Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TWD: Bills Big Carrot Cake

Generally, I don’t like surprises. Well, I should probably preface that statement with the following disclaimer: I do like surprises. But only if I have no idea that it’s coming. On the otherhand, if I know about something that is coming up… but it’s a surprise. I freaking HATE that. I’m the type that overanalyzes everything and so knowing that I’m going to be surprised by something in advance… drives me absolutely crazy. And not in a fun way… but in an irritable, cranky, and annoying way.

So, when I’m culinarily surprised by something… I tend to not like it. For example… let’s take sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a vegetable and supposed to be like a potato (at least by their name). That means, to me they should taste like a yukon gold potato. They should be served alongside steak with lots of salt and butter. But, no. No, they are sweet and should be served for dessert not for dinner. You see.. that’s the problem.. I don’t want sweet food for dinner. I want savory food for entrees and sweet foods for dessert.

It is because of this rule I have about food, that I had never had carrot cake previous to my friend April’s wedding last year. I mean… first of all, I don’t even really like carrots and second of all… a carrot isn’t supposed to be sweet. It’s a vegetable. Someone mentioned to me that a carrot cake really just tastes like a spice cake. That you can’t taste the carrots. I started thinking… I do like spice cake. And lord knows I love cream cheese frosting. So, at Aprils wedding, I tasted the grooms cake which was a carrot cake and loved it! That was the first and last time I’ve had carrot cake… so I was pretty excited about this latest Dorie recipe.

When does a single gal need a whole cake? Well, sometimes… but, not this weekend.. so, I opted to Quarter the recipe and came out with 6 cupcakes. The cake was absolutely delicious! So moist and tender and full of flavor. I loved the addition of the nuts (I used pecans). And actually… I think I’ll make this recipe as muffins. I mean, the cake part was by far my favorite part (which usually, I’m a big frosting fan) and I think with some whole wheat flour they would make healthy, delicious muffins.

This was a definite winner for me and it will become my go-to carrot cake recipe from now on. Hooray for carrots. Thanks to Amanda from Slow Like Honey (you should check her blog out anyway, it's awesome) and be sure to check out all the other Carrot Cake posts over at Tuesdays with Dorie

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)

Getting ready:
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.