Carrot Cake (The Best EVER)

30 Jul

Carrot Cake from heaven I cant tell you how much I love this cake. It looks like a huge effort but if you break it down into its component parts, and you start at least two days in advance, it’s a doddle.

The recipe for this cake comes from the Frog Commissary Cookbook – probably my favourite cookbook of all times. My first version was so battered, I could barely read the recipes anymore, but it didn’t matter – I had cooked the food so often, I kind of knew what needed to go in and where. Steven Poses totally innovated the Philadelphia food scene, and this cookbook really highlights easy, casual, scrumptious American cooking.

This carrot cake is something that once you make, every single person who has tasted it will ask you when you are making it again. You will become known for this cake, and you will be begged for the recipe. It will become your signature, and people will talk of you and the carrot cake together, in the same hushed awed tones. Its really that good!

As a breakfast after cooking a feast, it is a sublime cooks treat. It’s a pain to make in one go because there are so many steps, but easy enough if you cook the caramel stuffing and assemble the cream cheese frosting a day or two before hand. The cake can be baked the night before, and everything put together on the day. Seriously, this recipe will become something which will bring you fame, and depending on who you serve it to, may be even love! Heh.

We have the opportunity here to look at how our shopping choices affect the taste of our food. Its carrot cake. PLEASE buy organic carrots for this. It will make a world of difference. Get the slightly more expensive French butter if you can for the frosting – but you can use the cheaper butter for the caramel stuffing. If you are watching your budget, these things are important. Because the frosting is butter, cream cheese and vanilla, whipped together and uncooked, the actual flavour of the butter is very important. Because you cook the butter into the sugar for the caramel stuffing, the flavour gets muted and changes, and thus does not have so much responsibility.

I have made changes to the original recipe.  I hate nuts in dessert. I don’t know why, I just do. I love nuts but don’t mix them with chocolate or cake or brownies for me. They interfere with the original taste, and don’t do anything to add to it.

In this carrot cake, especially, I don’t like anything to interfere with its smooth unctuousness. There is something so luscious about how this cake feels in the mouth that nuts just interfere with the sensual experience for me.

I have taken out the pecans in the cake and the caramel stuffing – add in if you like nuts. Ugh.

I have also added mixed-spice as I like the low musky note it adds, and I have upped the cinnamon as I don’t think you can ever have enough cinnamon!

Serves 16 – 20

This cake is most easily made if you start it at least one day ahead, preferably two, since the caramel filling, for one thing, is best left to chill overnight, and the cake needs at least a day or so to firm up. The different components can be made even up to several days in advance and stored separately until you are ready to assemble the cake (as early as the night before you will serve it).

Caramel Stuffing

(This is the “stuffing” of the carrot cake – between the two layers of cake).

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I use a mix of white sugar, vanilla sugar and organic brown sugar – 1/2 a cup each)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I use the pouring cream you can buy in the long life milk cartons)
  • 6 ounces (3/4 cup) butter (I use salted – but you can use unsalted)
  • 2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract (or more – depending on your taste)
  • 1 tsp to 1 tbsp Maldon or Fleur de sel to sprinkle over the stuffing
  • OPTIONAL: 1 1/4 cups chopped pecans (I dont use nuts in this cake because I dont like cake with nuts, but feel free to add them if you like. You can use walnuts, or even dried coconut if you like).

In a very heavy saucepan, blend well the sugar(s), flour and salt.

Gradually stir in the cream. Make sure they are blended – the dry ingredients will slowly absorb the cream. Leave this for a few minutes to let the sugar really melt into the cream.

Chop up the butter and add to the saucepan.

Put the saucepan on low heat and stir as the butter melts. You will see the butter getting absorbed into the creamy mixture as it melts.

Once the butter is absorbed, stir in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla.

Simmer the mixture for 20 – 30 minutes (up to an hour depending on the heat), stirring occasionally. It will start to pop and sizzle. Make sure you stir so the bottom and sides of the pan get scraped down.

Once the caramel is golden brown to nut brown in colour (again, depending on your taste), and the mixture is thick, take off the heat and cool to lukewarm.

Add the remaining vanilla (I usually add at least another teaspoon because of how weak the vanilla is in Malaysia), and the nuts or coconut if you are using them (don’t!).

Let cool completely and refrigerate, preferably overnight. If its too thick to spread when you are ready to assemble the components, let it warm a little to spreading consistency. Just before spreading, sprinkle the Maldon or Fleur de sel over the caramel.

Any extra is SUPERB with vanilla ice cream as a topping.

Carrot Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups corn or other clear light vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar (I use a mixture of white and organic brown)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 -4  teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups grated carrots (about 1/2 kilo bag) – if you dont have enough carrots, you can add a few apples
  • 1 cup raisins
  • OPTIONAL 1 cup chopped pecans (see above re nuts in cake).

Preheat the oven to 175 C

Line the base of two 10 inch cake pans with baking paper, and grease well with butter

In a large bowl whisk together the corn oil and the sugars until the oil is absorbed into the sugar. Leave to let the mixture meld for a while.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, cinnamon, mixed spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a separate bowl.  Sift half of the dry ingredients over the sugar-oil mixture and blend.

Alternately sift in the rest of the dry ingredients while adding the eggs (lightly beaten), one by one.

Combine all well, and leave to sit for a bit while you grate the carrots.

Add the carrots, the raisins and (if you are using them) the pecans.

Pour mixture into prepared pans and bake for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

Cool upright in the pan on a cooling rack. Unmold the cake before you refrigerate it if you are not using the cake that day. Wrap it well in plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel.

I think this is best made at least 1 – 2 days in advance. Too fresh a cake makes it very difficult to cut – I used a very fresh cake at my last party, and after the first few slices, the cake was unfolding herself like a blowsy lady who had too much to drink at a party!

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 stick to 1 stick of butter (salted) – I usually use less butter than cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1-8 ounce package of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 200 – 500 g of powdered sugar (I usually use less, and add more to taste)
  • 1 – 3 teaspoons of vanilla

Using electric beaters, cream the butter well.

Add the cream cheese and beat until well blended.

Sift in the sugar and the vanilla.

Depending on the consistency of the frosting, leave in fridge for a few minutes (if too soft) or add a little sour cream or milk (if too stiff).

Assembly

Centre the cake on your serving plate.

Depending on your taste, use a serrated knife to cut the cake into 2 – 3 layers.

Spread the caramel filling between the layers of cake. You may have to use a spoon and just drop the thick caramel onto the layers.

Spread the frosting over the top and sides.

Refrigerate to let the cake hold itself together.

Serve cake at room temperature.

Variations

  • The assembled cake freezes very well
  • You can substitute apples or zucchini for the carrots
  • Batter can also be baked as cupcakes, loaves, sheet cakes

4 Responses to “Carrot Cake (The Best EVER)”

  1. Louise July 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    Drooling all over my keyboard!….:)

    • delectableblog July 30, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

      LoL so am I thinking of it! If you do make it, enjoy it with love 🙂 Wish I could send you a slice 😉

  2. Mariana July 30, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    I want a slice too. Love carrot cake. Want it.

    • delectableblog July 30, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

      I will make you a whole cake, Ana. We can have it for dinner AND breakfast 😉

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