Yesterday afternoon we attended a garden party. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, and we could hear the rides at the PNE as they motored uphill and the screams of gleeful riders as they hurtled, whirled, and dove.
It was Susan's birthday. And she had requested carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, please!
I had made a carrot cake for Jordan's birthday a number of weeks ago, and was pleased with how it turned out. However, as with most recipes, I love tinkering the second time around. I also tend to experiment on people I love, and this was for a dear friend. As usual, I wanted to turn down the sugar and turn up the flavor. Using Joy of Cooking as my basic guide, and More With Less for some inspiration, I came up with a Carrot-Applesauce-Nut Cake hybrid that was incredibly delicious. It was quite crumbly in the center, and didn't hold up terribly well to slicing. However, the tenderness of the crumb, the layered flavors, and the tangy-lemony cream cheese icing elicited "mmm"s from everyone. Kirsten said, "Tora, this is a profound cake."
Profound, indeed. The batter is light and bright, unlike many carrot cake batters that I've encountered, which are dark, oily, and taste syrupy-sweet. Adding extra baking powder and soda gives the cake loft. The applesauce combined with the spices gave the cake a lovely gingerbread-fruity undertones. And the lemon! I simply cannot have cream cheese frosting without lemon zest, forevermore. I trust that once you taste it, you won't go back, either.
Profound Carrot Cake
This recipe makes two 8-inch layers. I think it would also work well in bars, so you could easily pour the batter into one 9 by 13 inch pan. It is also extremely handy if you have an electric mixer and/or beaters to make the batter, and a food processor for the frosting.
Line your pans with parchment paper, or butter and flour them copiously, and especially in the corners. I traced the bottom of my pans onto parchment paper, and Jordan cut them out for me. I put these circles on the bottom of the pans, and buttered the flat sides of the pan. This worked beautifully! The cakes came out easily, and because I kept the paper on the bottom of each cake, they stacked well for transporting.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk together in a bowl and set aside:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground or grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
Shred and set aside:
2 cups shredded carrots (this will take about 2 large carrots, peeled)
In the bowl of your stand mixer (if you have one), cream together:3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
Add to the creamed mixture, and beat until just combined:
1 cup applesauce
Add the dry ingredients to this wet mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined.
Then, add in, stirring again until just combined:
your previously shredded carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup golden raisins
Pour the batter into your cake pan(s). Bake for 25 minutes, until the center of each cake is set (not batter-y), and the top is golden brown. Let cool for five minutes in the pan, then turn out the cakes and let them cool completely on racks. (If you're using a 9 by 13 pan, let the cake cool in the pan. Once it's completely cool, then you can frost it in the pan and cut into bars.)
When your cake is cool, and you are just about ready to frost the cakes, make the frosting.
Pulse in your food processor until smooth:
8 ounces of COLD cream cheese
Add and process until combined:
2 tsp vanilla
Add, and process until combined:
3 cups powdered sugar
Pour your frosting into a separate bowl, and STIR in:
the zest of two lemons
Frost your cake, and devour!