Celebration Carrot Cake
February 11, 2012 § 2 Comments
I’m more of a pie baker than a cake baker (hence my moniker Piebird), but a cake seemed more appropriate to celebrate the end of my chemo treatments. Wanting a somewhat “healthy” cake (hey, I’m taking this to the oncology office), I chose carrot cake, which I’ve probably only made a couple of times way back, probably post-college days. I was short one key ingredient (no, had plenty of carrots, freshly dug from the snowy ground no less), and that was a “neutral flavorless oil”. Now, with a description like that, why would I keep vegetable oil around? I know some of them are good for frying, with a higher smoke point than olive oil, but somehow I’ve managed to get by with butter (straight or clarified), olive oils, coconut oil, and bacon drippings. No flavorless oils for me, apparently!
So I googled up a few recipes, and even found one that used butter, compared it with who knows how many regular oil carrot cakes, and came up with this. It baked up nice and was easy to assemble into its three-layers-with-cream-cheese-frosting finished form. One important caveat to remember: all the ingredients must be at room temperature when you make the cake, and you MUST serve this cake at room temperature; remember butter, unlike oil, is a solid when cold. Everyone seemed to love the buttery carrot cake! There were lots of smiles and finger-licking.
This recipe turned out fine at 5000′ altitude. Since it has a dense texture, I think it would be fine at sea level too. Also, here’s a good article I found on Fine Cooking’s website about using olive oil in cakes. I’m going to try that next time!
Buttery Celebration Carrot Cake
Yields one 3-layer cake (recipe works at 5000 ft.)
ALL INGREDIENTS MUST BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups finely grated carrots*
1 cup finely chopped toasted nuts or shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 15-oz can crushed unsweetened pineapple, well-drained (save the juice)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (or substitute 1 teaspoon ground)
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*Use less carrots for a “cake-ier” texture, more for a dense moist texture, depending on your preference
Preheat the oven to 350°F (start at 375°F for 5000′ altitude) and place oven racks in the center. Prepare three 8-inch round pans by buttering, placing parchment in the bottom and flouring the sides. Combine all of the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and ground ginger if using) mixing well to thoroughly blend and set aside. Separately combine the “add-in” ingredients (carrots, nuts/coconut, raisins, drained pineapple), except the pineapple juice.
In the mixer bowl add the melted butter, sugar and honey and mix to uniformly combine. On medium-low speed, add the eggs one at a time, blending well before adding the next. Add the vanilla. Now blend in all of the add-in ingredients. The mixture may appear “curdled” but will improve after you add the flour. Stop the mixer, add half the flour mixture and blend on low speed. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pineapple juice (a little more if the batter seems tight or dry), then the rest of the flour. Mix just until uniformly combined. Be sure you have scraped the sides of the bowl and the beater once or twice during mixing.
Evenly divide the batter between the three prepared pans (I like to check the filled pan weights on my scale) and level the tops (pushing a little extra batter around the edge of the pan can help prevent the cake from doming too much). Immediately place the pans into the hot oven evenly spaced apart. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once partway through baking if needed to get even doneness of all the cakes. If you’re baking at the higher temperature of 375°F for altitude, lower the temperature to 350°F for the last ten minutes. When done, cakes should be evenly browned on top, springy to a light finger touch in the center and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pans. Set on racks to cool and settle for at least ten minutes. Place a small rack on top of the cake pan, gently invert and let the cake drop out of the pan. Leave the parchment on the bottom for now (it helps hold the cake together) and gently invert again so the cake is right side up on a cooling rack. Cool completely. I wrapped and chilled the cakes overnight and assembled the next day.
Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields enough to thinly frost a three-layer cake
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
Place all of the ingredients except for the powdered sugar into the mixer bowl and beat on medium speed with the flat beater until uniformly blended. Stop the mixer to add the sugar a cup at a time, mixing on a low speed to evenly combine and occasionally scraping the bowl.
Assemble and frost the cake. You can spread a thin layer of orange marmalade on the two lower cakes before applying the frosting for a touch of bitterness. Don’t forget to remove the parchment papers while putting your cakes together!
Serve at room temperature and Celebrate!