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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Carrot Cake - the search for perfection.

Carrot cake is my all time favorite cake.  I would choose it over chocolate or vanilla any day. Many people might say it is really just because of the cream cheese icing, seriously who does not love cream cheese icing.  However I really think carrot cake has the whole package.  It has texture and flavour and not overly sweet.  It can incorporate so many different items like raisins, nuts, coconut and pineapple.  Each of these create the possibility for so many different variations   My goal is to perfect Carrot Cake, I need to be the mom who makes the best carrot cake.  I want my kids to crave carrot cake over chocolate and vanilla, a feat potentially difficult to achieve. Today's carrot cake will be the first of many in my quest, until I deem my self to be satisfied with the perfect recipe.  This might be a difficult battle and if I have to torture self with several iterations,  I will do it. 

Pecan Bourbon Carrot Cake
(adapted from Food & Drink)

INGREDIENTS:
  • 4 cups grated/processed carrots, shaved
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pecans (praline)
  • 1/2 cup silvered almonds
  • 1/3 cup bourbon or orange juice
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut

Cream cheese icing
  • 2 cups (16 oz) of cream cheese, softened and cubed (2 packages)
  • 1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 - 3 cups sifted confectioners sugar


INSTRUCTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 350F or 325F convection.  Spray and place parchment rounds in three 9 inch pans.
2) Shred or grate carrots using a food processor and set aside.  Place the raisins in a small bowl with the bourbon and microwave for 1 minute, stirring half way through.   Set aside and mix occasionally.  Chop up nuts if using whole pecans.   Toast the coconut for 3-5 minutes watching carefully to not over burn.

3) Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Stir to combine and make a well in the middle.


4) Combine the oil, sugar, eggs, yogurt and vanilla in a mixer bowl.  Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.  Pour the wet mixture into the well and scrape with a wooden spoon or spatula until flour just incorporated.


5) Fold in carrots, followed by raisins and bourbon and then nuts.   The mixture will be thick and less fluid.
6) Divide the batter evenly between the 3 pans.  Tapping pans on counter to remove any air bubbles and flatten out the batter. Bake until center appears set when lightly tapped about 30 minutes.
7) Let cool on a baking rack about 15 minutes in pan and then turn out on racks to finish cooling.   Wrap cakes in saran and place in fridge overnight.
8) Make the cream cheese icing.   Beat cream cheese and butter together until creamy and smooth.  Add vanilla and combine.   Slowly add some of the sugar beating on low until mixed in.  Scrape the sides of the bowl and repeat with remaining sugar beating until smooth.   Add additional sugar if mixture seems to thin. Icing can be refrigerated and a day ahead as well.   Take out of fridge about 20 minutes before icing cake.
9) Level the cakes as needing using a serrated knife.  Place a 1/4 of the icing on top of one of the cakes and spread over the cake using an offset spatula.  Place one of the remaining cakes on top and repeat and place the last cake on top.   Using the remaining icing and an offset spatula to cover the top and sides of the cake.  Let the cake set for an hour in the fridge.



10) Remove the cake from the fridge and let sit for 5 minutes to allow the icing to grab the coconut.  Scoop some of the toasted coconut and press into the cake covering the sides of the cake and repeat until the sides are covered.   Place some chopped pecans on the top center.   Let the cake sit in the refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving.

I actually halved the recipe and made a 6 inch round cake, just safer for my waist line that way.   This was a great carrot cake to start with.  It was moist and perfectly sweet.  The nuts, raisins and coconut added great texture and the icing was spoon licking good.  Is my quest over already I wonder?  Maybe not quite yet but this recipe will be duly noted.

MEG's RATING : D-EEEE-LICIOUS!











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