You admire festive cakes at this time of year – how ’bout those buches de Noel? – but think they would be too fussy to attempt. You don’t have the tools or the time.

Have I got a recipe for you! It is a simple rolled carrot cake, filled with a lightly spiced, cream cheesy buttercream. Easy to slice and serve. Each bite offers a suitable ratio of cake and filling, which is especially welcome for a carrot cake.

Jelly roll-type cakes bake up thin and moist, on a single sheet pan – no stress about uneven layers or having the right size cake pans. This one takes 13 minutes in the oven. While the cake is still warm, you do need to peel away its parchment paper and roll it up gently; this helps to keep it from splitting when it’s time to roll it with its filling. If there happens to be a small tear or perhaps an indent from a wrinkle in the parchment underneath, no worries. A finish coat of confectioners’ sugar, dusted over the chilled roll, hides all.

Best of all, the flavor is carrot-forward, without nuts or raisins to interrupt the texture of the crumb. You don’t even need a mixer, but a food processor is recommended for breaking down the carrots into an even mince. Once the roll has been refrigerated to firm up, you have options:

Unwrap, dust it with the sugar, slice, then serve to a crowd.

Cut it in half, rewrap each half in plastic wrap and foil, then freeze for up to a month, for an on-call dessert.

Cut the chilled, sugared carrot cake roll into individual slices, wrap each one and refrigerate for up to 1 week, for grab-and-go breakfast and afternoon tea.

See the marzipan carrots in the accompanying photo? We used colored decorating gel, 3 ounces of marzipan (both on the supermarket aisle), tender cilantro stems and a paring knife. Dust off those Sculpey skills and have fun.


CARROT CAKE ROLL

Servings: 8 to 10

For the cake

  • 4 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 1⁄2 cup pure cane sugar or granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower or mild vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3⁄4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups finely grated/shredded carrots (from 3 large, peeled carrots or about 12 ounces baby-cut carrots)
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

For the filling

  • 1 1⁄4 cups confectioners’ sugar, preferably sifted (see headnote)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

STEPS

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large (15 by 10 inches) baking sheet or jelly roll pan with cooking oil spray, including the sides, and then line it with parchment paper.

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until evenly yellow, then add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, whisking to form a smooth, caramel-colored batter. Stir in the carrots until evenly distributed, then pour onto the baking sheet. Spread the batter in an even layer, making sure to reach all the corners. If you find any large bits of carrot, get rid of them; they may create holes or gaps in the cake.

Bake (middle rack) for 13 minutes; the surface will look moist and lightly browned at the edges. (This is a flat cake!) Transfer to a wide wire rack to cool for no more than a few minutes, then run a knife around to loosen the cake’s edges.

The next few steps are the only tricky bits of the recipe; do them in quick succession, while the cake is still warm: Slide the cake and its parchment onto the rack. Lay a clean dish towel over the cake. Clamp your hands onto the edges of the rack (through the towel) and carefully invert the cake so it is on the dish towel, parchment paper side up. Peel away and discard the paper. Then use the rack and towel to flip the cake right side up, so it’s laying flat directly on the dish towel.

While the cake is still warm, gently tuck one short end under and begin to roll the cake across, creating a cylinder. It doesn’t have to be tight or perfect; this will help “train” the cake to roll and help keep it from splitting once the filling is spread on it. Let the cake cool in its roll. Sometimes a wrinkle in the paper may cause an indented line in the cake; not to worry.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Combine the confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract and spices in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on low speed until the sugar is blended in, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until smooth, creamy and somewhat firm – firmer than a buttercream frosting.

Unroll the cake onto a new piece of parchment paper (off the towel; same size as the laid-out cake). Dust it lightly with confectioners’ sugar; this will help the filling stay in place.

Use an offset spatula to spread the filling evenly, leaving a 1/2-inch margin on the long sides.

Reroll the cake, gently, again from the same short side you used before, trying to make a somewhat tight roll. Roll it back toward you with the paper. Wrap the roll in aluminum foil, twisting the ends shut. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm. At this point, it also can be frozen; see the headnote.

When ready to serve, unwrap the carrot cake roll and place on a platter. Dust it with confectioners’ sugar.

Trim the short ends to expose the spiral pattern inside (and snack on those trimmings). Clean your sharp knife after making each crosswise cut. Serve at a cool room temperature.

Based on a recipe at GimmesomeOven.com.