Carrot Cake

(April 5, 2019) As the mighty month of March bids “adieu,” I cannot help but greet the anticipated spring with a friendly “bonjour.”

Gorgeous grass is slowly taking command and lifeless vegetation is finally becoming a thing of the past. I think I am speaking for everyone when I say, “I welcome the refreshing change.”

Crimson hyacinths, indigo crocuses and gingery begonias are not the only ones waking up to the splendid sunshine.

It’s been a while since the warmth from Mother Nature has kissed my cheeks. Another year has passed and my soul relishes the much-needed tenderness.

The birds are rejoicing to a tune of “it’s so good to see you again.” It’s nice to hear them chirping away and catching up on the latest gossip. I’m sure they are elated to be back on the Eastern Shore and enjoying its natural beauty.

Excitement permeates my thoughts as adjustments to my menu must coincide with the seasons.

Easter is around the corner and carrot cake instantly comes to my mind. Boxed cake mixes are perfectly acceptable, but their simplicity and convenience are no match for a homemade cake.

Let us explore some tips that will ensure a scrumptious carrot cake.

Toast the nuts and coconut. The rich nutty flavors of walnuts and coconut are enhanced with a little heat.

Gently toasting them in the oven at 325 degrees does the trick. Make sure you keep checking on them, it will not take long.

The baking time for this particular cake is relatively short. This is not ample time for the carrots to cook, especially when they are combined with flour, eggs and oil. For this reason, the carrots should be grated finely and marinated in buttermilk.

Do not overmix your batter. Stir it only to the point where the ingredients are blended. Overmixing the batter results in a tough cake.

According to Bon Appetit, carrot cake is oil-based rather than butter-based. This keeps the cake moist and light. Unfortunately, it also means you lose the leavening power that the creaming of butter and sugar would generate.

To avoid a dense oil-based cake, many home cooks overcompensate by adding too much baking powder. Circumnavigate a dense or off-tasting cake by vigorously beating the eggs with the sugar, then slowly and gently stream in the oil.

Carrot cake is ultimately a spice cake. The pungent flavors and aromas of ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg should take center stage. These spices can be adjusted according to personal preference.

If you are up for the challenge of a homemade cake, consider tropical carrot cupcakes. This recipe is time consuming but the results are well worth the extra effort. The walnut crumble is optional. Enjoy!

Cake

1 ½ cups finely grated carrots

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

4 eggs, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

¾ (packed) dark brown sugar

2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

¾ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup raisins

¼ cup crushed pineapple, drained

2/3 cup toasted walnuts

2/3 cup toasted sweetened coconut

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

2 to 3 teaspoons whole milk

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar

Candied Walnut Crumble (optional)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped, toasted coconut

2 tablespoons crystalized ginger, finely chopped

1 pinch of kosher salt

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place 24 liners into 2 cupcake pans.

2. Combine carrots and buttermilk in a medium bowl.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

4. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla for about 4 minutes.

5. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually stream in oil.

6. In a large bowl, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with egg mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (1/3 dry ingredients, ½ egg mixture, 1/3 dry ingredients, ½ egg mixture, and the last 1/3 dry ingredients). Mix just until ingredients are combined.

7. Fold in carrot mixture, coconut, pineapple, raisins and walnuts.

8. Scoop the batter into the cupcake wells until 2/3 full.

9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean with no batter clinging to it. Rotate the cupcakes halfway through the cooking process. Remove cupcakes from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

10. For the icing: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time on low speed until smooth.

11. For the Candied Walnut Crumble Garnish: In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the toasted walnuts, toasted coconut, crystalized ginger and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add salt and sugar, and mix well.

12. For the presentation: Pipe cupcakes with cream cheese icing and artistically place a small amount of walnut crumble on each cupcake.

Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

* The cake recipe is an adaptation of Bon Appetit Best Carrot Cake recipe.

Secret Ingredient – Sweetness. “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

– Aristotle

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