Sunday, 13 December 2009
Classic Carrot Cake
I remember my little sister coming home from pre-school telling us that they had made Carrot Cake that day. I was horrified. I thought it akin to mud pies. Who would eat a cake made from carrots - disgusting! Surely she meant banana cake? I was a very worldly (!) six years old and far more knowledgeable on flavours of cake than my little sister - they came in white or brown or banana or fruit, most definitely not carrot! I recall that I may have told her as such and maybe made her cry.
I am glad to say that my cake world has expanded exponentially and I am far more open to flavour. I have now made cakes with carrot, potato, beetroot, pumpkin, zucchini - enough to explode the mind of many a six year old. Though most three year old's I know drink baby capuccino's while nibbling at their croissants; the six year old's are probably doing the Times crossword online, eating foie gras on toasted brioche and drinking freshly squeezed guava and pomegranate juice. The world is indeed a different place!
Anyway, on to the classic carrot cake. Oh boy, this is totally NOT disgusting, it is the furthest thing from mud pies. It is quite frankly, superb. There, I said it up front, usually I dally about with method and what not before getting to the punch line of how it actually tastes. But you know what? You need to know right now that this is a great, all round, easy to make, great tasting carrot cake.
It is very easy to make - you could definitely make it with just a box grater, a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon. You don't need a mixer or a food processor - not for the cake at any rate. Like most carrot cakes, it is oil based so no need to beat the living daylights out of anything. There in lies the "quick" of the cake. Mix together sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla; lightly mix in flour, leavening, cocoa powder, salt and spice; mix in grated carrots and some raisins if you like. Easy and takes maybe ten minutes. Whack it in some pans - make sure you smooth the tops, otherwise they will be a bit lumpy (but easily hidden by thick icing). Can you tell that maybe I didn't smooth out the tops of the cake so well?
There were some detailed steps, which I followed, but which I am guessing you could leave out. The first was to sift the whisked dry ingredients onto a parchment before adding to the wet ingredients. It definitely makes a cleaner addition of the dry to wet, but I guess you could just sift directly into the mixer bowl without too many problems. The second was dividing the amount of floured raisins so one half was mixed in and the other half sprinkled onto the top of the pans and pressed in. Like the before and after photo above. This is, I presume so that all the fruit doesn't fall to the bottom. I don't think that this would be the case with this cake. The mixture has a thick consistency and is not very deep in the pan, so you could probably just mix in the full measure of raisins and skip the scatter and poke in step. Also, I skipped the flouring of the raisins - and my raisins didn't fall to the bottom.
I experimented this time with my cake liners - one pan I used parchment and the other I used the silicon liner. There was no difference between the final cakes, although I am not sure if this is just because the mixture was less demanding, given it is a heavier cake than say, a genoise. More of the cake sticks to the silicon liner than the parchment but no difference is detectable once iced!
The dreamy creamy white chocolate icing is exactly that. So easy to melt white chocolate and add it to cream cheese, butter and sour cream. On that, I admit to adjusting the ratios a little. Here in the UK, my chocolate came in a 200 gram slab and the cream cheese in a 300 gram pack, so I used a bit of creative license and reduced the other ingredients accordingly (read randomly, because I didn't use a calculator, just a finger to taste the final product). I refrigerated the icing for a little bit to get it a wee bit firmer - my cake was still cooling anyway.
And because the cake and icing were such a walk in the park, I decided to make some candied carrot to decorate the top. We were having people over for dinner, so I wanted the cake to look a bit special, rather than classic! Just a note on the candied carrot - it is nice and crispy at the time, but if it hangs around that moist cake for very long, then it soon becomes less crispy.
To make the candied carrot, I just peeled two carrots into a pot with half a cup of sugar and half a cup of water and let the carrot cook until it was translucent and the liquid became very syrupy. Then I removed the peelings (sounds great doesn't it?) to a silpat lined baking tray and baked in a medium oven until they were crispy.
Yes, this is a very classic carrot cake. It doesn't entertain walnuts, coconut, crushed pineapple or any other fancy embellishment, aside from the cocoa powder. I assume the cocoa powder is for colour - it would be great to know what that does in the final cake, because I can't taste it. And that simplicity of both ingredients and method means that it is a quick and easy cake that will easily impress. Especially with the addition of the dreamy creamy white chocolate icing. The faintest undertone of white chocolate is not cloying instead it provides just the right sweetness, with the sour cream delivering the tang. Gorgeous. But if you didn't have the white chocolate in the cupboard, then the traditional icing would be just fine.
Definitely a keeper and this recipe will be replacing my fiddly carrot cake recipe.