Dec 14, 2009

Classic Carrot Cake


This should be in everyone's baking repertoire. The cake is quick and easy; the frosting is quick and easy; and both are outstandingly delicious. It was a treat to go back to something on the quick-and-easy list after a group of more time-consuming projects. I counted up today, and so far I've blogged about 31 cakes, not counting this one. At Cake #31, and counting, I feel that I can no longer call myself a complete novice, and must move myself up to Advanced Beginner from Novice, using the Dreyfus system of rating.

Really, the hardest thing about this cake is grating the carrots.


Once you have grated several pounds of carrots, all that's left to do is sift the dry ingredients together,

mix the eggs, oil, and sugars,

and add the carrots.

Carrot cake is not traditional on Chanukah, but it is appropriate--at least I hope it is--because it's made with oil, and because the story of Chanukah is that of the miracle of the oil. My friend Karen told me that fried jelly doughnuts are actually more traditional, but what can I say? There are no recipes for fried jelly doughnuts in Rose's Heavenly Cakes, so any attempt to make them will have to wait until Chanukah 2011.
I don't know whether it's more authentic to write "Chanukah" or "Hanukkah" or some other version, but I like to write it with a "ch" because it reminds me that it's one of those words that I read long before I heard it pronounced, and when I first heard it pronounced, I thought it was a completely different word: like hors d'oeuvre.
The batter is poured into prepared pans, and baked for about a half-hour.




What makes this carrot cake different from others? I checked a recipe from Betty Crocker to compare. Rose's has more flour, a mixture of brown and white sugar instead of just white (a significant difference), an additional egg, a bit of cocoa (which I haven't seen in other recipes), baking powder as well as baking soda, and optional raisins, which I did not include. Both have two teaspoons of cinnamon and three cups of carrots.
It's the frosting that's really different from the ordinary cream cheese frosting. Ordinary--cream cheese, butter or margarine (my house is a margarine-free zone), and powdered sugar. Rose's--cream cheese, butter, white chocolate, and a little creme fraiche or sour cream. It's the ordinary lifted to the sublime, and the sublimity is reached simply by dumping the ingredients in a food processor, after first having melted the white chocolate, and whirring them together.

I've made this frosting, the "Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting," before, but I've never liked it as much as I like it on this cake. When I made it for the banana cake, I put too much almond extract in it, but this was perfect.
By the way, I really like my new thermometer. Now that I've got an instant-read that works, I have, perhaps predictably, become somewhat obsessive about taking the temperature of various things.


It's my attitude toward frosting the cake that made me decide to promote myself to Advanced Beginner. I actually was looking forward to it instead of dreading it. Granted, it was easy to make and went on smoothly. Granted, there was no slicing, dyeing or, caramelizing involved. But, still, I felt that I could do it.


The cake was so moist that, when I cut into it I wondered whether I'd undercooked it, even though I'd tested it. But it wasn't underdone--just moist. Like the pumpkin cake, this one has so much flavor that you don't at all miss the presence of butter. As with other of Rose's cakes, the flavors are perfectly balanced, so that eating it nuances of flavor in every bite. And, also as with other of her cakes, it's not cloyingly sweet. I know that some of the bakers already have a favorite carrot cake recipe, so I'll be interested to hear how Rose's version compares. As for me, I didn't have a favorite recipe before, but now I do.






TASTING PANEL

Karen: "It's gorgeous and delicious. A very sophisticated version of carrot cake."
Jim: "Very moist. It's pretty the way the nuts are arranged. The best carrot cake I'ver ever eaten."
Laurel: "Very good. Less than the usual overwhelming spices."
Jan: "Moist, creamy, carroty."











28 comments:

sairasac said...

Your cake looks great! I have a question marie...will we make the cakes you baked on your own? I was sooo looking forward to the banana cake and you mentioned that you've made it...

Maria said...

Seeing your updates every week makes me lament even more my lack of free time. Now that I'm all moved into my new place and have unpacked the cookbooks... it's time for the 12-hour, 6-day work weeks. Oh well. If I don't have time for cake, at least I have time for bacon caramels.

Matthew said...

Marie, I would certainly place you higher on the Dreyfus scale, based on the pdf you provided! I decided to join your group for this week, and posted my cake on the forums:

http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/index_ee.php/forums/viewthread/1717/

Nicola said...

Marie, I agree with Matthew - you are definitely alot higher on the Dreyfus scale than Advanced Beginner!

