Sunday, July 25, 2010

Eat your Heart Out Rose Bakery: Mom's Carrot Cake

I've mentioned previously that my mom and her sisters are quite the cake makers, usually in a lament on how a cake I’ve made didn’t turn out as I would have liked. Because practice makes perfect, I decided to challenge myself to keep making cakes until my efforts rivaled theirs. So now every couple of months, I make a cake. Slowly but surely, I’m getting better at cake making.

Mom’s carrot cake is my favorite of all the cakes she makes. Back some time ago, I called her for the recipe and she recited the ingredient list from memory while I hastily scribbled it down on a piece of paper. When I made the cake based on the recipe I had jotted down, the cake layers came out of the oven as flat and heavy as bricks. Thankfully, I had prepared the cream cheese icing while the cakes were baking so I ate it by the spoonful while consoling myself over my failed attempt at what logically should be my birthright. The icing helped but it still stuck in my craw that I couldn’t even make my own mother’s prize recipe.
I decided to do some research before making another attempt so I pulled out Rose Bakery’s cookbook Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, which includes their carrot cake recipe. I noticed right off the bat that Rose Bakery’s recipe listed both baking soda and baking powder. My mom’s recipe, as I had transcribed when she recited it to me, only called for baking soda. Immediately, I suspected that the lack of baking powder was the culprit in my previous foiled attempt.

When I called Mom to ask about the ommission, she responded that she did use baking powder. Apparently, either she made a mistake when relaying the recipe to me or I wrote it down wrong. I’d prefer to say it was the former rather than the latter but since I get my tendency for forgetfulness from my mom, it could have easily gone either way. 
Last weekend, I pulled the now revised recipe back out again. Much better results this time and Eric assured me my cake was just as good as Mom’s. I liked it, but to me, it just didn’t taste as good as my mom’s cake. Maybe that’s just ‘cause nothing ever tastes as good as when Mom makes it.

Happy Birthday Mom! I wish I could be there to eat cake with you.

Mom’s Carrot Cake

Rose Bakery may be known for their carrot cake, but it doesn’t hold a candle to my mom’s carrot cake. I found their carrot cake not quite sweet enough and the icing to cake ratio was far too low for my liking. Mom’s carrot cake is light, fragrant, super moist, and always delectable. Its sweet, but not terribly so, and she uses pecans in her cake. To me, this quintessentially southern cake calls for a southern nut like a pecan. What are those crazy English/French people at Rose Bakery thinking using walnuts? I did adopt Rose Bakery’s use of sunflower oil to sub for the vegetable oil that Mom’s recipe calls for. Either oil works just fine so use whatever you have on hand. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m thinking about using clarified butter in lieu of the oil. If anyone has tried such, let me know. I’d love to know how it turned out.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup sunflower oil
2 cups grated carrots (approximately 6 medium sized carrots)
1 cup roughly chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Icing
1 stick butter
8 ounces cream cheese
16 ounces confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup finely chopped pecans for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit and butter and flour two nine-inch or three eight-inch cake pans lined with parchment paper.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Add the eggs to the bowl of an electric mixer. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and on medium-high speed, begin to beat the eggs, then gradually pour in the sugar. Continue to beat until the mixture lightens and begins to look fluffy. Pour in sunflower oil and continue to beat for another couple of minutes.
4. Take the bowl off of the mixer stand and, by hand, use a spatula to fold the carrots in. Then fold in sifted flour mixture and last, fold in pecans.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake 35-40 minutes or until done. To test if done, a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake pan should look clean and dry when removed. 
6. While the cake layers are baking, wash and dry the mixer bowl and paddle attachment and refit on the machine. In the mixer, prepare the icing by beating the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until well combined. Add the confectioner sugar and vanilla and continue to beat on high speed until all ingredients are fully combined and the icing is a smooth consistency.
7.  When the cake layers are done, remove from oven to cooling racks. When fully cooled, assemble the layers and ice the cake.
8. Coat the sides of the cake with finely chopped pecan pieces by placing a small amount of nuts in the palm of your hand and gently pressing onto cake until all sides are fully covered. It helps to do this with the cake set on a cooling rack over a sheet pan to catch any nuts that fall off of the sides. 

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