I'm a big believer in homemade birthday cakes. Unfortunately that doesn't always translate into the time to make them for my friends. When it does I have my usual concerns about making a cake that isn't pretty enough. Certainly no one is going to pay me for my decorating skills. But if I don't over-extend myself on the decorating I can produce an acceptable cake exterior.
Once you start slicing, the pretty doesn't matter anymore, but the flavor and texture of the cake matter with every forkful. This carrot cake was wonderful, flavorful, tender, and just sweet enough. Cream cheese frosting is a natural with carrot cake, and this one is just right. The recipe comes from BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher, who you might recognize as the cheerful food scientist who makes appearances on Good Eats. Corriher uses the science of food to come up with recipes that work perfectly. It's a big book, and I haven't tried all of her recipes (not even close) but I do recommend the book, if only for this carrot cake and the Golden Cake made with the dissolved sugar method. You may never be willing to eat grocery store bakery cake again.
Corriher recommends pulsing the carrots in a food processor until they are very finely chopped. If I had a food processor I would definitely take that route. Finely grating carrots take a long time. I had to make a couple of adjustments to the printed recipe mostly to leave out the toasted nuts due to allergies. Below is the recipe as I made it. If you love nuts in your carrot cake, check out the book for the real recipe.
photo by vcheeseman
Golden, Moist Carrot Cake
adapted from BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher
For the Cake:
Non-stick cooking spray
2 ½ cups (291 g) self-rising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 Tablespoon grated orange zest
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 cups (437 g) light brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups (329g) finely grated carrots, about 6 carrots
Arrange a shelf in the lower third of the oven, place a baking stone on it, and preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
Spray two 8”x2” round cake pans with non-stick spray and line with a parchment circle. Lightly spray the top of the parchment. (I used 9 inch pans because I don't have 8” pans. That made the very thin layers you see above. Next time I'll get 8” pans.)
Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine.
In another bowl, stir together the whole eggs, egg yolks, and brown sugar. Stir in the oil, and vanilla. Make a hole in the center of the flour mixture and stir in the egg mixture a little at a time by hand. Stir in the carrots.
Pour the batter into the two pans, pouring back and forth as necessary to divide them evenly. Drop the pans, one at a time, onto the counter from a height of about 4 inches to remove any large air bubbles.
Place both pans in the oven on the stone. Bake about 30-35 minutes, until the center springs back when touched lightly (or the internal temperature reaches 209 Fahrenheit.)
Cool layers on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the layers onto cooling racks sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. When completely cool, divide each layer in half horizontally to create 4 layers.
For the cream cheese frosting:
½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 2-Tablespoon pieces
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
4 cups (16 ounces) confectioners sugar (I used slightly less.)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until soft. Add the cream cheese and beat until blended and smooth. Blend in the sugar, and vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To frost a four layer cake, divide the frosting in half, and then divide one half in thirds. Use the thirds between the layers, and then half the frosting for the top and sides.