Saturday, April 12, 2008

Carrot Cake

Popular dishes seem to come in waves. One person will blog about a dish and next thing you know you're seeing the same dish on several blogs. This is essentially how I came to make carrot cake.

First I saw a recipe on Jaime at Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats's post, then I saw Emiline's recipe, more recently I saw Amber's post and just the other day, I was looking through my new Dorie Greenspan book and saw her recipe for "Bill's Big Carrot Cake", which Brilynn made a couple of months ago.

So many options! I ended up going with Emiline's recipe. Jaime, yours was very tempting, but I was having trouble finding the proper coconut flakes.


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
3 cups grated carrot (peeled)
1 cup finely chopped pineapple
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted (I excluded this, I generally don't put nuts in my baked goods)

12 ounces (1&1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (8-inch) cake pans, using your preferred method.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together butter, oil, brown sugar, and granulated sugar, until creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Beat in vanilla, and one egg at a time, until well combined. Reduce mixer speed to low, and beat in flour mixture, alternating with the milk, until combined, about 1-2 minutes (always remember to scrape down the sides of your bowl). Stir in carrot, pineapple, and pecans, using a rubber spatula, until well combined. I also added raisins (about 3/4 cup)

Scrape batter evenly into prepared cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees F, for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown, and cake springs back when pressed gently, in the center. Cool pans on a wire rack, for 10 minutes. Run a knife around outer edges, and invert cakes onto waxed/parchment paper, to cool completely.

Unfortunately, my raisins stuck to the pans and for one of the three cakes and created problems:

But after icing the cake, you couldn't tell.

To make the frosting, beat together cream cheese, and butter, in a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, until creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Beat in vanilla, and sift in confectioners' sugar, gradually, until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes (remember to scrape down the sides of your bowl).

Frost as desired.

Clearly, my cake decoration skills are non-existent. I also didn't do a great job of judging the amount of frosting I had. I was worried that I wouldn't have enough frosting left over at the end, so I was very conservative when frosting each layer. In the end, I shouldn't have been because there was a lot of frosting on the outside and not much between the layers.

Yield: 12 servings

I intended to participate in Sunita's Think Spice...Think Star Anise event. But, alas, I couldn't get my stuff together in time for that. But, I am very happy to submit this post to this months event Think Spice...Think Cloves.

Verdict: The cake was moist and very good. The cloves, along with the cinnamon, filled my apartment with a great scent and added a nice depth the the flavour of the cake. Next time, I'll probably cut down on the amount of icing I use. That, or find an icing that doesn't use cream cheese. But, even with too much icing, it was very good. One problem...who wants to do the dishes? One...two...three...Not it!


I have some questions for you guys.

I want to purchase a good knife. If you have the time can you answer the following questions:

1. What knife do you use most often?
2. I'm thinking about getting a chef's knife. How long of a blade should it have?
3. What's the difference between a chef's knife and and a Santuko?
4. I was looking at the Wusthof, Henkel and Mac knives. Do you use any of these ones? Or, do you recommend one of these brands or a completely different brand of knife?
5. Is there anything else I should consider?


Lastly, I wanted to remind you that the Tried, Tested and True deadline is the end of the day Monday.



Maryann said...

One of my favorite cakes! I think what I truly love is the frosting ;)

giz said...

Hey!!! I'm impressed - not that I didn't think you could do it - that you saved a potential cake disaster and made it look like nothing ever happened to it. Good job. You can be the official family carrot cake efficionado.

Elly said...

Mmm I have been eyeing this recipe in all the blogs, too. I love carrot cake. Yours looks great!

As for your knife questions...
1. I use a chef's knife nearly every day.
2. Mine is 7" which is great for me but I definitely recommend actually going to a store and trying out the knives. You want one that feels good in your hand, a blade lenth you feel comfortable with, etc.
3. It's really more a matter of preference. I personally think the chef's knife is a little more all-purpose but both will do a good job for almost everything. When I went to a knife skills class, the instructor told me that it's really whichever one you feel more comfortable with, though he felt santoku to be better for more chopping and smaller meat cutting, chef's for larger jobs.
4. I use Wusthof and love them. The two I use most often are the chef's and utility. I bought a few open stock knives rather than a set. I have heard nothing but good things about Shun, too.

Lore said...

I have never tried a carrot cake but since I'm not fond of plain raw carrots I have to come up with different ways of using it and getting those vitamins and minerals. This cake could be a problem solver :)

Peter M said...

I don't tire of viewing or commenting on all the carrot cakes I see of late, it's one of the best cakes with that cream cheese icing.

As for knives, get something middle of the road as you're not going to be in a kitchen all day like a chef cutting, slicing, chopping etc.

Try different knives in your hand, gt a feel for what's right for you.

Finally, no matter how good the knife's quality is, proper care and sharpening are imperative. Oh, not that size matters but I have an 8 incher Henckel(knife silly).

Bellini Valli said...

I have always been a huge fan of carrot cake with cream cheese icing Psych. There are so many different versions and they all just so darn good. Mine calls for applesauce as well so that I use less hips thank me:D

Kate said...

Please don't be offended if I mention that I laughed ALL the way through this post. Not only does it seem like certain recipes go in waves, but also the need to document mishaps!

As for knives - I have Henkels, and a Wusthof carving set. I love my Henkles, but I feel the Wusthof cuts better - of course, that could be because its not used as often.

