Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Carrot cake

Carrot cake, cross-section view

Sometimes, you'll do crazy things for love and family -- like bake a carrot cake, from scratch, starting at 1:30 a.m., after you've just spent a half-hour shoveling the driveway to get your car unstuck and out of the road and you're really tired and sore and just want to go to bed.

But it's my mom's 65th birthday, so I wanted to do something special for her. And she loves carrot cake. And I hadn't made one yet. It came out pretty well, too, though I left carrot shreds all over the kitchen (this would definitely be a good recipe to use a food processor, if you have one, which I don't), lots of crumbs on the table (the cake, while moist, was prone to crumbling due to the shreds of carrot and chopped pecans inside, so leveling the tops of the layers was really, really messy) and a big heap of sticky bowls in the sink when I staggered to bed around 5 a.m.

Still, it was worth it. I managed to make a cake that almost looks professional, sort of, if you squint a bit. I even managed legible writing with frosting, which I've never been able to pull off before. And Mom was really happy and thought it was too pretty to cut, and then when she cut it, she said it was delicious.

Carrot cake, top view Carrot cake, side view, uncut

Carrot Cake
From Cook's Illustrated's "The New Best Recipe"

2 1/2 c flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp table salt
1 pound carrots, peeled
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 c oil (vegetable or canola)
1 1/2 c chopped pecans (optional), plus more for the sides (also optional)
1 c raisins (optional -- I forgot to buy some, and I wasn't about to try to get back out of the snowed-in driveway to go get some, so I left them out)

16 oz cream cheese, softened
10 tbsp butter, softened,
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c confectioners' sugar

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
2. Shred the carrots and stir them into the flour mixture.
3. Beat together the sugars and the eggs. Beat in the oil.
4. Stir in the carrot/flour mixture, then the nuts and/or raisins, if using.
5. Pour into two greased (or cooking-sprayed) round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until toothpicks inserted in the centers come out clean.
6. Cool in pans until just warm, then de-pan and cool completely on racks.
7. Beat together the cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla. Beat in the confectioners' sugar. (If you think the result is too runny, you can add a bit more sugar -- I did.)
8. Level the tops of the cakes with a large serrated knife, then frost and decorate.

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