I have a question to ask you. Before I get to that, I know you probably have a question for me. “Where did you get the stars on that cake?” And because I appreciate you (did I mention that in my 2011 recap? I do so appreciate you), I will answer your question first. I slipped those stars into a King Arthur Flour order that also included chocolate sprinkles and chocolate bars perfect for making petits pains au chocolat. It looks like the stars were a seasonal thing but you can buy the chocolate here. (And while you are on that site, I can’t recommend the silicon rolling mat highly enough. Whenever I teach a class and use it, people always ask about it. (I have no affiliation with King Arthur Flour, I just love them.)
On to my question. Cake or frosting? Yes, some people are both but in my experience, people identify with being one or the other. I am cake all the way. I remember being at birthday parties as a child and asking for a piece of the store-bought cake with the rose on it because that is what all the other kids did, tasting the rose, and then scraping all the frosting off so I could get to the (hopefully) chocolate cake underneath. Cake girl, right here. Frosting is too sweet, too buttery, just too much for me.
There are two exceptions. One is this cake where the frosting is so delicious, so ridiculously decadent, that I love it even more than the cake. (And I really love that moist chocolatey cake.) The other exception is carrot cake. I am, um, not a fan of carrot cake. Just not for me. I do like cream cheese frosting and so, in the case of carrot cake, I would scrape off the frosting and leave the cake.
Randy and I are different in many ways. I do believe it’s one of the reasons our marriage works. We have different strengths and weaknesses and we balance each other. One of his weaknesses is that his favorite cake is, you guessed it, carrot cake. (Kidding. Of course. Kind of.) I’ve made him carrot cupcakes and inside out carrot cake cookies, but never in all the years we have been together have I made him carrot cake. His birthday was on January 2nd and his parents, who gave me a cookbook with a lovely sounding carrot cake were in town, so it was time.
Most people who don’t like carrot cake don’t like the idea of a vegetable in a cake. I don’t like it because, while I like nuts, raisins, pineapple, and coconut – I don’t like them in cake and I certainly don’t like them all together in one cake as some recipes would have you make. The carrots are the least of my problems. So when I found a cake that featured none of those extras, just a lot of spices and even a bit of whole wheat flour along with the carrots, I knew I had my recipe. Of course, the frosting is great too. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of a slice of cake. I was serving this to a large group and had to cut very thin slices and I happen to think a thin slice of cake, while delicious, is a little sad looking. One more note, the children in the group were all clamoring for a second piece before they were half way done with their first – until they learned that it was, in fact, carrot cake – and then the table got very quiet.
One Year Ago: Herbed and Spiced Goat Cheese Balls
Two Years Ago: Petites Pissaladières
Three Years Ago: Poblano and Cheddar Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms
Adapted from Cake Ladies
Makes 1 9-inch 3-layer cake
My one quibble with this cake is that the actual cakes were on the flat side. I might one and a half the recipe for the batter next time so the cake it a little taller.
For the cake:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted better, at room temperature
1¾ cups sugar
¼ cup molasses
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole wheat flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. nutmeg
1½ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 cups grated carrots
Zest of 1 lemon
For the icing:
2 packages (1 pound) cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
5 cups powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray the bottom and sides of 3 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Place the pans on a sheet of parchment paper and trace three circles the same size as the bottoms of the pans. Cut out the circles and place in the bottom of the greased pans.
Make the Batter:
Cream the butter, sugar, and molasses together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. While beating the mixture on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat again until the mixture is smooth, light and creamy.
Stir the flours, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and spices together into a separate bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl sveral times. Mix lightly but thoroughly between each addition, until ingredients are just combined. Add the carrots and lemon zest, and stir by hand until combined.
Gently scrape the batter into the pans, dividing the batter evenly between the three pans. Place in the preheated oven, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the sides of the cake have pulled away from the sides of the pan. Allow the cakes to cool for 20 minutes, then run a thin knife around the edges of the cakes (a palette knife works best) to make sure they are not stuck to the pans. Carefully remove the layers from the pans and settle on a wire rack to finish cooling.
Make the icing:
Cream the cream cheese and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer on low speed. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy and no lumps of butter remain. Add and combine the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, blending on low speed until fully incorporated. Using the rubber spatula, scrape down the paddle, sides , and bottom of the bowl. Beat the mixture on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Assemble the cake:
When the layers are completely cool, invert the first layer onto a cake plate so that the parchment side is up. Carefully peel off the parchment and throw it away. Spread about 1 cup of the cream cheese icing on the top surface of the cake with an offset spatula, pushing the icing all the way to the edges. Place the second layer on top of the first and repeat the process – removing the parchment paper and spreadting the icing. Top with the third layer and apply a very thin coating of icing (a crumb coat) all over the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove and finishing covering the cake with the icing.
Carrot Cake can be kept covered at room temperature for up to three days and can be refrigerated for up to one week.