Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Carrots Do Have A Place in Cake

Carrot cake is like a presidential candidate. Everyone knows carrot cake. Many like it and some can't stand it. Everyone has an opinion.
"It's more about the cream cheese frosting than the cake."
"Next time you should make little orange carrots out of the frosting."
"Carrots have no place in cake."

These are just some of the opinions I collected when I brought carrot cake into work. I was reluctant to bring it in because I thought it was a delicious recipe and wanted to keep it all for myself. But I figured it would be best to not eat half a sheet cake.

Who thought to put carrots in a cake? It sounds like a ridiculous idea, and yet it's delicious. Are there any other vegetables we're forgetting to put in desserts? Cabbage eclairs? Artichoke ice cream? Cucumber flan? Radish rice pudding? I could go on...

My recipe was from Cooking Light, noted as receiving the test kitchen's highest rating at the time it was published in 2005. It was a traditional rendering of the cake. Packed full of moist shredded carrots, a touch of cinnamon, brown sugar, butter, and eggs. Buttermilk added moisture without as much fat. Nothing unusual like coconut, pineapple, raisins, or nuts in the recipe. The cream cheese frosting was similarly straightforward, blending cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. No distinct flavors like maple, orange, or Irish cream. (For these and other unusual carrot cakes, search on Epicurious) A plain and simple traditional carrot cake was exactly what I was looking for, and it turned out exactly right.

Growing up, I had no idea about cream cheese frosting. I didn't know that a requirement of carrot cake was that it was cut square with a thick white layer of frosting on top or cut as a wedge just so each piece got its own orange frosting carrot. I thought carrot cake was baked in a bundt pan, sliced so that each piece was the shape of a gumdrop, and served unfrosted. I thought this because carrot cake was the only American dessert my mother knew how to make (now she makes whiskey cake quite often too), and that was how she made it. She had acquired a recipe from someone, and made it every time we had guests - which was often since my parents love to entertain. I remember standing at the mixer adding in coconut and mounds of carrots, watching the batter turn a pale orange, folding in the nuts. It was a hearty and dense cake. It could have taken you out back and roughed you up a little, so you didn't forget it was made of vegetable. It was its own breed of cake.

Traditional carrot cake is gentle, with a light, airy crumb. I like my Cooking Light version for those characteristics, and for not being too sweet or rich, but it does leave you craving more cake. I liked my mother's cake for being ultimately satisfying and filling.

Cooking Light recipe: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=1054818

Mom's recipe: TBA

No comments:

Post a Comment