Baking Procrastination

Time to come clean: I’m a recipe hoarder. Not just cookbooks either – though the majority of my Barnes & Noble/local bookstore gift cards DO go towards books in that genre. The glossy pages of soba noodle stir fries and fudge cakes just suck me in, even when I have 10 recipes for each already. So…that’s where that money goes.

But online recipes, that’s where the real gold mine is. There’s an accurately titled “Baking and recipes” folder on my computer (note the separate focus there) where somewhere in the ballpark of 500 or more recipes live. And the number only grows: semi-daily thanks to Deb, Molly, Food52 and others.

So, more often than not I continue to add and not to actually make. But, for a change I thought I’d sort back through in the name of a very large bag of carrots that came home with me from gleaning at Boxx Berry Farms a few weeks ago in Bellingham. What to do with carrots in the summertime, when you’re tired of raw chunks on salads and it’s way too hot for the lovely carrot soup I posted back in March?

Let me tell you. LOTS. Carrot cake obviously (see below) and that happened. But also pancakes. Cupcakes. And alas, summer soups! And something absolutely wonderful I discovered about carrot recipes in general. They’re truly carrot-y. They don’t try to hide the orange or mask it with a bunch of add-ins beyond your warm spices or typical complements like raisins. So carrot crusaders read on, and make one of these tonight for dinner, dessert or better dessert dinner. Promise your nose won’t turn orange.

First, your classic carrot cake. Logically, made in a rush of my empty kitchen the day before I moved out, I got a bit creative with what spices were easy to access. Hence, the ingredients mixed in stove top pots.

Modification of Deb's Classic Carrot Cake 

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1.5 tsps ground ginger
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts/pecans (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup rum (for later, I'll explain!)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9" cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper (easy to trace if you flip them over and use the bottom as an outline). Then butter and flour the paper as well. I wouldn't skimp on this step, it sounds like extra work but saying it from experience, it's worth it for the cake to come out all in one piece as far as your own baking sanity goes.

Whisk dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk sugar and oil until blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time (it'll feel pretty gritty at first). Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, nuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter evenly among two 9" cake pans, tapping pans a bit to settle the batter.

I found my cake started to develop little air bubbles in the batter after about 30 minutes and was done soon after. Be sure to check it early and watch for browning around the edges and that gentle rise in the middle. Check with a toothpick for done-ness. Now the rum! While the cake is still hot, pour about 1/4 cup on top of each cake so it soaks in all around the edges. This will help the cake come out better too.

Cool cakes in pans for 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks to finish cooling. I find it helps to first run a metal knife around the edge of the cake a few times then place the rack upside down on the cake pan as it sits on the counter, inverting it onto the now right-side up rack and peeling off the paper. If it doesn't want to come out tap/bang if necessary the bottom of the ban with the blunt end of your knife and that should help. If it doesn't look perfect it'll still taste great and cream cheese is an excellent BandAid for most things!

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (straight from Deb)
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (gotta be the real thing!)

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly. If you have a piping bag with a star tip you can do fun frosting designs around the outside. If not, layer your cakes simply. Place your first cake on a plate, frost the top, then sandwich your next cake over. Frost the sides, the top, and decorate with extra nuts or raisins if you'd like.

This makes a beautiful tall cake, even better the next day after the rum has fully soaked in. Enjoy!
(Look at those egg yolks! If you have friends/neighbors/farmers you can get free range eggs from, they're worth their weight in gold.)