Sunday, December 22, 2013

Carrots, Sugar, and the Holidays (plus a giveaway)

Christmas is almost here! In light of that, I wanted to share with you guys something really special. I mean really, really special. (I know the pictures are enticing, but stick around because at the end of the post I have a giveaway for you guys!)

In my family, as long as I can remember, my family has baked one thing during every holiday, carrot cakes. These little loaves of deliciousness were given out as gifts, brought to parties, and shared for breakfasts and deserts. On my father's side, this family recipe is the only one that has been passed down several generations. The cakes are moist and packed with flavor. Even the recipe card is written in my late Grandmother's handwriting (which I'm going to have framed one day soon).

Now here's where I break your heart. I can't share it! I know, I know. I'm sorry for the buildup. It's the only recipe passed down from several generations of Italians (not pasta, gravy, or biscotti, but carrot cake). It's special and will either go to the grave with me or be passed down to my (future) kids.

What I can give you is the next best thing another carrot cake recipe I found years ago--and let me tell you it is just as amazing.

First, a story (it is my trade after all).

I'm a baker at heart. I'm not sure when exactly it started since I don't remember doing an abnormal amount of baking as child, but some time in my teens I realized the cookie dough rolled up in the tubes at the grocery store wasn't as good as the one I could make from fresh ingredients. Yes, cookies are my drug of choice, but I've nothing against a great cake either. I baked long before I learned how to cook anything other than packaged mac and cheese and romin, so I feel like more of a baker than a cook.

Keeping with that, here is the recipe for my
Almost As Good As Grandma Basso’s Carrot Cake 

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon all spice
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil (I know how it sounds, just trust me.)
1 pound carrots (about 2 cups) peeled and grated
Optional ingredients:
1 ½ cups toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped
1 cup of raisins

Now, before we get any further I have two things to say. One: When baking, always use fresh ingredients. Baking powder that’s more than a year old isn’t going to rise right, and old spices are bland. Two: Grate the carrots yourself or with a food processor, don’t go out and buy those pre-shredded carrots, they don’t have the texture or moisture you’ll need.

Putting these bad boys together:

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9 by 13-inch cake pan (or two small rounds which will cook for 25-30 minutes) with vegetable oil spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Whisk the eggs and sugars together in a large bowl until frothy and the sugar is mostly dissolved, about 1 minute. While whisking, slowly add the oil until the mixture is combined and emulsified, about 1 minute. Whisk in the flour mixture until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in carrots (and nuts and raisins, if you’re choosing to use them).

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached (this part is important, don’t over bake), 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

4. Let the cake cool before applying the awe-mazing cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese frosting, you say? Why yes! Did I forget to mention the preverbial cherry on top?

Here’s what you’ll need for the frosting:

8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (but I always add a little more, about a teaspoon. Not into vanilla? Substitute the sour cream for orange juice and the vanilla for a teaspoon of freshly grated orange zest)
1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar

(Hey, this is a cake recipe for the holidays, not a quick guide for losing weight)

Stir together the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla until combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to stir until smooth.

And boom. The yummiest (though maybe not the prettiest, sorry guys) carrot cake you’ve ever had!

Now I couldn’t think of a descent segue to get us from carrot cake to the rafflecopter, so I’ve done it the lazy man’s way. Look here! There’s a giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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