I too have become a bit obsessed about temperatures now that I have my instant read thermometer. BTW, I have the Thermapen. The instant read feature probably isn't as useful when you are measuring non static temperatures!

Great job on your cake - it is gorgeous. And I love the comments from your taste panel. I want to give Jim a kiss, he is so sweet! He compliments both your talent (considerable) and the cake - what more could you ask for!

doughadear said...

Marie
Your finished cake looks quite professionally decorated. I love carrot cake and I have a great recipe but your description of this one is very appealing. I have a dinner party to go to on Saturday and I was thinking to make a carrot cake, I might just make this one.

JC said...

Marie,

I think you are too hard on yourself. After all these cakes I consider you at least Competent on the Dreyfus scale. Your cake this week looks fantastic. It certainly was a delicious cake and I will be making it again and again.

Raymond

Mendy Greenstein said...

ב"ה

As long as you are not writing 'Chanukah' in the original hebrew, חנוכה, I assume you can write it any way you want.

American custom is potato pancakes (latkes) while the doughnuts are more Israeli (sufganiot.) there is much cross-over of course. The main thing is the oil, so I think we pass with this one. The frosting is fitting as well as there is actually a custom to eat dairy as well because of Yehudit (Judith:) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanukkah

Marie, your cake looks great. I think that the dreyfus scale does not properly account for ones OCD with temperature gadgets. I think that shoots the person up the scale to some degree At any rate a a great baker is not someone who 'can' bake great cakes, it's someone who 'does.' :)

ROCCO'S MAMA said...

I was lucky enough to have a slice of this cake and describe it as "sinfully delicious." It is moist and literally the best frosting. I will no longer eat traditional cream cheese frosting on a carrot cake. Okay, I will but will remember that this was better! Marie, you are a baking god.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

marie! you have definitely graduated. the cake looks perfect and makes me so hungry to have a bite.

interestingly, though i've recommended chiffon cake for hanukah it must have been by instinct bc i wasn't thinking of the oil, i was thinking of how light it would be after all those latkes! that was so clever of you. and you even got passover a little into the action with the phrase "why is this cake different from other carrot cakes." this shows you really embraced the spirit of the whole thing! next you will be given an 'honorable jew' mention!

Nancy B said...

Next time we do a cake with the Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting, I'm checking the temp of my cream cheese and butter. Maybe that's my problem. Good idea, not obsessive at all...to me, anyway. :)

Marie said...

Saira,
Hanaa asked if she could sign up to be guest host for the Torta des Tres Leches, so I gave her a date in January (I think). If you, or anyone else, wants to put a cake on the list that I've already done, just let me know, and I'll work it in the schedule.

Maria,
Did you see Kristina's message that your updates aren't coming through to this blog?

Hanaâ said...

Marie,

Your cake looks great. Love how you decorated it with the nuts on top. I'm looking forward to making this cake tonight, and saving it for the bake sale at work on Thursday.

I don't think your obsession with the thermometer is weird at all. I used to (and still do sometimes) weigh "everything". I guess it's one of those baker's quirks (or I'm really sick!) :o)

As for the Tres Leches Cake, I picked January 18th as the host date, so I could make it for my hubby's bday.

Marie said...

Matthew,
That candied carrot rose is so beautiful! "Rustic," indeed.

Nicola,
Jim is very sweet, and he will enjoy reading your comment. I don't think it's false modesty to promote myself to Advanced Beginner--I did promote myself, by the way. And, did you look at Matthew's cake? People who make candied carrot roses are the ones who are not Advanced Beginners.

Oriana,
I think Rose's cakes always have je ne sais quoi quality that sets them apart from even very good versions of other cakes, so I'd love to get your opinion on how it compares to your recipe.

Melinda said...

I think your cake looks wonderful! I must try this frosting out.
I don't think I have seen another carrot cake that had cocoa in the recipe. Very interesting and I will have to try it out and see if I think it adds that certain something.
I had to laugh at you taking the temperature of everything! Don't let this get out of hand. Jim will be afraid to bend over in the kitchen.

Marie said...

Raymond,
You can't be "Competent" at cake baking until you've made fondant and mousseline. That's my just-thought-of rule. Glad you liked the cake!

Mendy,
Thanks for the additional info. Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure that Karen told me it was a tradition in Israel, and I forgot that part. Whew! I was worried about the frosting, so thanks for setting my mind at ease. As Rose says, I'm hoping to become an honorary Jew.

