Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Best Part of a Carrot: Cake

When your mother tells you that you need to eat more vegetables, and puts carrots on the list,  be happy. They are a food of great virtue, being full of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and flavor.

Be especially happy, also, that you can make a darned fine vice out of this virtuous food. My very favorite carrot sin is carrot cake, using the fresh, flavor-filled roots from Pop's garden, made even more decadent by topping it with a lemony cream cheese frosting. (And, it seems, I have a friend in this, because this was exactly the combination requested for a birthday cake, this year.
I happily obliged.)  It is also the one cake Pop – a pie kind of guy – will eat without hesitation or reservation.

This is probably not what your mother meant, though, when she told you to eat more carrots.

On the other hand, the recipe I work from is the one my mother, The Bat, adapted from Joan Nathan's The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, which, as I recall, we found at an auction and now she refuses to surrender to anybody else (even though Bat was raised a Methodist, and I, an agnostic. It would seem our kitchen will forever be nonsectarian).

What The Bat does, now – after years of smudges causing the most important pages of her favorite cookbooks to stick together – is to scan the pages she knows she's likely to use more than a few times, and then put a print-out into a protective sleeve in a ring-binder notebook. Then she puts the original book somewhere safe for posterity. Wherever that is. I, then, ask her if I might use her recipe. She searches through the ring-binders for the specific sleeve, and pulls it out for me.

I do fear the days I need a page while she is not here (and this includes those months when she and Pop go off on their snowbird trips to the desert or the Carolinas). Her mind is well-organized, but I think our library skills are differently arranged. I admit it, now. I'm lazy. I also don't trust my own memory.Which is why I post. Write it, tag it, file it, post it, and let your fingers do the walking through the cookbook pages…the search engine is your friend.

It saves more time for playing in the kitchen.

So, without further fuss, I will file and share my mother's secret recipe, with adaptations included so I can nibble on it in gluten-free bunny bliss.

Carrot Cake with Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients for the cake:

3 cups sifted flour (if you need gluten-free, I recommend Bob's Red Mill GF 1:1)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil (or light olive oil)
3 cups fresh, coarsely grated raw carrots
4 large eggs
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped (you can even leave them whole)


Preheat oven to 350º F.(180º C).

Grease (with butter) a 10-inch tube pan and dust it with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (using the paddle), combine sugar and oil. Mix thoroughly. Add in the carrots, mixing completely, then add eggs, one at a time, mixing completely after each addition.

Fold in the nuts and cranberries, then gradually add in the flour mixture. Blend well.

Pour into tube pan, place in oven.

Bake 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Cool on rack about 20 minutes in pan, then invert and remove from pan onto rack, to cool completely.

When the cake is cooled, start making the frosting:

Ingredients for the frosting:

1 (8 ounce, or 16 Tablespoons) brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter,* also softened
3 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon fresh, finely grated lemon zest


Combine cream cheese and butter in mixing bowl, mix until well-creamed and fluffy.

Gradually add in powdered sugar and continue to beat on medium until it reaches desired fluffiness.

Beat in lemon zest and lemon juice. Spread over cake.

(Optional: sprinkle more chopped toasted pecans on top of cake, for decoration)

Slice and serve.

*I don't recommend substitutions in the frosting. If you're trying to cut down on your fats, skip the frosting entirely, or adapt something else in your diet to make allowances for the equivalent of a Pat O'Butter and a dollop o' cream.

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