Carrot cake. I heart it. Always have, and always will… but I’m actually not very successful when I attempt to bake it. Seriously. A few months ago I offered to make carrot muffins and lemon poppy seed muffins. Mini ones. Adorable ones — had they turned out! I used a cake recipe which I “adapted to a muffin” recipe by using muffin pans rather than cake pans… it should have worked, right? NOPE! Horrible mess. I took the pans out of the oven, let out an annoyed sigh and proceeded to dump the entire batch in the garage bin. Yes… it was that bad — and I promise I wasn’t just being a drama queen (a pet peeve of mine is wasting food, or ingredients by throwing any of these things out… so it has to be bad to be dumped).
Attempt 2 of the evening. I grated more carrots. I pulled out a new recipe and threw everything together… crossing my fingers it would turn out. Again — YACK. At this point though, I had 3 dozen mini carrot muffins to deliver the following morning; so I just had to make it work. Thank you cream cheese frosting, you are the greatest invention of all time.
I’ve pretty much stayed away from any carrot cake recipe since then. That is… until Tuesday night.
I was just asked to bake a carrot cake for a friend’s wedding; which means… I need to practice. I must find a recipe that holds well, isn’t dry and tastes great.
This is attempt Number 1 (perhaps I won’t have to make very many other attempts?!)… which was enjoyed at our annual end of the parliamentary session employee appreciation party (yep… my day job involves the House of Commons, a staff of 50+ people and many hours of watching/listening to Members of Parliament speak… you may roll your eyes and sigh now if you’d like, I won’t be offended).
I offered to make a cake. One of the editors who has been enjoying some of my other baked goods mentioned his love of carrot cake — and I took that as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone : practice the recipe and show appreciation for my co-workers. DONE.
I pulled out the hummingbird bakery cookbook, opened it up to their carrot cake recipe and… there you have it. A beautiful, moist, golden, carrot cake. For reals. I didn’t have to throw anything away, I didn’t have to sigh in frustration… I simply combined all the ingredients, poured them in the cake pans and waited (while waiting, the paddle attachment was licked clean — the batter is that good). The smell that emanated from my oven was simply mouth-watering delicious.
1 ½ c. packed dark brown sugar
1 ¼ c. sunflower oil
¼ tsp vanilla extract
2 1/3 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
10 oz (about 3 large) carrots, peeled and grated
2/3 c. walnuts, chopped
Pre-heat your oven to 325 F. Spray two 9-inch rounds (or a rectangular slab) with non-stick spray. Set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat together the sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. You want everything to be really well incorporated, increase the speed to medium.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.
As the mixer is beating the wet batter, slowly incorporate the dry ingredients until very well mixed.
Dump the carrots and walnuts into the batter, grab a wooden spoon, stir and evenly disperse the additional ingredients.
Pour the batter into the pans, and bake for 35 – 40 minutes – - until golden brown and the cake bounces back when touched. Allow to cool slightly (about 20 minutes) in the pans on a wire rack before turning them out and cooling completely.
Time for the frosting. I made a double batch of the hummingbird bakery’s cream cheese frosting… only I added vanilla to the recipe (the original doesn’t call for it; I think it lends well to balance the sweetness of the powdered sugar and sourness of the cream cheese).
double batch of cream cheese frosting
4 2/3 c. powdered sugar
½ c. salted butter, room temperature
8 oz (1 block) cream cheese, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
Grab your stand mixer and paddle attachment again! Beat the sugar and butter together (at medium-low speed) until they come together. Add the cream cheese (all at once, but cut into pieces) and beat until everything is completely incorporated. Toss in the vanilla. At this point, increase the speed of the mixer (medium-high) and continue beating. You want a light and fluffy frosting – - so let it run for about 5 minutes. Prefect!
Once your cake has cooled completely, cover the bottom cake with a layer of frosting. Don’t be stingy – but don’t make it too thick either (in my humble opinion). Top that cake with the 2nd cake – - so pretty I think :0)
Now grab the remainder of the frosting and go crazy! Really, place it in the centre of the top cake, and use either a spatula, or knife to spread it evenly on top and along the sides of the cake.
Side note: I heart that I finally got a lazy susan @ Ikea and am able to turn the cake as I spread the frosting… isn’t it pretty? Thank you Ikea :0) … and yes, this is exactly the sort of thing I get really excited about!
Once your cake is frosted, grab some whole walnuts and decorate the sides. I get to thank my mother for the walnuts – - aren’t they amazing? Nice and big? And so tasty! A treat for me (and everyone who had a slice of cake) from a recent flight to Tel Aviv… they helped complete my cake. Thanks mom.
oh – - and the team? They loved the cake! It was the first thing that went (and believe me, we had plenty of little treats) … I think I might even have an order for another one next week (and I think I’ve found my wedding cake recipe)!!!!
p.s. to all the middle-aged men who passed me on the street this morning and told me my cake looked good… thanks! you made me smile and giggle. perfect way to start an overcast day :0)