The carrot cake was a huge hit. Both at my house and at my office, everyone who tried it loved it. The other blogs also reported successes, as well. For Vicki, it's the "new favorite in her house." Sherrie described the cake as "dusky and mildly spicy," a description I like, and said she'd definitely be making both cake and frosting again. Raymond tells a good story about his first taste of carrot cake and its association with Three Dog Night. I'm not kidding. He says this "definitely heavenly" version still makes him want to go listen to Three Dog Night. Carrot cake is Raymond's version of Proust's madeleines.
The FEATURED BAKER this week is lanier. This is her sixth cake in the Bake-Along, and she says she decided to keep this one simple, because she didn't have to take it anywhere. She halved the recipe and baked it in a 9 x 9" Pyrex pan, so it was simplicity itself. No worries about getting the layers out of the pan or lining them up or frosting the sides (which, to me anyway, is the hardest part). I'm in awe of the bakers who make the recipes more difficult, so I really relate to those who decide to keep things easy. And with good reason--although this is only the second carrot cake lanier has ever made, her first one--an Easter cake--was decorated by a hand-made (husband-made) stencil of a bunny, filled in with sprinkled cinnamon. So if you go to lanier's blog, you can not only see her current carrot cake but also link to her first one. Nice job on both cakes! Lanier describes Rose's version as "a moist, homey cake with a lovely balance of spice and sweetness." I agree.
My gift to you during this busy season is two cakes in a row that are on the Quick-and-Easy list. Next week is the English Gingerbread Cake. There are no special ingredients for this cake, although Muscovado sugar is listed as "preferable" to plain old dark brown sugar, but you can use any dark brown sugar from any grocery store. You can also use either Lyle's Golden Syrup or light corn syrup. I highly recommend using the golden syrup if you can find it--it has a much deeper and more interesting taste. I made this cake for a party, and I won't say anything more about it except to warn you to be sure to follow the instructions to spray the wire racks before you flip the cake over. I am quite religious about doing that, but I forgot this time and the top of the cake stayed with the wire rack. It wasn't a disaster, just annoying.
In contrast, you might as well start looking at the recipe for the following cake, the pinecone cake, right now. And then read it over every day until it's time to bake it because the directions are complicated. I talked to Woody about this cake and he gave these hints: be sure to get glycerin ahead of time--it's not easy to find--and be sure to use latex or vinyl gloves when you make the fondant. I found glycerin at The Kitchen Window. While I was there, I noticed a tub of readymade dark chocolate fondant. "Look, Jim, I said--if I buy this fondant, I won't have to make it. And no one will ever know." He said, "Wouldn't that be cheating?" "Yes, I guess it would be," I said sorrowfully, and I passed it by. Also recommended for the fondant is Spectrum white vegetable shortening. If you go to the Spectrum web site and type in your zip code, you'll get the stores closest to you that carry this shortening.