What more appropriate way to celebrate my 100th post (I can’t quite believe it) than with cake!
I don’t do cakes like this too often. Probably because it would be a dangerous thing.
And I’m not big on humdrum frosting (like someone I know). I only like it when it’s made with high-quality ingredients and isn’t overly sweet. Now that I think of it, and this is insane, but my mom would sometimes make me buttercream frosting on a rare Sunday when I was little and in dire need of a treat. She’d then offer it to me sans cake! Of course, in my humble opinion, it was THE best buttercream in the world. Apparently, I ate it all without hesitation. No wonder I only like the high-quality stuff now. She schooled me on the difference early on.
My dad (who would have turned 100 this year) was particularly finicky about frosting and didn’t care for most of them. Whenever he was presented with a large piece of (two or three) layer cake, he would slowly begin working away at it. After some time, he’d pass the plate over to my mom. “Here, Gerta,” he’d say casually. My mom glanced at the cake innocently lying on its side. “You don’t want any of it?” He’d shrug. She’d take it and turn it towards her. “Shtinker, you ate the whole inside and just left me the frosting!” He had done a precise excavation of the cake, leaving a perfect shell of the unwanted frosting behind. I can’t tell you how many times I witnessed this. My mom always took the cake and he always gave a little chuckle in response. A sly one, my dad. No wonder his favorite dance was the Fox Trot.
When my Novio’s birthday approached, he stated firmly that he didn’t want to have a big celebration and was decidedly un-decisive about what he wanted. Then it came to me in a flash. “Let’s have a big jam session!” Novio’s soul is all about music – early rock to be exact. He can never pass up a chance to sing and play keyboard. His eyes lit up. “That’s a great idea!” he exclaimed. Plus, there were a couple of other birthdays and Novio was only too happy to share in the celebration.
So it was time to think cake. The choice was obvious. Carrot Cake.
And not just any carrot cake but one that’s light, moist and amazingly delicious. Thank you, Ina Garten, for the original inspiration. With a little tinkering, I had a version that was just the ticket. Both my Novio and I adore carrot cake and when it’s this one, we’re in heaven.
Begin with finely shredded carrots. You can use the food processor, but a box grater gives you a moister product and it’s only a few carrots…
Here is the cake of choice for Novio’s big party/jam session – served as one 9″ 2-layer cake, one small cake and a whole lot of mini-cupcakes. I used a delicate touch with the frosting throughout and left several mini-cupcakes sans frosting.
adapted from Ina Garten’s, Barefoot Contessa Parties!
Ingredients:1 c. (220 g.) sugar (I use Baker’s sugar AKA superfine sugar) 1 1/4 c. (300 ml.) canola or safflower oil 4 eggs 1 t. pure vanilla extract 2 c. (450 g.) all-purpose flour plus 1 T. flour ( or 1 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 c. whole-wheat pastry flour) 2 t. cinnamon 1 t. ground ginger 1/4 t. ground nutmeg 2 t. baking soda 1 t. salt 3 large carrots (1 lb.) , finely shredded, excess liquid squeezed out 1/2 c. (120 g.) raisins 1 c. (240 g.) walnuts, chopped (if no nut allergies are around) Frosting: 8 oz. (240 g.) Neufchatel cream cheese (low fat cream cheese), softened 2 oz.(60 g.) (1/2 stick), unsalted butter, softened 1 scant c. (200 g.) confectioner’s sugar, sifted 1 t. pure vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) . Cut parchment paper to fit two 9″ cake pans. Grease and line cake pans with parchment paper. (Or if making cupcakes, line 24 cupcake tins with paper, or grease and flour them.)
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Toss carrots, walnuts and raisins with remaining 1 T. flour. Add to batter.
To make a carrot layer cake: Place oven rack in center position. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, smooth top surfaces with rubber spatula. Bake the cakes for 38- 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off parchment paper; cool cakes completely.
For cupcakes: Fill cupcake tins until almost full. (You may have a little batter leftover if doing minis- perfect for a little personal cake baked in a ramekin!) Bake 18 to 20 minutes (13- 16 for mini cupcakes), or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.
Baking Times Review: for cakes: 38-45 minutes; for cupcakes: 18-20 minutes; for mini cupcakes: 13-16 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
For frosting: In a stand mixer, beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly. To assemble a carrot layer cake, lightly frost the top of one cake, place the other cake on top. Frost the sides and top, swirling decoratively. Sprinkle toasted chopped walnuts over the top and in a ring around the bottom. For a leaner version, simply frost the top of one cake and place the second cake on top. Frost the top and leave the sides open so you can see the cake.Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set up frosting.
You will probably have some leftover frosting, which you can save to shmear on graham crackers or gingersnap cookies.
Carrot Cake serves 16. OR: makes about 24 cupcakes or 48 mini cupcakes