Friday, April 6, 2012

Let them eat carrot cake

Okay, so what am I doing to kick off my three-day holiday weekend? Besides blogging, I'm perusing recipes, old and new, to create the menu for my Easter brunch this Sunday. I'm like an artist with too many paintbrushes and a multitude of colors. Which recipes to use to paint the lovely meal, the masterpiece, I want to make for my family?

The analysis of recipes online and in cookbooks and magazines is a big part of the fun for me. I've been thinking about it all for weeks. But now it's time to make some picks, inventory the pantry, and construct the shopping list for the ingredients I'll need to create my work of art, I mean, special family meal.

One sweet I think I want on my table that seems appropriate for Easter is carrot cake. I recently made a new carrot cake recipe for my daughter's birthday. It was so delish and received well by all that I think it's worth a repeat.

But then again, my menu is never final until it's on the table. Who knows what excitement I may discover in the next few days and switch out for something tried and true at the last minute? That's also part of the fun. Gotta be flexible, let the creativity flow, and think quick on your feet when you're an arteest.

Early in March I found what looked like a good carrot cake recipe on To give credit where credit is due I based my recipe on Ina Garten's Carrot and Pineapple Cake. But of course, I had to make my "therese" adjustments, as I do with most recipes. The results were "winning" and good enough to repeat.

A carrot cake with the taste of spring,
ready for a birthday or your holiday dessert table.
I told you in an earlier post that I would share my birthday cake recipe, so here goes:

Therese's take on Ina's Carrot and Pineapple Cake
For the cake:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar  (Ina calls for 2 cups; we didn't miss the extra cup with all the fruit)
  • 1 1/4 cups Trader Joe's big and chunky applesauce (my addition made this cake extra yummy)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (Ina calls for 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil; too oily for my taste and we didn't miss the extra oil since I added the applesauce)
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided (I used Trader Joe's unbleached)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 pound carrots, grated (I used organic carrots)
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple (didn't measure, so I'm sure I added some more)
For the frosting:
  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature (Ina calls for 3/4 pound, but I had two 8-oz. bars and thought, what the heck, use it all since you can never have enough cheese)
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature (did you know that unsalted butter is fresher than salted and that salt is added to make not-so-fresh butter last longer on the shelf?)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar (Ina calls for 1 pound, sifted, but that sounded sickeningly sweet, so I directed my daughter helping me to add only until we got the creamy consistency we needed to easily ice the cake; and who has time to sift?)
For the decoration:
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple (didn't measure this time either; just generously filled the cake top)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans (the parchment step worked well and was worth the extra time; who wants their cake to stick in the pan?).
For the cake:
Beat the sugar, (add applesauce), oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer (Ina says the mixer had to be fitted with the paddle attachment, but we just used a cheapy hand mixer with regular beaters and results were just fine) until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, mix together (again, didn't sift, who has time for that?) 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Add to the batter and mix well.

Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.
For the frosting:
Mix the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer (with the paddle attachment, nah!) until just combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with diced pineapple.
Dense and moist, this carrot cake is a crowd pleaser.
The results were carrot-tastic! I don't think I'd change a thing this time around. Everyone loved this cake, which is a sure sign it needs to be made again! And what better time for carrots than this Sunday? The Easter bunny will be proud.

"Here comes carrot pineapple cake, hopping down Therese's dessert table. Hippity-hoppity, Easter's on its way."

Like carrot cake? Then try this nice dense, moist cake, thick with the taste of fruit and spring, topped by creamy frosting that's light, cheesy, and not too sweet. So make some carrot cake for your bunch this season. And let them eat it too. Enjoy!

Until next time, yours in fun and baking...Therese

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