Solid Gold Carrot Cake
I am not, admittedly, the most devoted fan of cake. Oh, it’s not that I don’t enjoy it — but in order for me to choose a big chubby slice of cake over another dessert like ice cream, anything smooth and creamy, chunky cookies, etc — it has to be a darn good cake.
Maybe my high standards are due to the fact that my mother used to make fabulous birthday cakes for me when I was young: she made some pretty creative ones, and her homemade chocolate frosting is still the best I’ve ever tasted.
Maybe it comes from the years in college where, by some strange coincidence, most of the people I was friends with had birthdays all within a month of each other. For reasons mostly of time and lack of kitchen resources, we used to “surprise” each other with a store-bought cake (yes, from the same store and yes, usually the same kind) rather than bake one. Granted, it wasn’t the worst store-bought cake I’ve ever tasted, but it still had that dry, cardboard-y texture and greasy frosting. Eat six or seven of those cakes within a few weeks of each other and let me tell you, you will dread the next “surprise” birthday celebration. (I say “surprise” in quotes because after the second or third cake, everyone pretty much knew what was coming when it was their birthday.)
Or, maybe, it’s because I know that since it will probably be just B and I eating the cake, it will be around for a few days — and lover of desserts though I am, I can pass up one that’s just mediocre rather than eating it night after night.
(This last point I actually found a solution to last year: I bake our cakes using two 5×2-inch cake pans, instead of the standard 9-inch pans. All I need to do is half the recipe proportions and I get the perfect amount for my little pans. What results is a cute petite cake, perfect for two people, and you won’t be eating it for a week.)
All of this is to say that if I’m posting a cake recipe, you can be sure it’s a darn good one! This recipe is for Solid Gold Carrot Cake, from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle. It’s a super-moist, nicely spicy cake studded throughout with raisins and walnuts, and I frosted it with a lemony cream cheese frosting from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours. The cake has some orange zest in it, which brightens it up and tastes great with the hint of lemon in the frosting. And speaking of frosting…rather than icing the cake completely, I opted to just sandwich a good amount of frosting between each cake layer — so it squidges gently out the sides, to pretty effect. As you can see, I got carried away with layers! All the better to eat more frosting with, which was, I admit, my goal.
The end result: solid gold, as the name says.
Solid Gold Carrot Cake (makes enough for two 9-inch cake pans; half the recipe for two 5-inch cake pans)
Adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup neutral vegetable oil (such as canola or safflower)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp good vanilla extract
1 tbsp grated orange zest
3 cups firmly packed shredded carrots
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup raisins, dark or golden (or a mix)
Preheat the oven to 350.
Grease the bottom and sides of your cake pans, and line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper (to get the right size, place the bottom of a cake pan on the parchment, and trace around it to get a circle. Cut with scissors to get your rounds.) Butter the parchment, then dust the cake pans all over inside with flour and tap out the excess.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.
In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the oil, melted butter, milk, vanilla, and orange zest, and mix until blended (you’ll need to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.) Add the flour mixture in three additions, mixing on low speed until just blended after each addition. Add the carrots, walnuts, and raisins and continue mixing just until all the ingredients are blended.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cook the cakes in their pans for 15 minutes, then turn them out of the pans and cool on a rack completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting
From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.
8 oz cream cheese (full fat), at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
In the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice.
Assembling the Cake:
Using a serrated knife, cut the cake layers in half (if you’re doing this step — otherwise, just leave them as is for a traditional two-layer cake.) Place the first cake layer, bottom side up, on a plate protected by strips of parchment (you’ll remove the parchment strips when you’re done frosting the cake; it keeps the plate clean from any drips.) Spoon a good dollop of the frosting onto this layer, and use a knife or an icing spatula to spread the frosting out to the edge (but not over.) Repeat this with your remaining layers, finishing with icing the top of the cake. The frosting will squeeze out over the sides a bit, and that’s just fine. Garnish the top with toasted chopped walnuts if you like.