Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Carrot Cake for Easter

A trip to Kroger last week sent me into an Easter frenzy. It all started when I went to the store to buy just a few things for dinner, and couldn't find anything. In one week, they had moved everything in the store to a different place. A shopping trip that should have taken twenty minutes took nearly an hour of in-store browsing.

One look into my basket at check-out showed why grocery stores periodically switch everything around and have us running like mice in a maze trying to find the items on our list. I came home with the cutest flower shaped cupcake wrappers (and no intention of making cupcakes), little plastic eggcups and saucers, a set of appetizer sized plates, and soft baking silicon moulds that make Easter egg and bunny shaped muffins.

Let the Easter baking begin!

I've also been obsessing about carrot cake. The thought process went something like this: spring, new growth, plants and animals regenerating, bunnies, carrots, carrot cake. Maybe not a direct line, but that was my inspiration. Plus, it's Doug's favorite cake. I have a theory--most men love carrot cake, but I think it's really the cream cheese icing they love. I caught Doug finishing off the icing left on the beaters and in the mixing bowl. Not one to often indulge in sweets, I'm pretty sure it's the icing and not the cake that tempts him.

First I made a three layer cake using an old recipe, but it didn't seem moist enough. Back to the drawing board. I added a couple of things that would surely add more moisture and changed a few quantities.

Next up, twelve carrot cake cupcakes, two bunnies, twelve Easter eggs and a single layer cake all from one recipe, and all nice and moist. I've had lots of multi-shaped carrot cake items to share with friends.

Now, here's the funny thing: my panel of judges was split. The guys liked the first cake, and the girls liked the second recipe. I still think it's all that cream cheese icing served up with the three layers of cake!

Recipe #1 (used for the three layer cake)

adapted from:

Hummingbird Bakery Carrot Cake

300g soft light brown sugar
(1 ½ cup)

3 eggs

300ml sunflower oil
(1 ¼ cup)

300g plain flour
 (3 cups)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
(baking soda)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp vanilla extract

300g carrots, grated (about six medium carrots) 3 ½ to 4 cups

Zest of half an orange

50g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus extra to decorate (a little less than ½ cup)

50g pecans, chopped, plus extra to decorate (a little less than ½ cup)

For the icing

600g icing sugar (4 ½ cups)

100g butter, at room temperature (1 stick

250g cream cheese, cold (9 ounces)

pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 170C (340°F). Prepare 3 x 20cm (8 inch) cake tins with loose bottoms by greasing then lining the bottoms with greaseproof paper.

Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed (don’t worry if it looks slightly split). Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, orange zest and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed.

Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts by hand. Pour into the prepared cake tins and smooth over. Bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes (mine took 30 minutes, which seems to be the feedback from other cooks, too), or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment again until well mixed. Add the cream cheese, then beat again until well mixed. Turn the speed to high and continue to beat until light and fluffy but stop when you reach this point; if you over beat it the mixture will turn runny.

When the cakes are cold, spread about one-quarter of the cream cheese icing over it with a palette knife (I used less). Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the icing over it (again, I used less). Top with the last cake and spread the remaining icing over the top and sides. Decorate with walnuts around the edges and chopped pecans on top.

Recipe #2 (used for the cupcakes, eggs and bunnies)

Spring Carrot Cake

(This recipe is an adaptation from the Food Network Collaborating Chefs' recipe.)

Notes: if you have nut allergies in your family, substitute one cup golden raisins.

Taste your carrots. You want sweet, fresh carrots.

I used sunflower oil, but any vegetable oil will be fine.


three-fourths cup vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)

one and one-half cups sugar

one-half cup packed light brown sugar

2 tsp. Vanilla

one-half cup orange marmalade

4 eggs, room temperature

3-4 cups grated carrots, 6-8 regular sized carrots

3 cups all purpose flour

one and one-half teaspoons baking powder

one-half teaspoon baking soda

one-half teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

one-half teaspoon powdered ginger

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1 cup salted sunflower seeds, optional

Preheat oven to 350°.

Prepare three nine inch cake pans by greasing and then adding parchment paper to the bottoms.

Mix the oil, both sugars, vanilla and marmalade until well combined. Add one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition. Now add the grated carrots, stirring until combined.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger together into a separate bowl.

Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk to the oil-sugar-egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Don't over-mix.

Fold in nuts.

Pour equal amounts into the prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until cake springs back in the middle and tester comes out clean. Allow cakes to completely cool in pans.

If making cupcakes, or using the silicone egg and bunny molds, I only decreased the cooking time one minute to 24 minutes. Just watch beginning at about 20 minutes.

Cream Cheese Icing

2 x 8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 stick butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 lb. box confectioners' sugar, plus about a cup more

Beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla and lemon juice. Add confectioners' sugar a little at a time until well incorporated, light and fluffy and right spreading consistency.

Spread icing between layers, then use remainder to ice sides and top of cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.