Sunday, April 22, 2007

I say, let them eat cake! (but not in a making fun of any peasants sort of way)

Scanning through my blog posts this morning I noticed that I've never posted a single dessert recipe. It isn't that I don't like desserts, it's just that I don't usually make them. Growing up dairy free meant that I didn't really develop a taste for super rich desserts, mostly because, well, I can't have them. I bake bread occasionally, and I've been known to make a mean pan of brownies, but I honesty don't bake very often. For dessert at home I usually have a scoop of sorbet, a glass of port, or a chunk of super dark chocolate and I call it a night. Out at restaurants, I make do with a cup of decaf, an espresso, or a bowl sorbet (if they have it).

However, it was grey and chilly in L.A. today, and I actually, for the first time in ages, felt like baking. After a quick flip through my mental rolodex of recipe ideas, I decided that carrot cake sounded particularly delicious. I also made a Shepard's Pie, but I'll save that story for the next post.

I went to the grocery store to gather my ingredients, and as I went in search of cinnamon, I wandered past the display of old 50%-off Easter candy. I noticed a pack of bratwurst and a jar of dijon mustard tucked into the stack of chocolate bunnies. I stopped and began to laugh. I could just imagine it, someone decided on bratwurst for dinner, got distracted by the chocolate bunnies, and thought, "screw it, chocolate bunny for dinner it is" and abandoned the sausage and mustard on the spot.

Giggling to myself, I found the rest of the ingredients and went home. I dug out my trusty Joy of Cooking and looked up the carrot cake recipe. A few hours later, after a few minor recipe modifications, the cake was done, and I was covered in frosting.

My cake may not be the prettiest, but it is delicious and a little different. I hope you enjoy it!

Carrot Cake, with Citrus Glaze and Cream Cheese Frosting

Below is the recipe broken into manageable chunks. I recommend making the syrup and the icing as the cake bakes and cools. Store the syrup and icing in the refrigerator if you finish them ahead of time.

For the Cake:
As the cakes cooled, Fudge the kitchen explorer sniffed around.


--1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
--1 cup sugar
--1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
--1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
--1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
--1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
--1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
--1/2 teaspoon salt
--2/3 cup vegetable oil (you can substitute applesauce for part of the oil for a lower fat cake)
--3 large eggs (you can use 6 egg whites instead, again for a lower fat cake)

--1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots
--1 cup walnuts (they taste much better if they are toasted for a few minutes in a dry frying pan before using them. Just toast them, let them cool a bit, and roughly chop. I actually use about 1 1/2 cups walnuts because I love extra-nutty cakes)
--1 cup golden raisins (optional -- I don't add them, because, well, I don't believe in raisins*)
-- 1/2 cup crushed pineapple, lightly drained (optional, I used "tidbits")
-- 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional, I didn't add it this time)


(Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees)

1) Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and salt in a large bowl.
2) In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and the oil until totally combined.

3) Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, slowly, while continuing to stir.

4) Stir into the batter the carrots, walnuts, raisins, pineapple, and coconut.

5) Scrape the batter into two greased and floured 8 x 8 inch round pans (or one greased and floured 13 x 9 inch pan) and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. ( about 30 minutes, but start checking at 25 minutes).

6) Cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then slide a thin knife around the edge of the cake and remove to cool right side up on a rack.

For the syrup:


--Pineapple juice from the can of pineapples used above (about 1/2 cup)
-- 3/4 cup orange juice
--splash of your best rum
--splash of vanilla
--1/2 cup (or more) granulated sugar


1) simmer juices, rum, and vanilla in a small pan on low heat for 45 minutes or so, stirring occasionally (until reduced and syrupy)

2) pour in some of the sugar and continue stirring over low heat, add more sugar until the mixtures is thick and shiny and the sugar is dissolved (be careful not to burn the mix). Take off the heat. I'm not sure precisely how much sugar I added, but I think it was between 1/2 and 3/4 of a cup)

For the icing:


--8 oz cream cheese (I obviously used soy cream cheese)
--5 tablespoons butter (I used dairy-free margarine)
--splash vanilla
--2 tablespoons to 1 cup powdered sugar (it is up to you how sweet you want your frosting)


1) Blend all ingredients in a food processor until icing is smooth, don't over blend or the cream cheese will get grainy.

To construct the cake:

1) smear some syrup on the first layer of the cake. Top with a thin spread of icing.

2) place the second layer of the cake atop the first layer, and smear the top of the second layer with syrup and then icing.

3) Ice the sides of the cake with the remaining icing. Drizzle any remaining syrup over the top of the cake.

First off, I have a confession to make. Unbeknownst to me, I was out of powdered sugar. Thinking to myself, "what would Al Gore do?" I decided that he wouldn't want me to drive all the way to the store just to get some powdered sugar. So, I ended up substituting Splenda in the icing recipe. I know, I know, I know...a culinary travesty. However, I did help save the planet a little bit. :)

Also, my cake's frosting is a little melty -- I am storing it in the refrigerator to keep it as firm as possible. I'm not sure if it is because I used soy cream cheese and the recipe called for dairy cream cheese or if it is because it is so warm in my kitchen right now or (most likely) because Splenda doesn't have the same structural integrity of powdered sugar, but the icing isn't perfectly setting. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I was also out of ground cloves and allspice, but I had whole cloves and allspice in my cupboard so I hand-ground them with my mortar and pestle. Sweet lord, it made such a difference. Not to sound like an insufferable foodie, but hand ground spices are fabulous. (Do I get any culinary-cred back for hand grinding my spices after admitting to using Splenda?)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Finally, I'll point out that you could leave off both the syrup and the icing if you wanted -- the cake itself is the real star here. It may have a dense crumb and a plain exterior, but it is moist, fragrant with spices, and studded with nuts. In fact the batter to this cake may be the best batter ever, though I'm not changing the blog name.
(Legal disclaimer: I do not condone the eating of raw eggs. Salmonella is scary. However, it you do decide to throw all caution to the wind as I did, you will be rewarded with some seriously tasty, spicy, sweet batter. Um, but again, I emphasize that eating raw eggs may be harmful to your health. Please return to your regularly scheduled programing.)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Let me explain. In the sense that I acknowledge that raisins exist on this planet, I do believe in them. However, in the sense that I have any desire to put them in my food, I most certainly do not believe in them.

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