Saturday, August 17, 2013

Carrots in my Cake, Yes Please!

Recently, I was in one of those moods where I wanted to bake something. While I enjoy cooking as well, it just doesn't provide the same type of gratification that comes from carefully measuring ingredients, mixing them together, and putting something in the oven. I understand that not everyone finds this gratifying. These baking moods also come along rather sporadically which is why there's rarely any consistency in my blog posts. Additionally, they're usually accompanied by a strong desire to try out a new recipe or a new book.

The other day, I happened to be flipping through Flour by Joanne Chang in one of these moods and came across this carrot cake. I'd been thinking about carrot cake for a while since my friend mentioned she likes carrot cake and my sister recently bought a carrot cupcake that I found quite dry and overly sugary.

On a side note, I didn't get the chance to give some cake to my friend, but I will be sure to do so in the near future.

Since I also had an abundance of carrots and pretty much all the ingredients except buttermilk, that was all the motivation I needed to promptly head out to the store and make these that day. You can make a buttermilk substitute yourself since this recipe doesn't require much of it, but for some reason, that thought never occurred to me that day though I've made buttermilk many times before.

I decided to make cupcakes rather than an actual cake so it could more easily be shared. I also left out the walnuts and raisins making them less classic, but despite that, they turned out wonderfully. They were one of the best tasting carrot cakes I've ever had and definitely the best one I've made in recent memory. It's not quite as dark or rich as other carrot cakes I've had, but it's spiced perfectly and the frosting is not too sweet unlike most bakeries. I would definitely recommend including the walnuts and raisins for those who prefer a more traditional carrot cake, but you can't go wrong either way.

Note: When measuring the sugar with a measuring cup, I found that I only had about 180 g of sugar in a packed cup, so that's what I used and it worked great. The original recipe calls for 220 g. Also be sure to leave your cream cheese and butter out for the amount of time it says as it makes a difference. If you've forgotten, warm up your cream cheese in the microwave for 30 seconds or over a double boiler.

Classic Carrot Cake
Recipe scarcely Adapted from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang
Makes one 8 inch 2-layer cake or 12 cupcakes

Carrot Cake
2 large eggs
1 cup (180 g) light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup (150 g) canola oil
3 tbsp. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbsp.(160 g) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt or 1/4 tsp fine salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups (260 g) packed shredded carrots
1/2 cup(80 g) raisins
1/2 cup (50 g) walnuts, toasted and chopped

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temp
12 ounces (340 g) cream cheese, at room temp for at least 4 hours
1 2/3 cups (230 g) powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Candied Carrot Strips(Optional)
1 carrot
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (180 g) water

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Prepare an 8 inch cake pan by lining with parchment, buttering, and flouring. If making cupcakes, line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for 3-4 minutes on medium high speed. It will take 8-10 minutes with a hand mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Add the mixture to the eggs and sugar slowly and mix on low speed.

In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet with a spatula. When the flour is almost all incorporated, fold in the shredded carrots, walnuts, and raisins. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 80 minutes for an 8 inch cake and about 45-50 minutes for cupcakes until the top is golden brown and the middle springs back when touched. Check with a cake tester. Let cool completely on a wire rack before removing.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment for a minute until smooth. Add the butter and beat for another minute. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and add the powdered sugar. Mix for another minute.

Refrigerate the frosting for 2-3 hours until it has firmed up for piping or spreading.

If making carrot strips for decoration, peel the carrot with a vegetable peeler and make lengthwise thin strips with the peeler. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil dissolving the sugar. Add the carrot strips and boil for 10 seconds. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool.

When ready to assemble, remove the cake from the pan and slice into two layers. Spread about half the frosting onto the bottom layer with an offset spatula, top with the top layer, and spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake as a crumb coat. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Then, spread the remaining frosting over the cake. If using, place carrot strips in spirals on top for decoration.

For cupcakes, remove them from the muffin tin and spread frosting on top with a small icing spatula or pipe the frosting on with a piping bag.

Store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and remove from the fridge a few hours before serving.

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