Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Best Carrot Cake So Far...

And it should be no surprise to anyone who has cooked from her book that this cake comes from the Queen of Deliciousness- Dorie Greenspan. When I realized that we were going to be spending time with my sister-in-law on her birthday, I immediately knew I had to make her a cake. The resulting conversation was almost funny- when I mentioned cake, she couldn't decide on just one, she was so excited about the prospect of cake. For a minute there I thought about an assortment of mini-cakes, but then decided to go with her first choice, carrot cake. I have struggled with my carrot cakes in the past- most have been good, but not the wow that I was looking for. I just knew that Dorie would have something for me in Baking From My Home To Yours.

The cake came together beautifully, but I do need to share one word of warning- when Dorie says to use parchment, use parchment. I had a few raisins that wanted to stick to the pan and almost caused a disaster with the cake. Fortunately I managed to pry them up. I baked the cakes on Thursday, wrapped them well, and then took them with us on the five hour car trip before piling on the cream cheese frosting. For Belle's birthday I also wanted to make her dinner, so we took them to a local butcher that they kept meaning to check out, but hadn't. Walking into the market I knew it was the real deal- they had an army of butchers behind the counter and the one who helped us out really knew his stuff. Their prices were very in line with what I thought they should be- and didn't seem any more expensive than the grocery store. We must have had the best steaks I've ever had- so not only did we treat my sister-in-law to a wonderful dinner, they also found a local butcher they can get their meats and sausages from.

So without further ado, Bill's Big Carrot Cake. It is fantastic. Maybe not quite the best I've ever had, but it's very, very close.

Bill's Big Carrot Cake
by Dorie Greenspan
from Baking From My Home To Yours

For the Cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
3 cups grated carrots (About 9 carrots; I grate them in a food processor fitted with a shredding blade)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
1/2 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola or safflower oil
4 large eggs

For the Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound (3 3/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice or 1/2 tsp. pure lemon extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Getting Ready - Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter three 9×2 inch round cakes pans, flour the insides and tap out the excess. Put two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To Make the Cake - Whisk together 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 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 in the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.

Bake for 40 to 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 un-mold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

To Make the Frosting - Working with the stand mixer, preferably fitted with 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 would like coconut in the filling ,scoop out about half of the frosting and stir in the coconut into this portion.

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. Use an offset cake spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with second layer, this time placing the cake top side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.


Todd said...

I use the basically the same recipe. It is the best! A pastry chef gave it to me about 5 years ago. The only difference, is this recipe has you cream the oil and sugar for three minutes and then after all the eggs are added, mix that for an additional three minutes.

Deborah said...

This is really similar to the recipe I use for carrot cake. I just made cupcakes with the recipe not too long ago and they were a big hit!

Anonymous said...

Hi Erika,

This recipe sounds great. Have you ever thought about putting in pineapple chunks? I used to buy a wonderful carrot cake that had pineapple in it. Very delicious and moist!

Have a great day!

Erika W. said...

Thanks for stopping by Todd- I imagine most carrot cake recipes are similar with just slight changes here and there. I'm interested in your procedure- does that provide the cake with more lift?

Deborah I bet cupcakes are great with this! Better portion control too...

Anonymous, the best carrot cake I ever had a friend of mine made and it did have pineapple in it. I thought about reducing the carrots by 1/2 cup and using some pineapple, but since this was the first time making this recipe, I thought I'd stick with it. I also toyed with the thought of using pineapple cream cheese in the icing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. It was the best carrot cake I've ever had. I've had a piece every day since you left! You made my birthday special. We really enjoyed having you guys here.


Erika W. said...

Well I'm glad you're enjoying it Belle. :-) And to have the added benefit of being the only one in the household to like cream cheese frosting... (sorry Ben.)