Sunday, March 17, 2013

Carrot Cake


Happy Almost Easter!
I made this yummy carrot cake for "company" for supper last nite. It was so easy and very similar to making a fresh apple cake. You just can't go wrong with an Ina Garten recipe. Except, I can't always find the ingredients she calls for where we live! Since I could not find marscapone in our grocery, I used a simple Cream Cheese Icing recipe from my other favorite, Southern Living. I'll post both and you can take your pick. I did add the crystallized ginger and thought it gave a nice "kick" to the taste of the icing. However, I would not rush out to purchase it just for this recipe. I keep it on hand for Christmas baking and those wonderful Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars.

Confession time, I made the carrot decorations from Royal Icing on waxed paper. Do NOT ask why I didn't just make them on the cake! For some reason, I thought they would look cuter if attached to the sides of the cake. Learn from my mistakes. Make them ON the cake. The carrots came off the wax paper just fine. The leaves didn't. Since this was for close friends, I used them anyway and I have to admit the ones popping up above the sides of the cake were cute!

Ina Garten's Carrot Cake with Marscapone Ginger Icing

2 cups  sugar
1⅓ cups vegetable oil
3 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound carrots, grated by hand, not in food processor
1 cup raisins (you can omit these, if you prefer)
1 cup chopped walnuts (of course, I used pecans!)

12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
⅓ cup minced crystallized ginger (not in syrup), plus more for garnish
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease two 9 x 2 round cake pans, grease and flour the pans,line the bottoms with parchment paper (or waxed paper).

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar, oil, and eggs together on medium-high speed 2 minutes, until light yellow and thickened. Stir in vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 cups flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients to wet ones.

In a medium bowl, toss carrots, raisins, nuts, and remaining 1 Tbsp. flour. Stir into batter with a rubber spatula. Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth tops. Bake 10 minutes, lower heat to 350°, and bake 30 to 35 minutes more, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set aside 15 minutes to cool in pans, turn out onto a baking rack, and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat mascarpone, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, cream, and vanilla about 1 minute, until light and fluffy. Add crystallized ginger and salt and beat 30 seconds more.

Place 1 cake on a flat serving plate, rounded side down. Spread half the frosting on top only (not the sides). Place the second cake on top of the first, rounded side up. Frost just the top of the second cake. Sprinkle with crystallized ginger. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve (if cake is refrigerated, let it come to room temperature before serving).

Helen's Note
Here is the icing recipe I used. It made enough to go between the layers and on the sides of the cake. I did not sprinkle with more ginger. I did add the chopped crystalized ginger to the frosting along with a teaspoon of lemon juice. I like lemon juice in cream cheese icing to "cut" the sweetness. (That's one of Mama's special cooking terms.)

Basic Cream Cheese Icing
1 (8-oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound powdered sugar

Cream the cream cheese and butter until soft and fluffy in electric mixer. Add vanilla. Add powdered sugar a little at the time until all is added and mixture is spreading consistency. If needed, add milk or cream to make the icing softer.

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