Monday, August 31, 2009

August Roundup

Thanks so much to everyone that participated in our first challenge! I'm looking forward to September.

August Challenge: Ina Garten's Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I'm playing a little bit of catch up since I've just joined and am starting with the August challenge, which is Carrot cake.

While looking at for recipes for another challenge that I am participating in, I found this recipe by Ina Garten, whom I generally trust for recipes. The recipe is for her Carrot Cake Cupcakes.

First I grated the carrots and chopped the walnuts:

Then in a bowl mix together sugar, oil and vanilla. I used half oil and half applesauce because a cup and a half of oil seemed excessively bad for me. Then mix in eggs, one at a time until you get this soup:

Then sift in flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix well to incorporate.

Then add in the carrots, walnuts and raisins:

Line muffin pan with liners then fill them about 3/4 full. I filled mine a little more because I like them to overflow a bit..I'm glad now that I did.

The directions say to bake these at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then to reduce heat to 350 and bake for 35 minutes. I did the first part, but they smelled done so I checked 10 minutes into the 35 minute bake and they were done! So I checked the comments to the recipe and they pretty much all warn that the timing is wrong. I baked the second batch at 375 for 20 minutes and they came out perfect.

For the frosting, beat 12 oz of cream cheese, 2 sticks of butter (1/2 lb) and 1 tsp of vanilla. Since my mixers sparked, smoked, then died I did this by hand. It's a great upper body toner!

Then mix in the confectioner's sugar:

Mix until light and fluffy. Keep tasting the whisk or beater to make sure it's good as you go because you just never know ;-)


These were entirely TOO delicious and not effected at all by a switch from oil to applesauce.

Recipe is at: Ina Garten Carrot Cake Cupcakes. Next up this week: September Challenge: Sachertorte...

A blizzard hits in London (my carrot cake tale)

Sorry this took so long to post! I did actually make the cake in the month of August, I'm just crap at posting lately.

Anyway, as mentioned, I used Joanne's recipe. And then I needed to buy muffin baking tins. Which, of course, on the 2 days I went to bake, I couldn't find!! So I wandered the streets of London for a bit in the rain then decided, screw it - I'll just make it as a cake.

I have to say, it took me almost 20 minutes to grate that entire bag of carrots (see 1st photo below). Is there an easier way to do this, ladies?? My arm nearly fell off, and my grater almost ate my fingertips at least 4 times!

Anyway, the rest of the baking was uneventful and fine. I popped the lovely cake rounds in the oven and commenced on my fave bit - the frosting! I was feeling all proud of myself because I decided to use the whisk attachment on my hand blender (that I use every morning for my protein smoothie), and because up to this point, my little kitchen was all nice and tidy and clean and filled with the yummy smell of baking cake.

Then all hell broke loose. One of the wires in the whisk attachment came unstuck/unsprung [??] and it took me a second to realize what happened. In that second, cream cheese frosting flew in a thick white BLIZZARD aaaaalllll over my lovely clean kitchen: Floor, walls, ceiling, me, and splattering just about every appliance on the countertop.

I was cussing too hard to remember to take a picture. But imagine a lawn sprinkler shooting out thick white blobs of powdery marshmallow-like goo all over the lawn. Then imagine that moves inside.

That's what my kitchen looked like. I was ... less than impressed.

Anyway, I took the cake into work the next day, and the girls in the office LOVED it. I had a piece, and I loved it.

I'm not saying it was worth the 30 mins of blizzard cleaning or toting the heavy thing on 3 trains and in a taxi to work... but it was a nice going away gift for my office mates.

A few pics:

The carrot grating marathon begins:

The frosting - before the Blizzard of 09:

Finished Product: :) YUM

Behind the Date-ball!

Ok, so I am a huge procrastinator, apparently. It's not something I would have said about myself. But, moving on.

I put off this recipe not because I didn't think I'd like it. I love carrot cake. It's actually one of my favorite cakes. I think I was afraid of the dates. I've never actually eaten a date and well, I was a great big chicken. But after some moral support from Rena and a date donation, I dove in.

I guess I hadn't read the recipe all the way through or I was hypnotized by facebook but I didn't realize there wasn't any sugar in this recipe until it was in the oven. And they say television will rot your brain. I used a little less butter and it was a little too melted but it worked.

I baked it in a bread pan without parchment paper since I failed to get any. It took about 45 minutes in the oven. Man, did it smell good when I opened that door. I tasted it when it was warm and it was definitely more bread-like than cakey which was okay with me. I would have liked it a little sweeter. I treated it like a bread and chose not to frost it since I hate storing a cake with frosting under tinfoil. I slathered cream cheese across a thick slice and had it with tea. It was delish. Vin, my fiancee, liked it very much.

