Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dessert - Carrot Layer Cake

So we are finally back! We decided on a spur of the minute trip via rental car to Florida, mainly to catch some sun, take a dip in the ocean and visit the famous Mai Kai. For the past week, we've been discovering great things around Florida, and also having some crazy adventures... but more on this later! There's an entire blog article (or 3) waiting to be written on our trip.

The weekend before we left, we celebrated Matt's birthday. I chose the task of making him a birthday cake, so I asked him which sort of cake he would like. After some thinking, he decided on a carrot cake. I've never made a carrot cake from scratch, so it seemed like a great thing to try!

The cake was very easy to make, and could have been very quick to whip up....EXCEPT the carrots that needed to be shredded!! Yes. It was so annoying to shred 3 cups of carrots, by hand! Next kitchen appliance that we need to buy: a food processor that can shred stuff. So, after the carrots were shredded, this cake was really easy to make. You can probably buy those pre-shredded carrots, but this recipe specifically calls for finely shredded carrot.

Topping this cake with a traditional cream cheese frosting was a no-brainer, and since I have a couple favorite cream cheese frosting recipes, I decided to use one of those. I used tinted cream cheese frosting to decorate the cake, and also my Pampered Chef Decorator Bottle Set which made everything SO easy. I was shocked at how easy it was to clean the Pampered Chef set, so I need to recommend this most highly for anyone looking for a basic decorating kit. It is great and so much easier than messing with those piping bags.

On to the recipes! The carrot cake recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook which is one of the staples in our kitchen. It has so many great recipes for the basics, and also offers slight variations on the basics. For the carrot cake recipe, they suggest a ginger-carrot cake, which we actually used to make this cake! Basically, all you do is add 2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger to the egg, carrot and oil mixture below.

The cream cheese frosting recipe comes from Cupcakes! From the Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn. This book is a great addition to any baker's cookbook shelf, as it offers over 100 recipes for cupcakes (which can also be made as regular cakes), and also a weighty chapter on many types of frostings. I have also used this frosting to accompany my favorite red velvet cupcakes, which also happen to be found in this book! Highly recommended.

Cake:

Carrot Layer Cake (with a ginger twist)

Ingredients:
-4 eggs, beaten
-2 cups flour
-2 cups sugar
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-3 cups finely shredded carrot (lightly packed)
-3/4 cup cooking oil
(-2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, if using)
-Recipe for cream cheese frosting (see below)
-Optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans for garnish

Grease tw0 9x1-1/2 inch round cake pans (I believe the cake pans I have are 8 inch diameter, and I was able to get 3 round cakes from this size). Line bottoms with a round of waxed paper, grease the paper, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.

In another bowl, combine eggs, carrot, and oil (and ginger if using). Add egg mixture to flour mixture and combine well. Pour batter into the pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and allow to cool entirely on wire racks.

Fill and frost cake with cream cheese frosting (see below) and sprinkle with pecans (if using). Cover and store in refrigerator up to 3 days.

Frosting:

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
-1 (8 oz) package cream cheese (you can also use reduced fat cream cheese, it works well!)
-4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
-3 cups powdered sugar
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

This recipe makes about 3 cups of frosting. I doubled it to ensure having enough to frost the layers and the entire outside of the cake. Ended up with about a cup left over.

Combine cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl and blend on low speed until combined. Stop machine and add powdered sugar a bit at a time, blending on low until it reaches a nice consistency. Add the vanilla extract and mix. If the frosting seems a bit too thick to properly frost a cake, add a tablespoon or two of milk and mix well.
Frost cake as desired and enjoy!

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