Don't panic. Yes, Root Down has added carrot cake, a chocolate coconut truffle and a white chocolate cheesecake to the menu -- but it didn't ditch the beloved banana "crème brulee" pie. "I didn't want a revolt on my hands if I got rid of it," says Samm Sherman, pastry director for Root Down and Linger. "I don't even want to know what would happen."
But that banana pie has been on the menu for the last four years, and she feared it was getting stale. Sherman's solution? Replating it. The dessert is now partially deconstructed, and arrives on a plate with a fancy dollop of sour whipped cream and banana slices to go along with the layers of chocolate, peanut butter and gluten-free Rice Krispie crust, vanilla custard and banana brulee. Topped with beer nuts for a little texture and saltiness, the pie is sweet, sour and salty all in one bite.
With a goal of pushing the envelope with this dessert menu rewrite, Sherman set out to make "uncomfortable comfort food." In another twist on tradition, she created a parsnip carrot cake with pineapple mascarpone frosting. The cake is lighter than a traditional carrot cake (although the calorie count is unknown), with layers of cake and frosting and a micro-celery garnish. Sherman kept vegans in mind with the chocolate coconut truffle, which wraps dark chocolate with coconut milk around a Rice Krispie and roasted coconut center. The result is a rich dessert with a bit of crunch -- and a surprise, since it's served with fresh strawberries and an avocado lime sorbet. "Throw in the avocado and what?" asks Sherman. "So delicious." The dessert is also gluten- and nut-free. The caramelized white chocolate cheesecake is a byproduct of Sherman's pregnancy -- she's due any day. She was having cheesecake cravings, and wanted to make sure there was cheesecake on the menu while she's on maternity leave. This cheesecake has an animal-cracker crust and a cookie dough-tasting center. Topped with raspberry coulis, candied rhubarb and a pistachio crumble, it's satisfying whether or not you are pregnant. Another staple of the new dessert menu is the croissant bread pudding, which combines fresh-baked Blue Point croissants with citrus whiskey butter sauce, and tops the pudding with sour cream ice cream.
Keep reading for the carrot cake recipe, broken down layer by layer, which Sherman was kind enough to supply as a going-away present before she takes maternity leave. Carrot Parsnip Cake 2 eggs 1 cup brown sugar 3/4 cup grape seed oil 1 1/2 oz buttermilk 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 3/4 cups all purpose flour 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp ground ginger 3/4 cup carrots, peeled and shredded 1/4 cup parsnips, peeled and shredded
Heat oven to 350. Combine eggs and brown sugar and whisk 3-4 minutes, until mixture is light and thick. Mix oil, buttermilk and vanilla and slowly pour oil mixture into egg mixture. Sift together dry ingredients and fold into wet ingredients.
In a separate bowl, mix carrots, parsnip and mixture into a batter. Pour into parchment-lined 8" cake pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes and rotate half-way through. Once cooled, cut in half for two round cake halves. On bottom layer of cake, spread 1 cup of pineapple Devonshire and replace top layer.
Pineapple Curd 3 oz liquid egg yolks 2 1/4 cups pineapple juice 3/4 cup sugar 5 tbs cornstarch
Whisk all ingredients together over medium heat and continue mixing until mixture becomes thick. Remove from heat and strain mixture if there are any visible lumps. Cool in an ice bath.
Pineapple Devonshire Cream 8 oz mascarpone cheese 2 cups of cream 1 tbsp powdered sugar 8 oz pineapple curd
Whisk together mascarpone, cream and powdered sugar. Once very soft peaks have formed, fold in pineapple curd and continue to whisk until stable consistency is reached. Be careful not to over-whip.
Chamomile Honey 1 cup honey 2 tbsp chamomile tea
Combine honey and tea in a saucepan. Heat until just before boil, remove from heat and let tea steep for 10-15 minutes and then strain.
Purchase hazelnut paste and micro-celery.
Assemble On a plate "paint" 1/2 tbs hazelnut paste and set one piece of carrot cake that has been cut and filled with pineapple mascarpone in the center of paste. Using a squeeze bottle, put 3 dots of pineapple curd on top of cake. Frost top piece of cake with more pineapple mascarpone and delicately place toasted hazelnut halves around mascarpone and cascading off cake. Then drizzle about 1/2 tbsp tea-infused honey over mascarpone and cake. Finally, right before serving, add finely grated parsnip on top of cake and mascarpone.
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Note: if you have any fresh herbs or micro-greens such as celery or basil, you can add those to the presentation whole or chopped.