Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TWD- Billy's Not so Big Carrot Cake

If the lack of updates didn't allude to it, I was on a bit of a break the last 2 weeks. The first weekend was the big local sci-fi convention here, so I was there most of the weekend as well as a friend's Bridal Shower. I was home to sleep all 3 days, and that was about it.

After the convention, I launched right into vacation-prep mode as we then flew down to Florida for 5 days of fun in the sun. We were lent the use of a fabulous house with a pool on the intra coastal waterway, so we did a lot of lounging around, drinking pina coladas, and napping. Not much in the way of cooking, though I did sample some tasty food down there. To say we ate a LOT of food would be an understatement. So, when I looked at this week's TWD challenge of an entire carrot cake, my waistline gave a mild protest. The thought of having an entire 3-layer cake in the house with just the two of us was a bit daunting... even with the healthy allusions of 'carrot cake'. So I sat down with pen and paper and quickly transcribed it into a 1/2 recipe.

The recipe estimated we would need up to 9 carrots grated. Usually when I'm doing a carrot cake, I pull out the Cuisinart. But for 1/2 a cake, I figured I could manage by hand, saving the cleaning time on all those parts. Of course, to grate carrots by hand, I would have to find my grater. When it comes to gadgets and gizmos, my kitchen is pretty well stocked. Fluted pastry rollers, hamburger press, ice cream sandwich maker press, ice cream machine, you name it, its tucked in there somewhere.

The problem, however, is that while everything has very specific homes in my mind, they rarely end up there. We have a cleaning service that comes every other week to tidy up. Before anyone tsks me, honestly, this is one of the best investments I've ever made. I would gladly give up my latte addiction if it meant I wouldn't have to scrub a toilet. So don't knock it unless you try it, and I recommend EVERYONE try it. They are a godsend.

Anyhow, the cleaning people seem to think that every gadget I own belongs in one drawer. So what was originally designated for a small amount of gadgets turns into a black hole. Ah well, there are worse problems to have in life. Hidden under the ricer, helpfully labeled 'turner', and pancake spatula, I found my grater and set to work. I only needed 3 carrots to get the 1 1/2 cups.

From there, the recipe was pretty similar to most carrot cakes I've made, mix the wet, mix the dry, add the dry to the wet... add the nuts/carrots/etc. While I've never made a carrot cake with coconut, I decided to give it a shot since the toasted coconut topping sounded like a nice reminder of our tropical vacation.

After mixing everything up, I decided to make a 'mini' layer cake from 2 heart shaped pans I have. A closer look reminded me they were more triangular than heart shaped, but they were about the size I was looking for. I had some extra batter and divvy'd it up into a cupcake tin.

Apparently I was a little too generous with the divvying, since the cupcakes rose a bit higher than I expected and overflowed into a carrot 'mass'... But I managed to rescue the layer cake without major issue. Since I only had the layer cake, I decided to 1/2 the frosting as well, and made quick work of assembling it.

The odd shaped pans and slightly generous portioning made for a cake not as 'neat' as I'd like, but at that point I figured I'd call it 'rustic' and press on.

I've never tried to 'toast' coconut before, but I figured the name was simple enough, and popped a pan of it into the toaster oven to brown. At first I thought maybe I was missing the concept as nothing appeared to be happening, but soon, color quickly bloomed. I guess I just had a very moist bath of coconut that had to dry out before browning.

In the end, while the pans weren't too large, they were fairly deep. So they made a pretty tall cake that divvied up into ~5 servings. The toasted coconut added a perfectly nutty tropical taste to the moist cake.

This recipe ended up pretty good, though next time I would probably try the full recipe. I might also opt to substitute at least 1/2 the oil with applesauce like I usually do to keep the fat down. Either way, it was a hit!

Bill's Big Carrot Cake (I halved this recipe to make the Billy version)

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Yields 10 servings


For the cake:

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon salt

3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries

2 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

½ cup shredded coconut (optional)

Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Getting ready:

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake:

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

To make the frosting:

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.

If you'd like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.

To assemble the cake:

Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.

Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.


This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it's good plain, it's even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.


The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it's firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.


Rebecca of "Ezra Pound Cake" said...

You have an ice cream sandwich maker press? SHUT. UP.

Mini-cakes=excellent idea. So cute!


Katrina said...

Rebecca- Well, its more a set of manual presses.... but they are fun!

Jayne said...

I like your little heart-shaped mini pans! Mini anything sounds good to me! Nice job!

Anonymous said...

I also balked at a 3 layer cake so I did cupcakes and a mini cake. Yours looks yummy!

Engineer Baker said...

I love the little heart cakes! And yes, the word "rustic" hides a multitude of sins.

Anonymous said...

oooh! I want to go on vaca!
The minicakes are cute! :)

Mary said...

the cake looks great, but i'm stuck on the beach picture....i need a vacation!!!

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

That's just the cutest little cake ever!

CB said...

Your heart pans are uber cute! I am a sucker for anything hearts. I totally agree that a cleaning service would be so fabu. Someday I will have one... someday.
Clara @ I♥food4thought

Andrea said...

Thanks for visiting my blog on my first TWD post.
I have a bit of OCD when it comes to kitchen drawer organisation. I have the cutlery drawer, the general cooking drawer, and of course the baking drawer. When my good husband puts things into the 'wrong' drawer, we have a 'discussion' and I walk away feeling vaugely embarrassed. It is a sign of his mental fortitude that he still keeps trying!
Now for the inevitable overflow I have a plastic crate of things that don't get used frequently (meat tenderizers, odd sets of chopsticks, measuring cups that are not my favorite, and my spare 'the hoards have descended' set of cutlery for 12. All the stuff I got annoyed that I had to sort through, when I needed something NOW!
I too have some ice cream sandwich presses. The Tovolo set of 3. There is also a Tovolo animal set of 3 but that is not stocked in Oz...

Melissa said...

Very cute hearts!!!

Annemarie said...

Good job! Your gadgets sound sooo fun!

Katrina said...

Andrea- the one thing I liked about this house was the ample cabinet space. That drawer is one of 3 - top is cutlery, middle is supposed to be spatulas, etc, and bottom is plastic wrap/tinfoil/bags/etc.
Across the room I have a drawer for measuring spoons and potholders, and another 'utility' drawer - measuring tape, pencils, notepads, etc.
Below the potholder and utility drawer is a giant L shaped corner cabinet... top shelf is all my baking supplies in tupperware bins, bottom shelf is all my 'appliances' - bread machine, crock pot, waffle iron, cuisinart, etc.
Of course, in all this, nothing ends up where it belongs. So every few months I have to go in and put everything back into their places.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Heart ones! So cute!!! Great job!

LyB said...

Next time I'll halve the recipe as well, and I did try half applesauce this time and it turned out great! Your cakes look delicious!

Sharon said...

Got to love the kitchen gadgets. Although right now ours are all "big" appliances, I have a few small ones in mind. The cake looks so cute!

cruisingkitty said...

The lounge chair photo was the absolute best!