I don’t tend to bake cakes often, mainly because a cake generally has a large yield and is more of a celebratory dessert than something you would make just to have on hand. So, because one: I have a small family who already has trouble consuming everything I make, and two: birthdays, parties, and cake-occasions don’t arise too often, my opportunity to make cakes is limited.
So, when this opportunity does arise, I take out my bucket list of cakes and attempt to select one out of the ample, tempting choices.
Believe it or not, I insisted upon making my own birthday cake this year (which was actually towards the beginning of the year…) because of this very reason. Although this made my mom a bit sad since she’s always made my birthday cakes in the past, I explained my reasoning and she agreed.
I narrowed my cake bucket list down to three options and then finally settled on carrot cake. A spiced, moist cake that warmed your palette and soul in the wintery season. Except then I had to select one of the several carrot cake recipes I have been wanting to try. There was the one from the Flour Bakery cookbook, the typically flawless Baking Illustrated recipe, the healthy cookinglight recipe, and the bundt cake book recipe, which I think was the one I made once for my mom’s co-worker’s birthday and was so delectably delicious, but wasn’t positive and also had that urge to try something new.
I was almost positive I would choose the Flour recipe because of its bursting with carrots and super moist description, but then I realized the recipe only made an 8-inch round cake– which would be then cut in half to make two layers. However, despite the small dimensions, this cake contained very similar amounts of oil and even more carrots as the other recipes, which yielded much larger cakes.
So, I changed my mind at last minute to making the Baking Illustrated recipe, which had a just as promising description and their typical commentary describing how they figured out the perfect carrot cake formula.
I always have a hard time knowing when cakes are done because of their large surface area. My oven has also been a bit unreliable lately and seems to have an abnormally uneven distribution of heat. Sometimes with cakes, this results in the middle of the cake sinking a little after ten or so minutes of cooling. Because of this uncertainty, I was a bit nervous about how the cake’s consistency and texture would turn out, but unfortunately, I couldn’t taste it until we cut into it with everyone else later that night.
However, even though the cake was a bit sunken in the middle (which could be hidden by the frosting on top), this cake was absolutely delicious! Very moist, but not dense with lots of carrots and a spiced flavor, which made for a sweet end to my birthday!
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: one 9 x 13 inch cake, 10-12 servings
Ingredients for Cake:
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
scant 1/2 tsp salt
1 pound carrots (11 to 12 medium small carrots), peeled
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 oz) light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of pan with parchment paper and spray parchment.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.
3. In a food processor fitted with the large shredding disk, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); mix in carrots with dry ingredients and set aside.
4. Wipe out food processor and switch to a metal blade. Process both sugars with eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. With the machine running, add oil through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process until mixture is light in color and well combined, about 20 more seconds.
5. Scrape mixture into a large bowl; then stir in carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pan.
6. Bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan from back to front half way through baking time. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours.
Cream Cheese Frosting
3 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, chilled
1/2 TBP sour cream
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1. Beat together cream cheese, sour cream, butter, vanilla, and salt. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until well combined and to desired consistency and sweetness. (Feel free to add more powdered sugar, if you like a thinner, sweeter frosting.)
2. Invert cake onto wire rack and peel off parchment. Then invert on a serving platter. Using an offset spatula, spread frosting evenly over surface of the cake.
Adapted from Baking Illustrated