Thursday, April 27, 2006

Carrot Cake With Walnuts

I adapted this recipe from "Larry Rosenberg's Carrot Cake" in The Martha Stewart Cookbook. Larry's version is delicious but I wanted to experiment a bit with the spices. I added allspice to the dough and replaced the vanilla in the icing with cardamom and lemongrass. I first made this cake for a group of Italian friends thinking that I could introduce them to something new and convince them that "American" food is better than they thought. When they tried it, though, they all seemed to be familiar with carrot cake. So, is carrot cake NOT American? I had it up there with bagels & lox, clam chowder and southern barbecue. Am I wrong? The Italians liked it enough to ask for the recipe. Here it is:

Ingredients for cake:
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice (or a combination of any of the following: powdered nutmeg, clove, and ginger)
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs beaten
2 cups grated carrots

Ingredients for icing:
8 ounces softened cream cheese
½ cup sifted confectioners' sugar
2 sticks softened unsalted butter
2 tsp whole cardamom pods
1 tsp dried lemongrass (or try ground ginger or, of course, vanilla extract)

Finishing touch:
½ cup finely chopped walnuts plus optional walnut halves or marzipan carrots.


TO MAKE THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 375F. Cover 2 round cake pans with a thin layer of butter and then dust with flour and shake out the excess. The pans should be 8 inches and 6 inches in diameter, respectively. Line the bottom of each with parchment paper.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, oil, and eggs until light and fluffy. Stir in the grated carrots. Add the sifted dry ingredients from the medium sized bowl and stir to just barely mix. Overmixing might make the cake tough.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pans and place them in the oven. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 350F. Bake for 30 minutes or until cakes are done in the center. This time it took me 40 minutes, so keep checking. (Place a toothpick into the center of the cake, pull it out and if it is clean, no bits of cake clinging to it, the cake is done.) Let cakes cool on wire racks before removing them from the pans.

TO MAKE THE ICING: Crush the cardamom pods and extract the seeds. Grind them to a fine powder along with the lemongrass in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Ideally, combine all icing ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at a low speed for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat at high speed for 5 minutes more. (I do not have an electric mixer so I just beat the icing with a wooden spoon until my arm ached and I was out of breath, about 30 seconds. The result was not as smooth but what can you do?) Music to beat icing by: The Best of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Their childlike yet very stripped down proto-punk rock sounds will energize you while you beat the crap out of that icing.

Spread the icing smoothly over the top and sides of each layer cake. There is enough icing to coat the cakes with 2 layer s of icing. Do the first, called a “crumb layer” due to all the stray crumbs that can still be visible in it, then place cakes in the fridge or freezer for a couple of minutes until icing is hard. Then proceed with the second layer. This will look smoother and more attractive. Press the chopped nuts into the sides. Stack the layers. You may want to decorate the top with, say, marzipan carrots or walnut halves.


Blogger hellomelissa said...

carrot cake is my husband's ALL TIME favorite cake. i might try this recipe in january for his birthday! but you can bet it won't have marzipan carrots adorning the top. :)

2:14 AM  
Blogger ComidaDeMama said...

Hi Susan
so glad to got in contact with you
I will keep in mind your advice about pay attention on how-what-who-when ask question to expats. I used to be an expats too with Marco and Marta, we spent 4.5 years in Holland.
So I hope to stay in contact with you.
BTW great cake!
Elena-comidademama (sorry for my englishl, today is worst than average as I slept JUST 1 hour!)

2:29 PM  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

Mmmmmmm, carrot cake! My kids will love you if I make this for them, Susan! A slice of carrot cake with frosting is their absolute favorite thing to have at tea time (sadly, I always buy mine prepared). But, no more! :)

I always thought carrot cake was North American - I remember the first time I tasted it, I was 10 years old and it was at the house of some Canadian missionaries. Mmmmmmm!

3:58 PM  
Blogger Tracie P. said...

so that's the light version, right?

6:01 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hello Melissa, no marzipan carrots?! That's not very Martha of you LOL

Comidademama, El titulo de tu blog esta' en espanyol! Quiere decir eso que lo hablas? De lo que he leido de tu blog, me parece que ya sabes todo eso de tener cuidado con los sentimientos de los extranjeros. Mi comentario era dirigido mas a tus lectores. Y tu ingles esta muy bien eh, mucho mejor que mi italiano:)

Hi Lotus, Wow, I wonder how many people they succeeded in converting through carrot cake;)

Tracie, yeah, carrot cake ain't as healthy as it sounds. You might consider replacing the 1c oil with 1c apple sauce. It really works.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic, Susan!

Not only does it look beautiful but I love the variation that you put on it ... especially the allspice.

Well done!

12:26 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Susan that looks like such a yummy cake and much better than the one we made from a box! Geneva? Actually I lived in Montreux for 1.5 years so almost the same area, only 50 mins train ride away. It's still on the Lac Leman.. Love the area, but my fav by far is Yvoire, France on the lake.

3:52 AM  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Susan - a lot I'll bet! ;) I also tasted apple pie for the first time at the same missionary's house (and peanut butter!) :)

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the idea of the addition of all spice and the cardamom and lemongrass... Great job!


7:09 PM  
Blogger Corrie said...

yum! carrot cake! your food photos are great. the first time i introduced carrot cake to my italian friends, they had never heard of it. they were a bit skeptical at first (CARROTS? this just keeps up the weird foods in American desserts theme...CHEESE cake? sweet potato pie? zucchini bread?), but when they tried it they loved it.


8:09 PM  
Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

I love, love, LOVE carrot cake! I am not sure that I can get mine to look as pretty as yours, but I can not wait to try out your recipe.


9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ciao Susan.
mi piace molto il tuo blog e le tue ricette...anche se a volte e' difficile adattarle in Italia. Ad esempio, mi piacerebbe fare la carrot cake ma a quanto corrispondono 2 sticks di burro??? perchè non metti anche la traduzione (con le unità di misura internazzionali) in italiano?


1:15 AM  

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