Wednesday, February 18, 2009

WDW - the BEST carrot cake!

carrot cake ewife

If you didn't get your fill of sweets on Valentine's Day, have I ever got a sweet dessert for you. This may pretty much be my most favorite dessert ever. If you like carrot cake, you have got to try my recipe. Anyone can make it - it's a snap. And, of course, everyone knows that carrot cake is healthy. It contains carrots, for crying out loud! I think it even counts as a serving of vegetables. I guess it would be rather healthy, without the frosting...

But, don't even think about making this cake without the insanely delicious cream cheese-powdered sugar frosting. That would be utterly ridiculous. If I find out that you did that, I will block you from reading my blog.

I like to make this in two round cake pans with frosting in between the layers. It's pretty stunning, even though it comes off a little on the rustic side. It makes a downright respectable birthday cake for someone you like a whole lot. If the idea of removing the cakes from the pans and frosting the center freaks you out, just use a 9 x 13 pan. I promise you it will taste just as good, and you will be spared of any panic.

I am making this cake today for a special friend of mine's birthday. Let's just say she's 40-something, although the birthday candles will say 30. That is a tradition I have with my girlfriends. No matter how old we get, we always put the number 30 candles on the cake! We're not in denial or anything like that. We just like the number 30, OK?

A few tips on the cake:

- For the oil, you will see that I use "extra light olive oil". Extra light olive oil (I guess Rachael would call it "ELOO") is a lesser grade and less expensive olive oil. I get it by the jug at Costco. I don't know how widely available it is. The only oils I use are coconut and olive, so this is my choice for baking when a recipe calls for vegetable oil. I read something that all oils except olive oil and coconut oil are already rancid at the store, and the same source convinced me that I am endangering my health by consuming rancid oil. So I banned them from my pantry. ELOO does not have a strong flavor, and is great for baking. It is not called "extra light" because it is lower in calories, only lighter in color and flavor. ELOO is also great for sauteeing, as it has a lower smoke point than regular olive oil.

-If you are going to attempt the two layer round option, here is a recommendation for frosting. First of all, the cake layers will be less crumbly when cold, and will frost easier. However, you do want to remove the layers from the pans when cooled to room temperature after baking. Remove the layers, place on plates, cover and refrigerate. Be smart and put one of the layers on the cake plate you intend to serve it on, so you won't have to move it. This chilling is not a necessary step but helps keeps the crumbs to a minimum.

Be sure to put a lot of frosting in between the layers!

-When frosting, first do a very thin coat to seal in any crumbs. Wipe the knife if crumbs start to appear on it as you go. Then, go back and lay it on heavy, baby.

The cake with its first thin layer of frosting

-I like to top my cake with walnuts, and toasted candied walnuts are even better. I toast the nuts in the oven for about 15 minutes (about 300 degrees), then I toss them into a hot skillet with granulated sugar (as much or as little as you like). Over medium heat, toss and cook the until the sugar melts and walnuts are well coated. Turn onto waxed paper to cool. Break into pieces if they stick together. Great for salads, too. Or just eating out of hand!

-I saw some carrot cupcakes that Ina Garten made, and she topped them with raw carrot curls. Quite pretty. That is another option if you think it sounds good. Just warn everyone not to eat them. Raw carrots have no place on baked goods. Think about it.

And now, without further adieu, here is the recipe.

Carrot Cake

3 cups grated carrots
1 ¼ cups extra light olive oil
3 eggs
¾ cup craisins or raisins
1 tsp. vanilla
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple in natural juices, undrained
1 cup sugar

2 cups flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder

walnuts for topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix carrots through sugar and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour through baking powder.

Add dry to wet and stir just till combined.

Pour into a greased 9 x 13 or two round 9” pans. Bake 25-35 minutes and test for doneness. Do not overbake.

Cool and turn out of pans to cooling rack (for rounds only). Let cool completely before frosting.

6 ozs. softened cream cheese
1/3 cup softened butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. half and half or milk

1 lb. powdered sugar

Combine cream cheese through half and half in mixer bowl. Beat until well combined. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. May add more half and half if necessary.

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