Saturday, November 3, 2012

Carrot Cake for (Carrot) Lovers

It was for my 30th, after all.

First of all, yes. I exist. Sorry for the radio silence. I've just been too busy with work, feeding myself, and playing outside in the wilds of Vermont -- when not sleeping.

But oh boy you are in for it! I plan on ramping things up over the next two weeks, with full-fledged culinary fun coming in December. And if everything-holiday isn't quite your cup of tea, I'll have some fresh and healthy ideas to intersperse with all that triple creme cheese, Champagne, oysters, pie, cookies, and more, you'll be indulging in.

But first things first. I must properly share with you maybe one of my favorite recipes of the year. Not because it's perfect (in fact, far from...). But it was delicious, and is what helped me usher in the next stage of my life - the big 3-0 - with a bang. Perhaps I can blame it on the cake, because I don't necessarily feel old at all (unless you mention the number of friends wedding and bearing kids. Oh goodness...). I kind of feel young and free...

Back to the cake. Gluten Free. Moist. CARROT CAKE. Need I say more?

Kate gets the claim to fame here. Over our annual girls weekend in Rhody, she mentioned some GF creation from Saveur, and my ears perked up.

'WHHAATTT?!!' Cake? Saveur? My old employer!

I'd spent 3 months there, testing recipes, and testing again. Nothing GF. Nothing special dietary-wise. The magazine, I feel, focuses on sharing the flavors of the world with its readers. That's why I was partly surprised. And, once I'd looked the recipe up, surprised and delighted more as the recipe was developed by a colleague of mine!

I was kind of envious of this colleague. Her private cheffing career had taken off. She was a part of this group, the same group I'd looked into, of savvy ladies, cooking up a storm for well-paying families. But I didn't feel ready for it yet, mentally, physically, psychologically back then. Something held me back... (and in retrospect, it all makes sense because it wasn't, isn't, the right thing for me now). She had it all in my mind. Healthful cooking, a joy and warmth she brought to the room. You couldn't not like this woman. And apparently, not like her cake, either.

I followed the recipe to the nines, except for swapping canned pineapple for fresh, finely chopped in the Cuisinart. And I swapped cornstarch for arrowroot, due to my corn allergy. Overall, the flavor of the cake was superb. We baked it in a sheet pan rather than round, but I felt the thin layers were fine given the delicate nature of the sponge-nature of the cake.

For frosting, I thinned out the given recipe with about 1/4 cup of milk, and reduced the sugar by 1/2 cup. Plenty sweet for my taste. The cake was the hit of the night (and the best breakfast ever come Monday morning). It's a new favorite for ushering every new year of my life now!

Carrot Cake
Adapted from Saveur Magazine

For the cake:

1 tablespoons butter, for greasing pans
4 eggs, divided and at room temperature
2 egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cups shredded carrot (4 medium)
20 oz. fresh pineapple, finely chopped and drained
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnut pieces
1 cup cornstarch (or arrowroot starch, as I used)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, soft
½ cup butter, soft
2.5 - 3 cups confectioner's sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut (optional)

Heat oven to 375°F with rack in the center position. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans with butter and line with parchment; set aside. Combine egg yolks with ⅓ cup brown sugar in a medium bowl and beat on high speed 2-3 minutes until very thick and pale in color. Fold in shredded carrot, pineapple and vanilla extract; set aside.

Pulse walnut pieces in a food processor until finely ground. Add starch, baking soda, salt and spices; pulse to combine and set aside.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl until foamy. Slowly whisk in ½ cup sugar and beat whites until stiff and glossy. Fold walnut mixture gently into whites, then fold blended whites gently into carrot mixture. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pans and bake 20–25 minutes until cakes are lightly browned and have pulled away slightly from the sides of the pans. Allow cakes to cool 30–45 minutes in the pans. Run a knife around the edges of cakes to loosen from pan, remove parchment and invert onto a wire rack.

Beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until well-blended. Slowly beat in confectioner's sugar and vanilla. Place one cake round on stand or serving dish and spread ¾ cup of frosting evenly over surface, leaving a ½-inch border around edges. Sprinkle with ¾ cup of coconut and press lightly into the filling to set. Top with second layer, using remaining frosting to cover surface and sides of cake. Press remaining coconut evenly around sides and over top of cake. Cover and chill until ready to serve.


williamsburgh said...

How in the world did I just catch wind of this bonafide, amazing, without a doubt best account of anyone's 30th birthday cake in the whole, wide world? LOVE!

Allison Beck said...

That made me blush, Williamsburgh. Thank you :)