Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Carrot Cake (part 1)

Well, I think I found "my" carrot cake recipe. Chances are it's the same one your mom uses. And your aunt. And possibly you. I put out a call for carrot cake recipes and was astonished by how much they are all pretty much the same. Except the ones that call for coconut. Or pineapple. I rejected those ones because Thing 2 doesn't like coconut and mr. doesn't like pineapple. And I wanted an unadulterated, pure carrot cake. That said, shoutouts go to the inimitable Teresa Sanderson and to Melody Downey (who has never met me, but was willing to relinquish her carrot cake recipe at her daughter, my friend's, request). And to Alton Brown. And to Zoë of Zoë Bakes. More on that...

Thing is, I'm not ready to call this one yet. Not ready to give you a recipe. I have more experimentation to do. Because, as you can see, my cake slid. Started out like this:

Ended up like this:

Of course, it didn't help that I had to transport this cake. Or that in order to transport it I had to move it onto a large plate from the cake stand I originally put it on. Now, the question is, is this because carrot cake is just too heavy to stack 4 layers tall? Can't be. I've seen plenty of carrot layer cakes. Or is it because my frosting wasn't thick enough? Because I didn't allow the frosting to refrigerate long enough? Is there a very good reason why carrot cake is most frequently seen in 13x9 shape? I want a carrot LAYER cake! I'll make it fit! And in the process, I will make some adjustments and most likely incorporate ideas from a few other recipes.

I did learn a couple of things that I need to remember for the next trial, which probably won't be too long from now.
  • Zoe of Zoe Bakes had a brilliant idea (link above) to shred the carrots and then put them through the food processor. I don't like the idea of stringy carrots in cake, so I did this. And it worked perfectly.

  • Refrigerating cream cheese icing goes a long way towards making it stiff enough to frost rather know...plop...and slide.

  • In his Devil of a Cake episode, Alton Brown made a Red Velvet Cake (link above) and talked about why it is that two cakes well-known to be Southern staples, Red Velvet and Carrot Cake both traditionally have cream cheese frosting. Thing is, buttercream doesn't hold up well at room temperature in those hot (and slide-y) Southern temperatures. But the addition of cream cheese makes the frosting more stable. Fascinating, right?!
  • Toasted walnuts are delicious with Carrot Cake. But I prefer them on the outside, not the inside.

  • And also--a mystery...the outside of the layers was pretty crunchy, the way banana bread gets. Is it from the sugars in the carrots? Is there a way to prevent this happening? Ideas?
TGIP Rating--Carrot Cake--Delicious tasting. I mean, really delicious. The cake was good enough to say that it's not just a vehicle for the frosting, which was the goal. I just need to tweak some things. And the cake is good enough that, honestly, experimenting isn't a problem.

Next up: Another stab at Carrot Cake? This week's BAKED Sunday Mornings recipe? A pie using my new leaf lard from Prairie Pride Farms? Grasshopper Pie with a Thin Mint cookie crust? I can't decide!

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