Good choice Rena. I promise I won't put it off this month. Although with a wedding in 53 days, who knows.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Cake Late, & A Dollar Short

I am "A Cake Late, & A Dollar Short." Playing catch up since I didn't start the August Carrot Cake until Sunday, September 27. I enlisted the help of my husband, Tom to do the "intern" work. He was assigned the dry ingredients and grating carrots. I have to say that he did a good job AND did all the washing up.

The recipe was easy to follow and the only thing I would change is purchasing dates that were already pitted and chopped. I spent most of the time prepping so many dates to yield the half cup required. The cake turned out lovely. On Monday I took one-third of it to the office and it quickly disappeared. Tuesday morning only a 3x3 cube remains, thanks to Tom. It 's hard to believe that there's no sugar in the recipe. I did have several requests for the recipe as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nude Carrot Cake - Go Get Dressed

I think, I had better explain, why my poor carrot cake and most of the other cakes I make, walk around without their frosting. I bake, mostly for my husband, and he does not like anything chocolate of gushy. His cakes do not get frosted or glazed or iced. They shine on their own, I hope. Actually, he likes almost all of his food, "pure". Mashed potatoes without gravy, candied carrots without the glaze, salads without the dressings unless very subtle, pasta with a minimum of sauce........I think you get the idea. Fortunately, my children are more like their Mom and eat all that fattening stuff.

Since, he does not eat chocolate of any kind, chocolate goodies, usually get the works. They are like my toys because I can play with them. I can create and glorify the wonders of chocolate. That makes up for all those nude cakes, I usually make.

I admit, I recently baked him the most delicious apple bread and put the glaze on but it got absorbed and I am guessing that he was not aware of it. The glaze is what gives it the taste and he liked the taste.

If you like carrot cake, you should like this......... It seems to me that carrot cake is an all time favorite. Maybe, this is because it is a moist cake, goes down easily and with lots of flavor.

This cake has pecans but carrot cake lends itself to lots of choices. I like to add golden raisins, craisins, coconut or different types of nuts.

Carrot Cake

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
4 cups grated carrots
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Although I do not make the frosting, I am going to include the recipe for it, for those of you who want to adorn the carrot cake.

1/2 stick margarine, softened
one pound confectionery sugar
8 ounces cream cheese
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven 350 degrees.
Chop the pecans.
Combine dry ingredients together in large bowl.
Add eggs and oil.
Mix until just blended and then add the carrots and the pecans.
Do not overbeat and do mix by hand.


Using a beater, mix cream cheese and margarine until smooth.
Add sugar and vanilla.
Blend well.
When cake has cooled, spread the frosting on.
If you want to decorate the frosting, add any decorations you want.
I like the little flower shaped ones.
Although, I used the golden sugar sprinkles on another carrot cake and it sparkled and matched the color of the carrot cake. It made an attractive picture even without frosting.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Concave Carrot Cake

Baking at high altitude is challenging; cakes fall randomly, cookies can be extremely dry and things like brownies, that should be pretty easy, can sometimes turn into giant hockey pucks. But for my Have the Cake challenge this month, I didn't think that altitude was challenging enough.

Instead, I thought it would be even more challenging to make this month's carrot cake challenge wheat and gluten-free. Several years ago my sister was diagnosed with a wheat allergy and the world of baked items, as well as most foods, changed dramatically for her. Wheat is in amazing amount of things where you wouldn't think it would be: soy sauce, pudding, hard candies, etc. Anything that says it contains "modified food starch" has wheat as an ingredient.

So as a treat to my sister I thought I would make this month's carrot cake for her, using my "Gluten-free Baking Classics" cookbook, by Annalise Roberts.

The recipe, which I'll spare you, involves a few key ingredients, which turn out to be real pain-in-the-butt to procure. The flour replacement in the recipe involves mixing three ingredients: extra finely ground brown rice flour, potato starch (which is different than potato flour) and tapioca flour. Plus, the recipe also requires Xanthum Gum, also a pain to find.

None of these ingredients were available at my local grocery store, so I hiked off to a local natural grocers to find them. Fortunately, they had all the weird ingredients, plus organic carrots and an organic lemon that was so green I almost mistook it for a lime. As a side note, I found it incredibly amusing that upon exiting the natural grocers I was bombarded with the mouth-watering smell of cooking bacon - there's an IHOP across the parking lot - if I were a vegetarian I would have to reconsider after smelling that bacon!