Rocco's (and Bianca's) Mama,
I'm pretty sure that nobody has every called me a baking god before, or any kind of god for that matter. You are sweet. And you will definitely get that raise!

Rose,
Mendy gave me the dates for the holidays and some criteria for selecting an appropriate cake, and then I chose them. He doesn't know the others I've chosen, so I hope they're all appropriate. I think this one is an ecumenically appropriate holiday cake.
And becoming an honorary Jew is right up there with being a baking god as something to aspire to.

Nancy B,
I loved using the thermometer! In my cold December kitchen, it took longer for the butter and cream cheese to warm up than I thought it would. Now I'm thinking I should probably get a good oven thermometer, especially since I use the convection setting for baking, to make sure I've got the right oven temp.

Marie said...

Hanaa,
I'll admit that I felt very pleased with myself for thinking of putting the nuts in a ring around the outside instead of sprinkling them all over the top of the cake--which would also be good.
I remember now that it was for your husband's birthday--I knew there was a reason, I just forgot. You should be showing up on the calendar next week.

Melinda! I'm shocked! It's only because you're a nurse that you can get away with saying things like that. And the idea of defacing my immaculately new thermometer--well, it's just horrifying. And funny.

evil cake lady said...

Melinda, I am still laughing at your comment!! That is hilarious!

Marie, I think it is unanimous that you are more than just advanced beginner. Let's put fondant and mousseline under proficient and then we can at least call you competent, although I personally consider you more than competent!
I loved your description of the frosting--sublimity attained by dumping everything into a food processor! Only Rose could create a recipe like that.
And again, now that I've read about everyone's carrot cake, I wish I had made it!

Sugar Chef said...

Nice cake Marie and great post as usual. I wish I could write as nice as you do, I really enjoy your step by step descriptions.

Jenn said...

Marie - your cake looks lovely. I love the walnut decoration on the top. And great job grating the carrots - you are more motivated that I am. I'm back btw after a long hiatus. Am planning on making the english gingerbread cake this weekend!

Marie said...

ECL,
If you like carrot cake, you'll have to try it sometime. The only big questions in making this cake are: raisins or not, walnuts or not, sour cream or creme fraiche. Everything else is comopletely smooth.

Sugar Chef,
Thanks. And I wish I could decorate cakes the way you do. The grass is always greener....

Jenn,
Welcome back...just in time for the gingerbread cake.

faithy, the amateur baker said...

Your cake looks great Marie! I agree with you that grating carrots is the hardest thing to do...i got some help on that..:p..

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

note to everyone: i wish i could write to you each separately but i'm racing to leave for the annual holiday baking lesson for my friend elizabeth karmel's nephews (now three!) and last night was up til 3 am bidding on e-bay for a 1/2 pint donvier ice cream maker (i won) and then an hour spent with ATT re cell phone not working. (it turned out to be one of their towers--what a waste of time).

i just have to say before leaving that it was fascinating to see how different each of your cakes looked--terrifically different. and i loved reading what each of you wrote though i'm not going to be able to finish til i return.

thank you all for your wonderful postings.

jini said...

marie, i am giggling here in front of my computer. melinda's thought was the same as mine. those good nursely thoughts you know. :)
the cake looks wonderful and if i survive the holidays i will bake it to celebrate january! don's favorite is carrot cake and it has become mine also.
you have become a cake artist marie, seriously. your cakes always look so professional. you don't give yourself enough credit!!

Theresa111 said...

What a moist cake! Great job! Are you signed up at Half Hour Meals dot com? Please come over as this Saturday we are getting together for Festive Cakes and Cupcakes. You'll be a huge hit!

Hanaâ said...

I didn't have a chance to bake this cake yet. Too busy! So sorry! Will try to bake it by the end of the week.

Anonymous said...

Canadian Living had a really horrific sounding bread pudding made with jelly doughnuts as a holiday treat. I opted for potato pancakes.

This might just be the prettiest cake you've baked (though the fruitcake was lovely as well), and I'll echo what others have said regarding your skill level.

Goody

hector said...

Marie, your presentation is excellent and appetizing, you did a great job. so happy everyone loves carrot cake. here is my take:

http://myyellowkitchen.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/classic-03-carrot-cake-page-122-%E2%80%93-use-the-microplane/

Marie said...

Theresa,
Interesting web site. Thanks for letting me know about it.