My favorite foolproof carrot cake recipe

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Because there are two types of people in this world, carrot cake lovers and carrot cake lovers.

Thank heavens for cake, that’s all I can say. Whether tall and fancy or squat and humble, or anywhere in-between, cake is a little miracle that does the soul good. And, of course, it’s delicious. While I know that many people are concerned about their sugar consumption, and rightly so, I keep a little room in my life for cake. Not often, but enough to remind myself that 1) I am not an ascetic and 2) life is short and cake is good.

All of that said, even when indulging in moderation, I don’t really want to be feeding my family and myself junk cake … which is where carrot cake comes in. Not only is just so ridiculously delicious, but it has carrots! Any dessert recipe that sneaks in fruits and vegetables gets a gold star in my book.

This recipe is an adaptation from one created by Southern Living. The canned pineapple secret ingredient, I am pretty sure, is the key to its super-moist texture. The carrot cake recipe in my tattered The Joy Of Cooking (my first go-to carrot cake recipe) also included pineapple. It is not detectable in the final cake, just so you know.

The last time I made this I used 8-inch pans (because I like tall, very wonky cakes, as you can see in the photos) and had leftover batter, so I made some extra cupcakes as well. I sliced them into layers and stamped them with a cookie cutter to make mini naked cakes. They are also wonky; I love wonky. I packaged them and gave them to friends.

Carrot cake© Melissa Breyer
Carrot cake© Melissa Breyer

Carrot cake

2 cups all-purpose flour (or a mix of all-purpose and white whole-wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs (see notes for vegan swap)
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup mild vegetable (or coconut) oil
3/4 cup buttermilk (see notes for vegan swap)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
8 ounces of canned crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Pre-heat over to 350F degrees. Prepare three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper that has been lightly greased and floured.

2. Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.

3. In a larger bowl, beat eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric or stand mixer until smooth. Add in the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until blended. Fold in the carrots, pineapple, and walnuts. Pour into cake pans.

4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick poked into center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes on racks; remove cake from pans and continue cooling on racks. Make sure cakes are completely cool before frosting.

NOTES:
Egg substitute: Grind 3 tablespoons of flaxseed and stir in 1/2 cup water until it’s thick and gelatinous.
Buttermilk substitute: Add 2 teaspoon acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to 3/4 cup soy or almond milk, let stand for 10 minutes.

Cream cheese frosting

3/4 cup butter, softened
11 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar

Most recipes call for much more powdered sugar; I don’t like using so much. Suit yourself, however. Beat together butter and cream cheese until creamy, add powdered sugar until smooth.

carrot cake© Melissa Breyer

For the carrot flowers on top, I candied carrot slices – you can follow the recipe for candied beets here for the same effect: 8 odd things you can candy. Pistachio nuts were the final touch in the center; use whatever you have an hand, any nut or dried fruit would work.

And then … eat cake.





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