Tuesday, April 22, 2008
TWD - Bill's Big Carrot Cake
This was my first time ever making a carrot cake. I've wanted to for a long time, but all that work of peeling the carrots and shredding them up just seemed like more than I wanted to deal with. Yes, I'm lazy. ; ) So I was really excited when I saw that Amanda of Slow Like Honey had chosen carrot cake as this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe! It was just the little nudge I needed to get my butt in gear and make a freaking carrot cake.
We had Brad's family over for dinner on Friday, so it was the perfect opportunity to make the cake and share it with others. I love to bake, as you've probably figured out by now, but I hate having a whole batch of sweets for just the four of us. Dangerous!
I didn't take any pictures of the carrot cake prep, just because I had a lot to do with getting ready for dinner, and didn't have a lot of time for stopping and shooting. I was a little nervous putting the cakes in the oven, as the batter seemed much more carroty than I had expected. Never having made carrot cake before, though, I had no frame of reference. I wasn't sure if the 3 cups of carrots the recipe called for meant 3 cups firmly packed, or 3 cups lightly spooned in, or what, so I ended up going for somewhere in between the two, and just hoped it was right.
I had nothing to worry about, though. This cake turned out beautifully! I mean, it was really, really fantastic, and so much easier than I had anticipated. The cakes baked quickly, and tipped right out of the pan with no trouble at all. They were nicely flat and level, so they stacked up neatly for frosting. I saw that a lot of people had trouble with their cakes sinking, but mine were really nice and flat. I guess I got lucky!
And oooooh, the frosting! The lemon flavoring made all the difference in the world, and elevated cream cheese frosting (which I dare say is near perfect already) into something even more fabulous. My only complaint about the frosting was that it wasn't quite enough to fill and frost the whole cake. It would have been more than enough for just filling between the layers and frosting on top, but I had to spread it pretty thin to cover the whole cake. I actually preferred the thinner layer of frosting when eating, as I hate it when frosting overpowers a cake, but it just didn't look as pretty with the cake showing through in spots. Ah, the dilemma. ; )
I toasted up some coconut and piled it on top of the cake. So pretty! I'll definitely make this cake again!
Bill's Big Carrot Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Yields 10 servings
For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.
To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.
To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.
If you'd like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.
To assemble the cake:
Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.
Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.
This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it's good plain, it's even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.
The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it's firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.