Ultimate Carrot Cake.

March 31, 2011 § 1 Comment

It was 11:56pm on the evening of January 13th, and I’d be turning 22 in exactly 4 minutes. The apartment was empty. The heat was clicking through the old pipes inside the walls, and the Chicago wind was aggressively hammering against the window panes. Outside, it was so dark, so cold. And I was snuggled in my purple fuzzy blanket, loosely wrapped around my shoulders and tucked around my legs, sitting at my desk. The Christmas lights strung around my room blinked, reflecting upon the quivering window beside my desk. I sighed. I was warm. But I was alone. Alone. On my birthday? Where was everyone? Some friends I’ve got, I thought to myself as I attempted to concentrate on my Sociology reading. I sighed again and resumed.

Suddenly, my door burst open. And there it was. A rotundly glorious, cream cheese frosting-slathered, toasted pecan-adorned, freshly baked carrot cake. Held in the hands of my nearest and dearest. And then the singing commenced. I threw off the blanket, leaned forward, and with a deep inhale blew out the candles of my surprise 22nd birthday cake. Surprise!

And what a cake. Never before have I tasted a carrot cake so moist, so balanced in both taste and texture. Perhaps it tasted so good because of the deliciousness of the occasion, but methinks that the recipe just might do any occasion justice. Here, reader, is another example of food and friends, of soul and sustenance, going hand in hand to create the ultimate experience. Eat with your heart, and all is satisfied.

adapted from Bon Appetit’s 1994 “Triple-Layer Carrot Cake” recipe.


CAKE: 2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, 4 large eggs, 2 cups all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound), 1/2 cup chopped pecans (about 1/2 ounce)

FROSTING: 4 cups powdered sugar, 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature, 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, 5 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the cake, preheat your oven to 325°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line the bottom of your three pans  with parchment paper. Lightly grease waxed paper. Beat sugar and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add your eggs, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots and chopped pecans. Divide batter equally among three prepared pans. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks (about 15-20 minutes). Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.) For the frosting, using electric mixer, beat all four ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy.  Make double frosting if you love it as much as I do. Place first cake layer on platter. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with another cake layer. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Using icing spatula, spread remaining frosting in decorative swirls over sides and top of cake. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.) Serve cake cold or at room temperature. Birthday candle recommended. Let’s just say I didn’t make much progress on my Sociology reading.

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