Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Purist's" Carrot Cake!

What fun to have an excuse to make a big, layered cake with lots of icing and decoration!  It's a rare treat, but a welcome one at our house!  This time the birthday girl's favorite is carrot cake, and I've found that there are generally two types of carrot cake fans.  One loves the plain, straightforward, moist cake with the carrots and just a hint of spice.  The other prefers the carrots-raisins-pineapple and nuts cake.  I like the "carrots plus" cake, but it seems I'm in the minority and most of the time I've been asked to make the "Purist's carrot cake". 
I've been making this recipe for many years.  It is one of those no-fail, workhorse recipes that is mixed up in a jiffy and is always moist, tender, and tasty!  You can halve the recipe and make one layer also.  Sometimes I do that when I'm taking a cake over to a small family.
     I'm not much of a cake decorator, but I love to mess with it when I get the chance.  I've purchased a couple decorator tips with the screw type attachments.  They are easy to use with disposable plastic bags and that saves on the icky clean up of those pastry bags!  Once you get the tip on the bag and you want to fill the bags with frosting, set the whole thing in a tall glass and fold the plastic bag over the glass.  That makes it super easy to drop the frosting in without making a mess.  Squeeze the frosting out as you twist the top with one hand and guide the tip with the other.  It sounds difficult, but it's easy and fun!  If you want, you can buy the colored frostings in tubes and just screw different tips onto the tubes for decorating (They're sold with the frosting tubes).  I've used them before and they are quick and easy.  This is especially great when you're letting children do the decorating!
    Anyway, I hope you get the chance to stir up this easy, delicious cake, decorations or no!  It's also yummy with just a dusting of powdered sugar, or just plain!

Purist's Carrot Cake
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups finely shredded carrots (very lightly packed)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Cream Cheese Frosting (below)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Generously grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans (you can try baking spray, but that never works for me with cakes). 
If you have a food processor, use that to grate the carrots.  If not, be careful and watch your fingers when you're grating.  This isn't really a good job for young children, but they can help with the rest!
In a large mixing bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and baking soda together.  Add the eggs, carrots, and oil.  Mix on medium speed until combined.  I always use a stand mixer for all this, but a portable mixer works fine.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until they feel set and springy in the center. 
Cool the layers for around 5 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the pans, then invert them onto a rack to cool completely.
Frost with cream cheese frosting-- yummy!

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1, 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
light cream or milk
5-6 cups powdered sugar

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until combined and light.  Add the vanilla extract and beat in.  Add the powdered sugar and beat, adding cream or milk until you reach a spreadable consistency.  I like the frosting to be a little on the softer side because it looks even more billowy and scrumptious on the cake, but that's just a preference! 
Place one layer upside down on a nice, flat, plate.  Put a thick layer of icing on the top of the layer.  Put the other layer topside up on the frosted layer.  Put a thin layer of frosting on the sides and top of the cake.  It will not look very pretty.  Put the cake in the fridge for around 15 minutes to "set" the icing.  Doing this seals in the crumbs of the cake and enables you to frost the cake cleanly and easily.  After removing the cake from the fridge, put another thicker layer over the whole cake.  You can just swirl it around to make it look pretty or you can decorate it further.
If you want to make decorations, save out some of the icing ( just around a cup is usually plenty)before starting to frost the cake.  Use food coloring to obtain the colors you want and have fun!

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