Sunday, January 25, 2009

Carrot Cake

Over the past few years a new family tradition has been formed. Each year on my mother-in-law's birthday I have started making her a carrot cake for her birthday cake. I guess the tradition formed because, well... the recipe is just that good!!! So I thought I would share it with all of you, it's a great one for the Spring. It is from Maida Heatter's book Maida Heatter's Cakes.
Carrot Cake
Makes one 9-inch
3-layer cake;
serves 12 to 20

1 cup dark raisins
1 pound carrots (to make 4 cups shredded, firmly packed)
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
11/4 cups corn oil
11/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) walnuts, cut into medium size pieces
Cream Cheese frosting:

16 ounces Philadelphia-brand cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

12 to 20 walnut halves or marzipan carrots (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the bottom and the sides with fine dry bread crumbs, tap out the excess.
Steam the raisins: place them in a steamer basket over shallow water in saucepan. Cover the pan, place on high heat and let the water boil for about 10 minutes. Uncover and set aside.
Wash, dry, and peel the carrots. The carrots can be grated on a metal grater or in the food processor. You can do them fine, medium, or coarse; it doesn't make much difference in the cake.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa together and set aside.
In a large bowl beat the eggs. Beat in vanilla, both of the sugars, and the oil. Next on a low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Stir in the carrots, raisins, and nuts.
Pour the batter into prepared pans. Place two pans on one rack and one pan in the center of the other rack, so that no pan is directly above the other. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The top of the cake should spring back when gently touched with your fingertip.
Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes before removing the cakes from the pans. Leaving on the parchment paper will help to keep the cake moist. Once cool brush any loose crumbs off the sides of the cake.
Before filling and frosting the cake it is best to freeze the cakes for at least one hour, or until firm enough to handle. I typically freeze the cakes overnight. When doing this make sure to wrap them after they become firm. Do not thaw the layers before frosting.
To make the frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. On a low speed beat in the vanilla and sugar. Then beat on high for a few minutes, until smooth.
To frost the cakes: Place each layer one at a time upside down on a plate or cake circle. Spread a thin layer of frosting (2/3 cup) evenly over first two layers as stacking. Place the third layer upside down and cover the whole cake with frosting. This frosting can be worked with over and over again until you have it the way you like it. Sometimes I choose to frost in smooth, other times I have swirled the icing.
The cake can me left plain or marzipan carrots make for a nice decoration around the top. If you don't have time for that then a simple circle of walnut halves make for an elegant and beautiful decoration. Push them gently into the frosting while soft.

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