Well, it's Tuesday morning and we all know what that means now, that means it's Tuesdays With Dorie day, one of my most favouritest days of the week. The day that I get to join in with some bazillion of other bakers around the world and bake a recipe from our most bestest favouritest book of all time, Baking From My Home To Yours, by the bestest baker in the world, Dorie Greenspan! Whew! What a mouthful! If you want to know more about the group and how they got started, and how you yourself can join, you can go to their page Tuesdays With Dorie and it's all there in glorious Technicolour for you to read all about it, but to make a long story short . . . each week we all prepare the same thing, and once in a while we even get to pick which recipe it is we are going to bake. It's going to be a loooooong time before it's my turn, but that's ok . . . I am enjoying baking, not to mention eating, my way through the book!
This week's recipe was Bill's Big Carrot Cake as chosen by Amanda of slow like honey . Ohh, what a delicious choice Amanda! Carrot Cake has to be both my and Todd's favouritest cake of all, and also one of the easiest types of cakes to make!!
I had the chance this past week to get together with some friends for a bit of a coffee morning and a gab. I don't really drink coffee myself, but it is always nice to get together with people you enjoy and share in some refreshements and a nice chat. When I saw this weeks choice for the baking challenge I just knew it would be the perfect accompaniment.
Carrot cake has to be one of most people's favourite cakes!
I decided from the very beginning that I would bake the three layers and use one for the coffee morning, one for Todd to eat right away, and then freeze one for a later date. A three layer cake is just far too much for Todd and I to ever get through on our own, and I would hate to waste any of it . . . plus who can't use an extra cake layer in the freezer, ready and available to pull out at a moment's notice!
Carrot cakes have to be one of the easiest of cake recipes to execute and bake. They always go together like a dream and are fairly hard to screw up in my opinion, and this one was no exception. In fact as I don't really have a good stand mixer here at home I actually put this one together with the aid of my trusty wooden spoon, just like I always put carrot cake together. The longest part of the whole recipe was the grating of the carrots, and about half an hour and a couple of orange hands later I had a lovely pile of them just waiting to be stirred into the batter. I have to be honest here and admit, I did add a tin of drained pineapple crush to the recipe, because
- I had one in the cupboard that was close to it's use by date and it needed to get gone . . . and . . .
- I happen to love the extra moistness and delicious flavour pineapple gives to a carrot cake, end of . . .
All I had to do was to reduce the amount of carrots I was using by the same amount of pineapple I had and presto, no problemo! The cake baked up beautifully and was cooling on my wire racks in no time at all, well . . . er . . . about an hour later.
Cream cheese over here in England is not the same animal as cream cheese in North America. Yes, it's still called Philadelphia Cream Cheese and they also have various store brands, and you can get it in high fat and low fat as well. (Guess which one I used?) Anyways, it is a lot moister than North American cream cheese, hence you can't make cream cheese frosting in quite the same way. You need a whole whack more icing sugar just to help it to hold up and you daren't ever add any extra liquid such as lemon juice or it would never come together in a million trillion years, so I had to fly by the seat of my pants and make my own frosting for this one. (Sorry girls) Basically all I did was whip the required amount of cream cheese together with a lump of butter and about 5 1/2 cups of icing sugar and I had a lovely icing to spread on top of two of the layers.
Oh . . . we did have a grande time digging into this cake. It was hard to get a word in edgewise in between the ooohs and the aaahs, mumbled through mouthfuls of moist and delicious cake, but it went down a real treat and everyone around the table, all five of us gave it two thumbs up! There was only a little bit left at the end and I gave it to our visitor to take home to her father, who suffers from Alzheimer's and I had an e-mail from her the next day telling me how much he enjoyed it.
The one I had at home went down really well with Todd too, and I had a good time convincing myself, for a few mornings at least, that I was actually eating something quite healthy for breakfast. Cake for breakfast turns it into a meal instead of a dessert, and that has to be good right? After all, this one contains carrots . . . and carrots are one of your daily five, not to mention . . . they are full of anti-oxidants and are one of the world's richest vegetable sources of the pro-vitamin A carotenes. Carrots' antioxidant compounds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer and also promote good vision, especially night vision. That's a fact . . . so mama wasn't lying when she told you to eat up your carrots so you could see in the dark! We won't talk about the icing . . . Hmmm . . . I think I'll take that last layer out of the freezer this weekend and we'll just have it plain with some Lemon Curd drizzled over top a la Dorie's idea . . . Lemons are one of your daily five as well, not to mention chocked full of vitamin C! (Shut up!)
*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.