The website for John Fraser’s upper west side restaurant Dovetail is understated on first look. The definition of Dovetail (which is “to join together harmoniously on a faded green tree” by the way) lies on top of a peaceful image of a faded green tree. Clicking into the website instantly shows that the food is not as tame as the website first displays. Vibrant photographs of different dishes flash through showing the type of energy New York Times critic Frank Bruni describes in his review of the restaurant. Bruni gave chef and proprietor John Fraser three stars for his restaurant, and a Michelin star that followed after illustrates the success of Fraser’s work. Dovetail takes advantage of Fraser’s classical European training and all that local ingredients have to offer.
While a main course is something I would like to recreate I decided to do a Recreation Nation version of their Honey Carrot Cake with Blood Orange, Sumac, and Crème Fraiche. I found a review of this dessert on dessertbuzz.com which was helpful in describing the different components of the dish, “complementing the cake is a scoop of soumac crème fraiche which is smooth and silky but not sweet at all. The crème fraiche sits in a pool of blood orange gel-sweeter than the other components but still not really sweet. On top of the second piece of cake is a scoop of roasted carrot juice sorbet, which goes in the sweet column, along with the candied honeycomb cubes. For texture (and for fun I presume) there are some fried carrot chips sprinkled about”. There seems to be much more going on here beyond the simple description on the menu. I decided to simplify the recipe so it could be an elegant dessert to make for the family. With so many components it would be too hard to make, but with only four, it would be easier to assemble and enjoy.
Sometimes a sugar overload is a welcome thing. Sometimes a sugar substitute is just as welcome. I like trying different carrot cake recipes and I found one on allrecipes.com to try. This recipe includes ingredients like buttermilk, walnuts, crushed pineapple and of course honey which produce a honey carrot cake that tastes almost like a dense bread pudding. This one has such an interesting texture so it was definitely worth the try.
Another component to the dish was the sumac crème fraiche. Sumac has Middle Eastern origins and is known for its tart flavor. While I thought it would be interesting to actually try this spice out, I never cook with it and purchasing a spice for just one recipe is never a good idea. Instead of the tart element I went for some orange zest. Carrot and orange seem to just work together beyond the color match. I folded some fresh whipped cream into plain Greek yogurt scented with orange zest for a delicious and creamy topping.
While the dish in the restaurant is served with a blood orange gel I think that some fresh oranges would be equally as spectacular. I want to keep the orange flavor that should be in the dish, but I want to bring in some of the honey notes that are in the cake. Simply mixing some orange segments with honey is as simple as it gets for another topping.
Here is where I decided to be a bit adventurous. I made a carrot juice sorbet inspired from an Emeril recipe using an ice cream maker attachment and some good quality store bought carrot juice. I usually do not make ice creams or sorbets from scratch but I thought that the sorbet would give a good contrast for the overall dish and enhance the cake. The sorbet was icy and cold and would be delicious even if not served with the cake. Keep in mind that if you do not like carrot juice in general you will most likely dislike this sorbet.
This is where my recreation nation version ends. It is only four components that come together quicker than you might think. While I might not make this dish again I think it was worth the shot. I might make a dessert with similar method, but a chocolate cake with cherries or a lemon cake with rhubarb. For now, I look forward to when I can go to Dovetail and try the dessert that has inspired my version.
Honey Carrot Cake Dessert
For the Honey Carrot Cake:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 ½ cups honey
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups finely grated carrot
- 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
For the orange zest crème topping:
[adapted from finecooking.com]
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Zest of one orange
For the oranges:
- 1 tablespoon honey
- One orange, peeled and segmented
For the carrot sorbet:
[adapted from planetgreen.com]
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups carrot juice
For the Carrot Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a nine by thirteen inch baking dish.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. In a large bowl, stir together the honey, buttermilk, eggs, pol and teaspoons of vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture and stir until all of the dry ingredients are absorbed. Stir in the carrot, pineapple, and walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan.
- Bake the cake for 50 minutes in the oven until cooked throughout. Cool completely.
- Work on the other components while the cake is cooling
For the Carrot Ice Cream
- In a small saucepan combine the sugar with 1/3 cup water and bring to a simmer for around eight minutes.
- Once cooled for a bit add the lemon juice and carrot juice.
- Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Transfer the sorbet to a container and place in the freezer for at least an hour before serving.
For the orange zest crème topping:
- In a large bowl combine the orange zest, granulated sugar and the plain greek yogurt.
- In a separate bowl, whip the cream with a mixer until the cream just barely reaches firm-peaks.
- With a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the yogurt mixture half at a time.
- Cover and refrigerate until time to serve.
For the oranges
- Combine the peeled and segmented orange with one tablespoon of honey. Let sit until ready to serve.
- Cut sections of the cake using a circular cookie cutter or the rim of a drinking glass.
- Top the cake with a generous portion of the orange zest crème, a scoop of sorbet on the side and two or three orange slices on top.