Here's the knives I really want, but can't justify since I already have a nice set (I've heard some really good things about Shun):

Kevin said...

I never tire of seeing carrot cake recipes! It is one of my favorite desserts and trying a new recipe is a perfect excuse to make another carrot cake. :) Your looks and sounds good!

Emiline said...

Yay! You made it! I'm so happy. I hope it was a good recipe for you. I get nervous sometimes.
It really does make a huge mess, doesn't it? Ohhh. I feel for you.

I use a santuko. I think the only thing that makes it different, is the shape. Think about the size of your hands when you're buying a knife. I have small hands, so I prefer smaller knives. Then I don't feel so clumsy.

marye said...

Fantastic cake! You have to love a cake that stays that moist for that long!

noble pig said...

I use an 8 inch chef's knife most often-Chicago Cutlery.

Elle said...

I use a santoku for everything, except filleting, for that I use a fillet knife. My santoku is a KitchenAid that I picked up at Target for $20. It's stainless and all one piece. I love it! It's a good way to try one out to see if you like it.

The cake looks fantastic, and really moist!

Psychgrad said...

maryann - the frosting is quite rich.

giz - know...I'm amazing.

elly - Thanks for all of the knife advice! I am leaning toward a santoku but I think I'll need to just got to a knife store and hold a bunch of knives.

lore - I'm not sure how much of a carrot's nutrients is maintained after cooking it in a cake, but this could be a great solution.

Peter - that what you're calling it these days? I don't know...8 inches may be a bit to0 big for me. I'll have to try holding both the 7 and 8 inch ones.

bellini valli - apple sauce sounds like a good alternative. I'll have to look through your archives to find this recipe (if it's posted).

Kate - Giz has Hanckels. I find them to be a bit heavy. Maybe it's just Giz's set though.

Thanks for the head's up about Shun knives.

Kevin - thanks. I give full credit for any success to Emiline. It's her recipe.

Emiline - thanks for the great recipe! I'm tempted to make at least half of the things you post.

I would say my hands are about average side but I do like the santoku blade shape.

marye - it was great...and keeping it in the fridge didn't dry it out much.

noble pig - Chicago cultery. I'll have to go look that up.

elle - good point. The knife set I have now is a cheapy set and all of the knives have serrated edges, so I can't even sharpen them.

giz said...

Psychgrad - Henckels makes a variety of knives. The Henckel Santoku that I have is lightweight and my favourite knife. I also have a set of the Henckel 5 Star and although I know they're a professional quality knife (which I really don't need), I find the chef's knife heavy and hard to work with. The rest of the set is exceptional.

I do agree with the comment about making sure you keep them sharp - there's nothing worse than a dull knife.

Also, if you can find a local class that features "knife skills", you'd enjoy it.

RecipeGirl said...

I love carrot cake- can you taste the pineapple much in the cake? I don't know if I like that ingredient in my carrot cake!

Sorry I know nothing about knives.

I have an entry that I'll be emailing you sometime today...

Psychgrad said...

recipe girl - no, I couldn't taste the pineapple. But I suspect that it helps with the moistness. I like pineapple, so I wouldn't find any taste of it to be offending in this dish. I've also seen other carrot cake recipes with pineapple - so it may be a commonly used item to ensure moistness.

Looking forward to your submission!

Vicarious Foodie said...

I love carrot cake! I recently tried to make carrot loaf. I took it out of the oven, let it cool, turned it out and discovered that it was still mush in the center. I threw a hissy fit and haven't tried again since. But now I feel like I might need to give it another go.

I was given the Rachael Ray knife as a gift and I use it constantly. You don't need anything fancy, but I highly recommend getting a chef's knife. It makes chopping so much easier.

Núria said...

This cake has to be soooooo flavourful Psychgrad... que nice!!! Good job :D
Don't count on me for the dishes
;-) I hate that part!
Concerning the knife... Heather from Gild the voodoolily had a post once on a great beautiful sharp knife... maybe you could ask her :D

Rosie said...

One of ny favourite cakes of all time a carrot cake and this looks so good :) Just love the icing -yum!

Rosie x

Zen Chef said...

I would gladly do your dishes for a piece of cake! Call me next time, okay? Hehe

For the knives, I agree with Peter M. You should hold them and see how they feel in your hand. You'll also get a feel for what blade length you should get. It's a bit like trying on new shoes, comfort comes first. All the brands you mentioned are very good of course but I mostly work with Japanese knives. I think Japanese blades keep a better edge than German ones. That's just my grain of salt. Hehe.

eatme_delicious said...

Mmm the carrot cake looks delicious! I'm always scared of running out of icing too so I end up with a really thick layer of icing on the top!

Jaime said...

you still need to try the pastry queen recipe!! it is to die for...i've received several comments from those who tried it and loved it :) i will be making dorie's carrot cake recipe next week for TWD so i'll post about how it compares to the pastry queen recipe.

oh and i always do the same thing - i worry there won't be enough frosting for the outside so i go light on the inside and have too much on the outside (see my "she ain't too heavy chocolate cake")...or i remember this the next time i make cake and then i frost the layers and then run out of frosting for the outside...but hey, we're not cake decorators - at least it still tastes great :)

Gretchen Noelle said...

Thanks so much for your participation in Think Spice. I enjoy a good carrot cake and this one looks delicious!