Remember that time when I professed my love for birthdays? Turns out, I know a lot of people with September birthdays. I made not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 birthday celebration goodies in September. Phew! That’s a lot of baked birthday paraphernalia. Don’t get me wrong, I love every minute of it. Except for that last one. Where I was up at 10:30 at night on a Monday after a very long and exhausting weekend, still nowhere near finishing a cake I had promised to deliver the next day. [sigh] C’est la vie.
So The BF’s roommate had his birthday on the same day as my good friend and neighbor A. Just my luck. So I made cupcakes for A. the Friday before and then a cake for Samson on the following Monday. With A. I knew right away what I wanted to make her (post to follow soon!) but with Samson I had to ask. So I shot him an e-mail about a week before his birthday telling him to send me ideas. I got one: Carrot Cake. With ice cream (oops I left out the ice cream). Fabulous. I had the perfect recipe. It’s my dad’s favorite and I’ve made it once before (albeit with a few hiccups) and I heard tell it was amazing.
Here’s the thing. I don’t really like carrot cake. I’m not sure why, since I actually really like zucchini bread, and it amounts to essentially the same thing right? Vegetables “hidden” in a “cake.” I think it’s the raisins that everyone always feels obligated to throw in the cake that I really dislike. Or maybe it’s the coconut around the edges? I don’t know. I’ve just never liked it.
But my dad adores it. Next to cheesecake, it’s his favorite dessert. So almost three years ago I volunteered to make my dad his favorite carrot cake recipe for his birthday, which we celebrated over the Easter weekend. I think I tried to keep the cake a surprise, I don’t remember, but I do remember assembling it in my grandmother’s kitchen the day of the party. Let me tell you, that was a very interesting morning.
The filling for this cake is like liquid cocaine. It’s delicious, you can’t stop eating it and it’s classier than crack. It’s so good. But the directions for making it confused me, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how many sticks of butter equaled a pound (it’s 4 if you’re wondering). The filling calls for a half a pound of butter. Silly me, I did my math wrong and I put in four sticks of butter. Yeah. It was bad. So my mother drove me to the grocery store on an emergency trip to get more butter.
The entire time my grandmother is hanging out with us dispensing her worldly knowledge as we’re preparing the cake. Some of it was welcome, some of it was interesting, and some of it we just plain didn’t need to know. Well at least not from my grandmother. There were a lot of raised eyebrows that morning. But it was fun overall, and the cake turned out wonderfully, despite my Paula Deen blooper with the butter.
So when Samson asked for a carrot cake I immediately pulled out my trusty recipe. I knew by now how much butter needed to go into the filling, I just completely forgot that it needed to cook for 20-30 minutes, and then needed to cool. So instead of making it while the cake was in the oven (which still smelled like these heavenly pretzels I had made the day before) like a smart person would have done, I waited until my layers were almost entirely cool. >__< balls. And that’s how I ended up making and assembling a cake around midnight on a Monday. Because I’m a birthday overachiever and hate to see one go un-celebrated and I never read through my recipes carefully enough to plan ahead.
*Just a note: This is only half a recipe. The original makes one 10-inch cake that you cut in half. I made two 6-inch cakes and cut them in half to make a towering four-layer cake that may have been a little overboard. The original recipe uses pecans and raisins in the cake, as well as pecans in the filling. I left out the raisins and used walnuts instead because that’s what I had on hand. It also calls for toasted coconut on the outside of the cake, but coconut makes me cry so I left that out as well.
Commissary Carrot Cake
Adapted from a recipe my mother gave me three years ago; I have no idea where her original copy came from. I believe it’s from a now defunct hotel in Philadelphia.
½ cup + 2 tbsp corn oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup minus 1 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 cups peeled, grated carrots
½ cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 6-inch cake pans.
Whisk the corn oil and sugar together in a bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add half the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir to incorporate completely. Add the eggs and stir until completely blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until no streaks remain. Stir in the carrots and walnuts and pour into prepared pans.
Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the top springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks about 15 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on racks.
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
½ tbsp vanilla
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter
Mix the sugar, flour and salt in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Slowly stir in the cream. Turn head to low (like super low) and add the butter in chunks. Cook over low heat stirring often for 20-30 minutes until a light golden brown color. It gets pretty thick and the color looks like dirty, frothy egg yolks. Stir in the nuts and vanilla and cool to room temperature
Cream Cheese Icing
1 stick butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, more may be necessary
½ tsp vanilla
Cream together the butter and cream cheese. Slowly add the powdered sugar until smooth, add more if it’s too runny. Add vanilla.
Once cakes have cooled completely cut them in half horizontally, and trim the dome off the tops. Arrange the bottom layer on a cake plate spread about 1/3 of the filling in the center of the cake, leaving about ½ inch around the rim free. Arrange the next layer on top and repeat with filling. Repeat until all the layers are assembled. Cover with cream cheese icing, filling in some of the less stable areas between the layers with the icing.
Any leftover filling or icing can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for upto a week. (The filling goes really well with waffles, or over ice cream [my grandmother does this] or as a filling for chocolate cupcakes). The cream cheese icing may alternately be frozen for upto two months.