There are two types of people in the world – cake people and pie people. I am a pie person; Beloved is a cake person. But we’ve managed to make it work (so far), probably because even though Beloved is a cake person, he’s not so short-sighted as to turn down a piece of pie.
For most people, this dessert allegiance seems to be completely arbitrary. Not in my case; I was a professional cake decorator for nearly 10 years and when you’ve spent 10 hours a day, 6 days a week for that long, standing with a huge bucket of buttercream at your elbow and a white sheet cake in front of you, waiting to be turned into a masterpiece that Little Johnny will mangle with both hands at his first birthday party while his parents use up 12 rolls of film, the last thing you want to do is eat a piece of cake. For years afterwards, I wouldn’t touch a piece of cake, much less put one in my mouth.
Twelve years have passed since I decorated my last cake professionally (although I’ve done it many times since as favors to friends and family, or just for the hell of it), and needless to say I am rediscovering the joys of eating cake, especially cakes made from scratch in my kitchen. I still don’t make them with the regularity that I make pies, but I probably bake one every six weeks or so.
This weekend I realized it’s been more like 3 months since I last baked a cake, and since I’ve been promising Beloved a carrot cake for ages, that’s what I made this afternoon. The recipe comes from a small book I’ve had since 1986 and was part of a promotion by Benson and Hedges cigarettes – buy a carton of cigarettes and get this nifty little book. I didn’t buy the carton, but my ex-husband, who was the night manager at a convenience store at the time, nicked one for me and brought it home. We were so poor it’s the only way I was going to get a new cookbook, and since the recipes were from the country’s greatest resorts I don’t think I could actually afford to make any of the recipes.
In the intervening years, however, I’ve managed to make quite a few, including an absolutely decadent Macadamia Nut Pie that I’ll have to post the recipe for later, and this carrot cake. The icing is good, although a bit on the sweet side, so if you want to leave it off I’d say that’s fine. About half of it remained on my plate – my sweet tooth ain’t what it used to be. It would probably be fine with a dusting of powdered sugar on the top. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of cooked, mashed carrots as opposed to shredded, raw carrots, which makes for a dense, moist and intensely carrot-flavored cake that is to DIE for.
Note: To get 1/2 cup cooked, mashed carrots, use between 1 3/4 and 2 cups raw carrots, peeled and cubed. When they were cooked, I ran them through the food processor as opposed to mashing them by hand (it was just quicker and easier). Also, the original recipe calls for standard all-purpose flour, so if that’s all you have, it will work. However, I’ve found that cake flour makes for a more tender cake with a better crumb.
1 1/2 cups cake flour (you can use all-purpose)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup cooked, mashed carrots, room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (8 1/4 ounce) can (or 1 scant cup) crushed pineapple, drained
1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl.
Whisk together carrots, oil, pineapple, eggs and water in a smaller mixing bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing well after each addition. Fold in the walnuts and raisins.
Pour into greased and floured cake pan and bake for 45 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool in a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove cake from pan and cool completely. Frost with cream cheese icing, if desired.
Cream Cheese Icing
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar, using low speed, until it is a spreadable consistency.
The completed cake
A slice of carrot cake – for me. That’s what Beloved gets for playing poker this evening.