Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Sugar Cookies

Last year, I took Easter off.  The thought of hosting a large group of people at my house while I prepped all week, then cleaned up after all the company, was just not in the cards since my little G was only about 6 weeks old.  This year, I was much more able to handle it all--including making 2 desserts.

From the first Easter I spent with my husbands family, I made carrot cake.  It just seemed like the right thing to do.  The last few years I've strayed from carrot cake and made a Key Lime Tart, which is equally as delicious, however my husband just isn't a huge fan of citrus desserts.  I decided to bring the carrot cake back into the Easter routine (as well as banana cream pie--you will see that on a future post this week).

I've always made the Better Homes and Gardens carrot cake, ever since I FIRST started baking.   In fact, it was one of the first cakes I made for my husband when we first started dating, 7 years ago.  I just wanted to try something new this time to see what was out there.  I've been pulling out my Joy of Cooking book a lot lately and decided I would give their version a try.  I had to change a few things, but overall--the cake got rave reviews.

It's funny.  When you pull out desserts, people get excited.  I think everyone gets excited for food in general, but there is just something about dessert.  When I set the cake on the table, it got a lot of 'oooh's and ahhh's' but when I said, "It's carrot cake", every man at that table said, "OH!  I want a piece of that!" What is it with men and carrot cake?

Overall, I would make this cake again.  It was extremely moist.  When I say, extremely, it was to the point the night before, when I pulled it out of the plastic wrap I stored it in,  that I pushed on the cake and  it seemed somewhat of a wet sponge.  I panicked.  I thought, did I bake it long enough?  I knew that I surely did.  While assembling the cake, I had to level it off a bit and while tasting the pieces of the crumbs I determined that it was just moist.  Really moist.  I omitted the walnuts (I am not a huge fan of nuts in my cake and I have several allergic family and friends with nut/walnut allergies which meant less sharing opportunity), I also omitted the raisins and pineapple.   I think, had I added them, the cake may not have been so overly moist and the layers may have been a lot higher.

This recipe makes 2, 8-inch round cake layers, each about 1-inch in height.  If I made this cake again, I would double the recipe to be able to slice each layer in half to make this a 4 layer cake.

I paired this with Georgetown cupcakes, "Vanilla Buttercream" recipe, which is really cream cheese frosting.

Carrot Cake
Adapted from "Joy of Cooking"

Sift and whisk together in a large bowl:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk together in another large bowl:
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir in:
2 cups carrots
(you could also add 1 cup walnuts, 1 cup raisins, and 1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple drained if you wish, just reduce carrots to 1.5 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two 8-inch round pans with parchment paper.  Spray with cooking spray, then coat each pan with flour and tap out the excess.  Set cake pans on a large baking sheet.

Whisk flour mixture, then add it to the oil/egg mixture slowly.  Fold in carrots (this is where you would add any nuts/raisins etc) and mix until just combined.  Divide equally into the pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes.  I pulled mine out at 25 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting, (double this recipe), click here.

For my Cream Cheese Frosting Variation:

Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Georgetown Cupcake
Yield: Enough to generously frost 1, 8-inch layer cake

3/4 cup butter, room temp
12 oz cream cheese, must be room temp (or else you risk curdling your frosting)
2 lb (8 cups) confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Mix all together until fully combined and fluffy.

For the sugar cookie recipe, click here!
Level cake layers.  Wrap cooled layers in plastic wrap.  Put in freezer for 30 minutes or up to a day (you could do it longer but you compromise the fresh flavor).  Flip 1-layer and place bottom side up.  Frost the top with desired amount of frosting.  Place other layer on top.  Bottom side up.  Frost remainder of cake.  You can pop this in the freezer for 10-minutes in between frosting the layers to firm up the middle.  To place the cookies against the cake, pipe a tablespoon of frosting on the back of the cookie to make it stick.

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