty earthiness that perfectly complements warm spices, prompting this cozy take on classic carrot cake.

Martin Sorge’s Black Emmer Carrot Cake

Makes:8 to 10 servings
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:2 hour 30 minutes

3 cups (300 g)Raw pecan halves
2 tsp.Baking powder
1 tsp.Freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp.Ground cinnamon
2 tsp.Ground ginger
¾ tsp.Fine sea salt, divided
½ cup (100 g)Dark brown sugar
2 cups (400 g)Granulated sugar, divided
3Large eggs, room temperature
1 Tbsp.Vanilla extract
½ cup (113 g)Butter, melted and cooled
½ cup (100 g)Neutral oil
1 Tbsp.Freshly grated ginger
2 cups (240 g)Black emmer flour, like Janie’s Mill brand
3 cupsLoosely packed, finely grated carrots (about 2 large carrots)
1 lb.Cream cheese
2 tsp.Vanilla paste
1⅓ cups (280 g)Whipping cream

1. Toast the pecans: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans on a baking tray and toast in the oven until deeply fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool pecans completely, then chop finely and set aside.

2. Make the cake: Grease and line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine baking powder, spices, ½ teaspoon salt, brown sugar, and 1 cup granulated sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk for 1 minute. Add butter, oil, and ginger and whisk another minute to emulsify. Gently whisk in flour. With a rubber spatula, fold in carrots and half of the pecans. Evenly divide the batter between the pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake’s center comes out clean, 32 to 38 minutes. Cool cakes for 20 minutes, then invert onto racks, removing pans and liners, to cool completely.

3. Make the frosting: In a stand mixer, whisk cream cheese, vanilla paste, and remaining sugar and salt on medium speed until well combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer at medium, gradually stream in the cream. Continue whipping until the frosting thickens and holds a peak, about 1 minute.

4. Assemble the cake: Daub a tablespoon of frosting on a serving platter and set a cake layer on it. With a butter knife, evenly spread a cup of frosting across the cake. Center the second cake on top. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and down the sides. Press the remaining pecans into the cake’s sides to coat. To finish, swirl the frosting on top of the cake with the back of a spoon.