Happy Hour: Carrot Cake

I know normally this is where we talk about a delightful cocktail, a bottle of wine or even my babydoll’s home brew.  Then we add in a delightful delectable.  This week however was a bit much on the body, so tonight in a continuing effort to clear out the freezer before the garden starts producing veg that needs to be processed and stocked, we are taking out a container of beef stroganoff (the egg noodles will be fresh) and just having carrot cake and a big glass of milk afterwards.

Given the post vaccination fever and sickness, I think it is a much safer option than trying a new, untested cocktail variation. I’ll get back to experimenting next week.

Each spring we go through the strange freezer purge.  You see my baby doll has a weakness when it comes to the grocery store’s meat department.  It doesn’t matter what the grocery list says, if he sees a roast or chops or any cut he particularly likes on sale, he will scoop it up to add to the freezer.  He likes having a meat stash.  The problem is that the freezer fills up quickly with large odd shaped packages.  So when it looks like it is getting full I make large batches of dishes.

Like beef stroganoff.  Without the noodles it freezes really well and  because left over portions are in smaller stackable regularly shaped containers, it takes up less space.  (plus we’ve eaten some as well, usually for Friday night but some left overs on Saturday as well).  His massive meat buying tends to be in the fall so we have an assortment of heavy Friday night meat centric meals for the winter.  In the spring and summer we eat lighter so we clear them up.  Plus we need the freezer space for frozen veg. So we are in the clear out phase of the season. Hence the heavier dinner and why I’m not making a happy hour appetizer.  Plus we have a mostly untouched carrot cake to eat.

I love carrot cake, but I didn’t get to eat much of it this week so I will revel in it for my end of the week treat. It is super easy to make so if you are scared of cake baking it is a really easy one to start with. The icing makes exactly enough to give you a thin layer of frosting between the two cakes and then to coat the rest of the cake.  At best there will be maybe a spoonful left.

Carrot Cake

2 cups All Purpose (250 g plain flour – UK) Flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp nutmeg (grate it fresh please)

½ tsp salt

¾ cup vegetable oil (like Canola)

4 large eggs (room temperature)

1 ½ cup packed brown sugar (330 g)

½ cup granulated sugar (100 g caster sugar)

½ cup applesauce

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups grated carrots

ICING

1 (8oz) package of plain cream cheese (room temp)

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter softened

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups powdered sugar (250 g icing sugar)

To make the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (while I weigh certain ingredients like flour and brown sugar when I bake because it is more accurate than a cups measurement so I know the measurements and baking with my Gran gave me the different names for the same ingredients and will happily include them, I don’t know UK oven settings, sorry)
  • spray and flour two 9 inch round cake pans and set aside.
  • Grate your carrots and set aside (how many you need to get three cups depends on the size of your carrots.  Mine were all about eight inches long but varied in width and I needed about five this time)
  • In a bowl mix together: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg,  and salt (make this your larger mixing bowl as you add wet to the dry later)
  • In a separate bowl  whisk together eggs, oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, apple sauce and vanilla until combined.  Once they are thoroughly mixed, add your carrots.  (while you can use a mixer to bend the earlier ingredients, when you get to the add the carrots stage, switch to a spoon or spatula.  Trust me it saves a lot of heartache.  Carrot strands can just get twisted around the mixer blades.  Sometimes low tech works best.  While I may use my Hamilton Beach food processor to grate the carrots in an instant, I use a silicone spatula to mix them in.)
  • Once mixed, pout wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ones (the flour mix – see I told you to use the bigger bowl for that one).  Mix them together with a spatula until just combined.   Don’t over mix. (it will make your cake stodgy)
  • Pour batter evenly into the two previously prepared cake pans.
  • Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until the top sets and a toothpick comes out of the center cleanly.
  • Remove from pans and let cool completely on a wire rack before attempting to ice them.

And now To the ICING!

I use a hand mixer instead of a stand mixer for this because I find it comes out better for me.  It you use a stand mixer make sure your cream cheese and butte are really soft and go with a whisk attachment if possible. I have both a stand and a hand mixer but I always use the hand mixer for this frosting because I find it easier to see the butter and cream cheese combining evenly.

  • So into the bowl place the unwrapped cream cheese/  beat until smooth
  • Add the butter and mix until smooth and combined with the cream cheese
  • Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth scraping down the sides as needed.

As I mentioned I like using the hand mixer.  What I like to do with the powdered sugar so less flies up, is to pour it in small doses a little bit at a time. After each addition I use the spatula to put a little of the butter cream cheese mix over it before turning on the hand mixer again.  The mix helps wets the sugar enough that it doesn’t fly up in a dust cloud. Plus if you keep scooping from the bottom with each addition you won’t end up with a sugar pocket in the base of the bowl.

This icing will make a thin layer between the cakes and then ice the top and sides.  There is no left over for decoration.  If you want to use it for decoration, you can make a second batch.  I like to add a little more sugar to the second batch if I am going to do this to make it a little stiffer.  I also add colorings to that as well.  Usually orange and green for carrot designs.  This year it was just us and the sugar already on the cake was more than enough so I didn’t add more with decorations.

This is one of my favorite cakes but I only tend to make it twice a year, One at Easter and once in the fall when the carrots are still coming out of the garden and my taste buds start craving the warming spices that go into this cake.  It is rich so I generally have it with coffee or a big glass of milk. 

Either way it is the treat my babydoll and I will be enjoying after dinner in lieu of a happy hour treat. Don’t worry, next week will feature a new cocktail and something fun to nibble on.


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