Here is a picture of my main wheat-free ingredients:

The few, the expensive...the ingredients
The few, the expensive...the ingredients

After the flour substitutes and the Xanthum gum (which is described on the package as "the outer layer of an inactive bacterium..." yummy!), the rest of the ingredients are the usual ones for a carrot cake. The cookbook does not include any high altitude instructions and I figured I should just follow the recipe and see what happens. After a lifetime of baking at this altitude I did feel a little squeamish adding 1 1/2 cups of canola oil and four eggs since this seems like a bit too much moisture for 6000 feet, but I pushed forward.

After mixing all of the flour and liquid ingredients I folded in the grated carrots, coconut and chopped pecans (I substituted pecans for walnuts since both my sister and I are allergic to walnuts). It looks like normal cake batter, doesn't it?:

Folding in the good stuff
Folding in the good stuff

After that I threw it into two of my very special cake pans:

Cake Pan
Cake Pan

If you ever see these and you bake a lot, buy them! They have a lovely sliding cutter that circles around the pan making it so easy to get the cake out...

And just so Ellebee doesn't think that she's the only one who can make a mess of a kitchen, here's my proof that I can do it too:

Messy Kitchen
Messy Kitchen

At the end of the allotted baking time, I retrieved the cake layers from the oven to find, well, this:

The Sunken Cakes
The Sunken Cakes

Those cakes sunk like the Titanic, and honestly, it's my own fault for not cutting down on the oil and eggs. I hate that when I'm wrong!

I thought maybe the cream cheese frosting would help, but I was wrong again:

Frosted Cake
Frosted Cake

And then I thought that I would see a difference once I added the toasted coconut:

Frosted with Toasted Coconut
Frosted with Toasted Coconut

Don't worry, no need to adjust your monitor; I didn't see a difference either. It's still an ugly, concave carrot cake...

It didn't look much better sliced and on a plate either:

Monster on a plate
Monster on a plate

Instead, it reminds me of those weird monsters in the desert scene in Beetle Juice.

Despite it's fearsome looks however, it tasted quite good and I think could easily fool a non-wheat allergic person that they were eating normal carrot cake.

I took the whole ugly thing over to my sister's, and while she refused to let me take a picture of her enjoying her first carrot cake in 10 years, she did love the cake. My nephew Brendan liked the frosting and consented to a picture:

Brendan and the Cake
Brendan and the Cake

All in all, I had fun making the cake, my sister really enjoyed eating the cake and it tasted like real carrot cake, without any wheat in sight. Next time though, I'll cut down on the eggs and the oil and hope that I can make a pretty cake, instead of the concave monster that came out of my oven...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

One of the benefits that comes along with learning to cook and/or bake is that you never have to buy presents for anyone ever again. Instead, you can just cook them their favorite meal or bake them their favorite treat. And usually, if the person is worth the sweat and toil, they will offer to share their present with you. This, my friends, is a true exemplification of the gift that keeps on giving.

It was my friend Anu's birthday this past Saturday and when I asked her what she wanted she promptly responded, "Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting." A girl after my own heart. Can you see why we are such good friends?

As fun as carrot cake is to make, I decided to go with cupcakes instead. My roommates and I were hosting a room party the night of Anu's birthday (actually we were the first stop on a room crawl - kind of like a pub crawl but with rooms in our apartment building) and it is much easier to serve cupcakes to large amounts of people than it is to serve cake. More of a self-contained chaos kind of deal.

So I spent Friday night grating 3 cups of carrots by hand and developing carpal tunnel syndrome and Saturday afternoon teaching myself how to pipe frosting out of a ziploc bag. In the end, though, it was all worth it because Anu almost fainted from happiness when she bit into the first one, proclaiming them the best carrot cupcakes she has ever eaten. I maintain that anything tastes good when you smother it with cream cheese frosting, but she's right. The cupcakes were pretty damn good.
Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 24, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 large eggs
3 cups grated carrots
1 lb neufchatel or regular cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake liners or grease the tins.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk the sugar and oil and applesauce in a second bowl until well-blended. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Mix the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Stir in the carrots.

3. Divide batter among cupcake molds. Bake for 14-18 minutes (longer for me - about 20-25 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely before icing.

4. In a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter, confectioner's sugar, and maple syrup. Chill for at least 20 minutes and then pipe or spread onto the cupcakes.

