Apr 6, 2013

It's Carrot Cake Time

   Spring means Easter...Easter means bunnies… bunnies mean carrots… and carrots mean carrot cake. Carrot cake is one of my favorites if not for the moist and deliciously flavorful cake, for the decadent cream cheese frosting that traditionally envelops it. I’ve been so intimidated by the (legacy) of carrot cake, that I’ve never looked at an actual recipe to try and make it. I knew about the pineapple, coconut, walnuts and (believe it or not) carrots that most people don’t realize are used in the cake, but I’d always assumed that making carrot cake was a tedious and challenging task manageable only for the greatest southern chefs. Little did I know, carrot cake is really not as unwieldy of a task as I’d imagined. It was actually quite simple.
    I found a great recipe from AllRecipes, and with a few minuscule changes I’m sharing it with you. The frosting is a pretty traditional cream cheese frosting, except I subbed the seeds of one vanilla bean for 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, go ahead and do the extract, it won’t change a thing (except you don’t see the flecks of the seeds in the frosting, which looks pretty cool).
    Honestly, the only thing you can do wrong is to do it half-heartedly- if you want the real deal, peel and shred the carrots, toast the almonds, use fresh ingredients, and do every step, there really aren’t that many. For the carrots, a 2-lb pound bag of carrots was just enough- I peeled them and shredded them in my food processor, but a grater would work just as well. Use fresh carrots- trust me it’s worth it! If you wish to have a smoother-textured cake, you can puree the pineapple before mixing it in, but I Prefer them as they are in the can. And last- please, PLEASE, make sure the walnuts cool completely before adding them.
     If you like a lot of frosting, I’d do 1 ½ of the frosting recipe (that’s 2 ½ packs of cream cheese, 1 ½ sticks of butter, etc, except stick with 1 vanilla bean), but I like to coat the outside with walnuts, so it wasn’t really necessary. If you’re not sure if you want more or not, go for the 1 ½, it can’t hurt to have more!
Carrot Cake
2 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves
3 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flaked coconut
2 cups (tight-packed) shredded carrots
1 ½ cup chopped walnuts (plus extra for garnish-optional)
1 (8-oz) can crushed pineapple with juice
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease and flour two 9-in rounds.
  2. Spread the walnuts on a cookie sheet and toast in the preheated oven, about 8 minutes, or until you can smell them in the kitchen- check every few minutes, they go from browned to burned in no time! When they’re done, remove them from the pan (dump them onto a paper towel or a dish cloth) to cool, and set aside.
  3.  In a large bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, oil, sugar, and vanilla, mix well, then add to the bowl of dry ingredients. Beat until smooth and combined.
  5. In separate bowl, combine carrots, coconut, COOLED walnuts, and crushed pineapple.
  6. Use a large wooden spoon to fold the carrot mixture into batter.
  7. Pour into prepared pans, bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, until the center is form and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Cool and layer with cream cheese frosting (or whichever frosting you wish).
Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
2( 8 oz) packages cream cheese softened
1 stick butter
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean
1. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean and beat in, then gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

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