Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Carrot Cake

 It's my claim to fame, my piece de la resistance, and the reason I'm married. It's carrot cake. My mom made this cake before me and her mother before that, and I have largely kept it the same. If I could get away with it (and not get really fat) would make one every week. I (and Em) love it that much. The raisins add texture and sweetness, the nuts a bit of crunch, and the carrots stay intact to give you bright flavor.  But somewhere along the line of all of this writing this, testing that, I discovered a few things about my carrot cake that I added to the recipe to make it more....great? Consistent? Something like that. Anyways, onward.
Being an extremely moist cake (thanks to the 3 cups of carrots), baking time can SERIOUSLY vary. So be warned, and I recommend doing two things to ensure it comes out properly. 1) Rotate half way through. Be gentle, but the cake can take the rotation, it will not fall if you don't throw it against the wall. And don't go by time, go by look. Use a toothpick to check for doneness. 2) Buy a new oven. Ok, so maybe that's not really an option. But most of us are graced with ovens that just refuse to heat evenly. My solution? Baking stone. I picked one up from my local kitchen supply store and have kept it on the bottom rack of my oven at all times. It greatly evens out the heat in my oven, not to mention it's great for baking pies, pizza, and bread on to get a nice browned bottom crust.
My other change calls for a bit of change in the cake recipe. I have found an extra teaspoon of cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg can boost the overall flavor of the cake while still leaving it sweet and not overbearing. I also changed the way I add the nuts and order, which seems to help my cake come out a little more even. One last note, do not eat this cake unfrosted.

Carrot Cake

2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups flour
1 cup walnuts, chopped fine (use your food processor)
1 cup raisins
3 cups shredded carrots (use that nifty little grater attachment on your food processor or a box grater)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl (stand mixer), beat sugar and eggs together until fluffy. Add oil and beat well. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, mixing to combine. Slowly add the flour until incorporated, then beat well to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl at this point to ensure even mixing. Add the nuts and raisins followed by the carrots last. Be careful not to over mix with the carrots (I even finish the last few stirs with a spatula so I don’t turn them to mush). Transfer to a 12 cup bundt pan that has been greased well (I like Baker's Joy). Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cake is done when a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before inverting on to a cooling
rack. Let cool 2-3 hours before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I prefer the Neufchatel or 33% lighter for its creaminess)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, softened
16 ounces powdered sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
Milk, as needed (will most likely need at least 2 tablespoons)

In a stand mixer beat the butter and cream cheese for about 30 seconds. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Slowly add the powdered sugar (in about 2 ounce amounts), beating well in between.Add milk to thin out slightly, then incorporate the rest of the powdered sugar until a thick consistency has been achieved (you don’t want it dripping off the beater). Frost cake evenly and serve.

Ideas for the leftover frosting? Goes well with fruit