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The Breakdown: Hanna’s Carrot Cake

Not a carrot cake fan? You'll change your mind after meeting this Normal Heights crowd favorite
Justin McChesney-Wachs

This crowd favorite has been on the menu since the Normal Heights restaurant opened in 2011. “When I was doing wedding cakes a long time ago, the carrot cake and citrus cake were the most popular ones I made,” owner and chef Hanna Tesfamichael says. “Years later I decided to combine them into one cake!” Here we analyze the dessert, layer by layer.

The carrots, coarsely chopped in a food processor, are sourced everywhere, from Whole Foods to Costco. “I’m not particular—wherever I can find organic carrots.”

While Tesfamichael is a self-taught chef who interned with French pastry chefs in San Diego to hone her skills, she actually studied nutrition at San Diego State University. So it makes sense that her desserts are more health conscious. Instead of copious amounts of sugar, she uses vanilla essence to boost the flavor, particularly in the cream cheese frosting.

Tesfamichael uses an Azerbaijani technique, learned from a friend, for preserving the candied kumquats, which are sourced from farms in Carlsbad and Lakeside. The method involves varying the cooking temperature to keep the fruit from overcooking.

Toasted, shaved coconut flakes add texture and visual panache. And the final touch is a drizzle of housemade caramel.

2864 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

The Breakdown: Hanna’s Carrot Cake

Justin McChesney-Wachs

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