Sunday, September 13, 2009

The best way for carrots to be eaten

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Let's talk about carrot cakes. First, contrary to some opinions, carrot cake usually isn't all that healthy. Yeah, it has carrots but it also traditionally has oil and that's why they're so moist and good. But with a really good carrot cake, you won't care that it's not good for you. Second, what constitutes a good carrot cake? To me, it has to be simple - made just with carrots. No nuts, no raisins, no pineapple, no apples, or anything else someone randomly thought up to ruin a good carrot cake. STOP after adding carrots. Don't overspice it either. Cinnamon. That's it. Third, carrot cake must be frosted with cream cheese frosting only. That's the rule. If you don't believe me, try a really good carrot cake made just with carrots, spiced only with a little cinnamon and frosted with cream cheese frosting. It's the best. I always lament that it doesn't count as a vegetable. Once you start adding all those extraneous ingredients, you've lost the essence of carrot cake.

My favorite carrot cake recipe - actually, I haven't tried many because I was fortunate enough to discover this one early on and why mess with perfection? - is from Jim Fobel's Old-Fashioned Baking Book. Normally I don't like recipe books that don't have pictures but this recipe was worth it with the accompanying cream cheese frosting recipe too.
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup vegetable oil
5 large eggs
3 cups coarsely shredded, peeled raw carrots (6 medium)
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 13 x 9” baking pan.
2. In a medium-sized bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a large bowl combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar and butter; beat with an electric mixer until evenly blended. Beat in the oil until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then beat until thick and light, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and beat just until blended. With a spoon, stir in the shredded carrots and chopped walnuts; the batter will be thick. Turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack. When completely cool, generously frost, making swirls over the top. Cover and refrigerate. The frosting will set. To serve, return to room temperature and cut into squares.

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