I enjoy cooking, but I love baking. When I feel exhausted by studies, it's baking that lifts my spirits up. My housemates don't mind it either. Although many of my recipes are adapted from such greats as Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) and Emeril Lagasse, I hope that I can offer simple tips to take the intimidation out of baking.
Today, we're working on one of my favorite recipes: Carrot Cake with pineapple and raisins*. This recipe is always moist and delicious - a definite crowd-pleaser.
For the cake:nocoupons
- 2 cups granulated sugar (organic works as well. not sure about splenda, equal, etc)
- 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
- 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (leave on the counter the night before)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 pound carrots, freshly grated (6-8 carrots)
- 1/2 cup (4oz) diced fresh pineapple (an 8oz can of crushed pineapple is much cheaper, depending on the season, and works fine)
For the frosting:nocoupons
- 3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature (leave on the counter the night before)
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature (leave on the counter the night before)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 pound (2cups/16oz) confectioners' sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using cooking spray, spray 2 (8 or 9-inch) round cake pans completely. Line with parchment paper; This will help the cake to form a perfectly flat surface and prevent sticking.
For the cake:
Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. I would recommend cracking the eggs in a separate bowl. You never know if you'll get a bad egg or a piece of shell, or worse, you don't want to risk dropping the whole egg into the mixer.
Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour. Break up any raisin clumps you might have. The flour dusting helps with even distribution throughout the cake. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. If you are using canned pineapple, drain the juice out and use all 8oz of can.
Add to the batter and mix well. Make sure to scrape the sides down. Also, use a spatula to scrape the bottom. Doing both these things will ensure that all the dry ingredients are well mixed with the wet.
Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack (12"/12"). I would recommend about 3 hours. Icing a warm cake is a messy situation.
Once the cakes are cool, take another rack and place it on top of the tin. Then flip the cake upside down. Tap on the bottom of the tin and slowly remove the tin from the cake. Peal back the parchment paper and discard. Take the other rack and place it on the cake, so that it is sandwiched by the racks. Flip the cake once more so that it is right side up. Repeat with other cake.
For the frosting:
Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined - about 30 secs on medium speed. Add the sifted sugar and mix until smooth - about 1-2 minutes on med-high speed.
Take a small dab of icing and put it on the center of the cake platter. This helps to keep the cake in place. Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on the platter. Do not worry about the dome; it will flatten out with time. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Be generous. When you frost leave about a half inch frosting-free edge along the cake.
Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top (start with the center) and sides of the cake (frost from the top and work way down).
You can decorate the cake with a little sprinkling of cinnamon (freshly grated is always best), whole walnuts or pecans as a border (whichever was used), or nothing at all.
If you are going to enjoy the cake within 3-4 four hours, it need not be refrigerated. If not, place in the refrigerator and remove 1 hour before eating.