NOTE - I like my cream cheese frosting to have a little bit of tang to it, which is why there isn't that much confectioner's sugar in it. Some people like a sweeter frosting and I have seen recipes that call for a whole box of confectioner's sugar. Add it based on your own taste.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Colorado Carrot Cake

Because I had several factors working against me, I, too, deviated from the recommended Have the Cake recipe this month. First, my daughter is just 7 weeks old, which means I was baking in the very short window between feedings and changings. I had about an hour to prep the cake so I could put it in to bake just before her next feeding. Second, while I hope to be able to play around with future recipes and adapt them for my altitude (about 9000 ft. above sea level), I knew I'd only have time this month to make this cake once, and I wanted it to be edible. So, instead of the recipe Rena posted about, I chose a carrot cake recipe from Susan Purdy's Pie in the Sky, a cookbook specifically for bakers living at high altitudes. The book is actually really cool - it includes measurements for sea level, 3000 ft., 5000 ft., 7000 ft., and 10,000 ft. I usually have the best luck using the 7000 ft. measurements and adding a bit more time on the recommended baking time.

Baby fed, changed, and strapped into her infant seat and placed on the counter so she could watch me bake (not recommended safe baby practice, but I swear I was never more than 5 inches from her the entire time and she's not very mobile yet), we got started.

I am notoriously bad at preparing to bake, and since we don't have a grocery store within half an hour, I sometimes have to adjust recipes just because I haven't picked up the proper ingredients during the weekly shopping trip. For some reason, I thought I only needed three carrots, but the recipe actually called for between 8-10. Whoops! I had to supplement with the completely hairy carrots Nate had in the bottom drawer of the fridge leftover from the pregnancy juice making extravaganza.

Piper and the hairy carrot

I fished the food processor out of the pantry. I can't believe I've never used the food processor to grate anything before. So fast! So easy! Of course, after grating the recommended 8 carrots, I had way more carrots than I needed. I also got to use the nut chopper my mother bought me off an infomercial 10 years ago. This thing never gets to see much action, except at Christmas. So many gadgets - I love this cake!

I'm a terribly messy baker, so by the time I was done mixing the batter (eggs, olive oil, carrots, walnuts, sugar, wheat germ, flour, baking soda, sald, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla), the kitchen was wrecked. But, because of the aforementioned gadgets, I actually had time to clean the kitchen before the baby started squalling!

Messy kitchen

I'd never seen a carrot cake made in a bundt pan, so I was a little nervous about that part. I've had bad luck getting cakes out of this type of pan intact, and there were some very weird directions about lining the bottom of the pan with parchment paper or tinfoil, which I experimented with and then discarded, choosing instead to coat the sucker with half a bottle of PAM. I stuck the cake in the oven for 45 minutes, came back after Piper was done eating, and voila! Perfect cake. I let it cool, then completely ruined the healthiness of the recipe by coating it with frosting consisting of nothing but cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar (to be honest, this frosting is really the only part of carrot cake I like). I tested it out on Nate and Kari, who both approved, and I've been able to serve it to a variety of guests who've come up to meet Piper this week. Delicious!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grandma's Carrot Cake

I have always wanted to make a Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting! So, I chose not to use the recipe posted here, and instead made a traditional Grandma style Carrot Cake.

I found Paula Deen's to be the one I would work on. I have already made her Banana Cake with cream cheese frosting a few times before and it was a hit!

I did not use nuts being that my husband is allergic and I added in Coconut and crushed Pineapple to make it even more special. I also cut her recipe in half because her cakes are so huge!

It was lots of fun since I love baking. Grating carrots was a bit of a pain, however the rest of the prep and baking went smoothly.

Here it goes...


Cooking spray for pans
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup flaked coconut


1 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
Half stick salted butter, room temperature
Half of (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 2 (9-inch) round pans

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and
salt. Add eggs and vegetable oil. Using a hand mixer, blend until
combined. Fold in the pineapple, carrots, and coconut. Pour batter
into prepared pans.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, place on waxed paper and allow to cool completely before frosting.

While cake is baking prepare the frosting

Add all ingredients into a medium bowl and beat until
fluffy using a hand mixer. Spread frosting on top of
each cake layer. Stack the cakes on a serving plate and serve.

adapted from Paula Deen's Recipe

This cake was totally fabulous and delicious!! It was moist and not too sweet. The added pineapple and coconut really gave it nice coloring and flavor. My husband loved it too, I did not tell him what was in it and he guessed, which was pretty cool. I plan on sharing this with some friends. And I will definitely make this one again!

Thanks Rena!