Blogging with purpose. I suppose that is why I signed up to the Tuesdays With Dorie group. Also, it forces you to not only enjoy the first blush and excitement of a new cookbook before it goes onto the shelf as a reference. My cookbooks tend to be bedside reading for some time. Then when I get the urge for something- or find an ingredient usually not available I can run with it as the recipe is stored somewhere in the memory.
So, my first challenge. I had initially planned to bake on the weekend. Then on Friday my husband brought home some carrot cake left over from an office morning tea. There is in fact only so much carrot cake that can be consumed at any one time so I did my baking on Monday. However, the carrot cake brought home (which was quite nice, a bit denser than Bills version and had a lemon and icing sugar gaze over its loaf shape) had walnuts in it.
My sons don’t like identifiable chunks of nuts. Patrick who is almost 2 also has a terrible habit of throwing at great force foodstuffs that displease him. He will also throw food once he is full. So, I get to sweep and mop my floors a couple of times a day. Given I did not wish to consume a 3 layer cake all by myself (or clean it up off the floor), I omitted the nuts. I did add in a few more sultanas though.
I was initially worried about the 3 layer thing, purely because I didn’t have 3 cake tin the exact same size. However the Shopping Gods smiled upon me and a local home wares store had silicone 22 cm round cake pans on sale (for $7.50 a piece. Bargain!) This was especially fortuitous as my mother in law had given 1 of the matching pans for Christmas. So 3 matching high was possible (without painful dividing up recipe math or carving one layer to match nonsense).
My gut feeling was to line the silicone pans with baking paper but then I threw caution to the wind and just used spray oil. Tactical error. Generally, I cut a few rounds out and store them in the pans (so I am good to go on bake day) but as these ones were new I hadn’t as yet. My cakes during un-moulding stuck just a bit to the base. No cracking but it was a bit touch and go with one of the layers. I ended up using an offset spatula to encourage the cheeky things out.
I iced the cake and although it was handsome it called out for something more. One of the advantages of living in the tropics is having a couple of coconut palms in your yard. (One of the disadvantages is having the clothes line underneath said palm, is living in fear of concussion while hanging out the laundry). Anyone who has taken a coconut down to the nut meat knows it is hard work. From one of our coconut working bees, I have some stored in the freezer. I used a veggie peeler to get ribbons and then popped it under the griller to toast it. I tried the blow torch but that was taking way too long and I had a disgruntled child hanging off my legs wanting my attention. You can see the potential for that to go very, very badly. I was really pleased with the effect and taste.
The height of the cake was another thing that surprised me (I know once should expect a 3 layer cake to have height). I have a cake stand with a glass cover but the cover was only designed with 2 layers in mind. Once photos were taken I had to put it in another cake container. It was a tricky as the heat here had the layers starting to slide around like a drunken sailor. I had a chance to use my new cake lifter. I am not sure without it if I could have transported the cake without tears without it. The coconut on top came in very handy as the tallest cake container I had was exactly the height of the cake. The coconut stopped the icing from sticking to the lid.
Now to the taste, the cake itself is wonderful. Really tender and moist, nice balance of spice. The icing I didn’t love as much. I remember reading a couple of years ago on Rose Levy Beranbaums blog that she didn’t use icings made with icing sugar as she found them gritty. I recall thinking “What nonsense, how could someone taste the icing sugar”. I have only made and eaten cooked sugar frostings for the last year, and heaven help me, I could feel the texture of the icing sugar.
I have become an icing snob.
The recipe including metric conversion and a couple of notes in italics follows
Bill’s Big Carrot Cake Recipe
From: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Yields 10 servings
For the cake:
2 cups or 260g all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (375g) (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater) I found I only needed 4 large carrots.
1 cup (115g) coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (75g) (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (80g) (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups (400g) sugar
1 cup (215g) canola oil
4 large eggs
For the frosting:
8 ounces (225g) cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) (110g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups(450g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
½ cup (40g) shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (or 160C). Butter three 9-x-2-inch (23cm x 5cm) round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.
To make the cake:
Whisk 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 a 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 the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans. each layer will weigh about 550g.
Bake for 40-50 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 unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.
To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a 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’d like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.
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 (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.
Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.
This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it’s good plain, it’s even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.
The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it’s firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.