Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bill's Half-Size Carrot Cake

A carrot cake just in time for Easter! Perfect for all those little Easter bunnies in your life. It's also wonderful for a birthday cake or . . . a wedding cake (!?)

Ask anyone who got married in 1981 about their wedding cake, and there's a good chance they'll answer "carrot cake." We were no different. At the end of our wedding reception the bakery boxed up the top layer for us to freeze and save for our first anniversary, but after a 12 hour drive through 100-degree weather it seemed unwise to preserve the unrefrigerated cake top for another day much less a year. So it ended up in the bin, but it lived on fondly in our memories (and photos).

We have enjoyed carrot cake on many occasions in the intervening 28 years - it remains my husband's very favorite kind of cake. My standby recipe is a carrot bundt cake with cream cheese glaze, so I haven't baked a carrot layer cake in quite a long time (truth be told, I'm not sure I ever have.)

The TWD group chose Bill's Big Carrot Cake last April, long before I joined the group. No matter; it was only a question of time until I baked this recipe. My husband's birthday last Friday presented the perfect opportunity.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- As much as I would have loved to have baked a big 3 layer confection, we didn't need the vast quantity of cake that this recipe produces. So I made half recipe, which fit nicely in two 8" cake pans.

- I made a bunch of small adjustments to the recipe, some to improve the nutritional profile and others to reflect our flavor and texture preferences. Scroll down to see my adapted ingredient list for this recipe. For Dorie's recipe, with full directions, click here.

- I added some freshly grated nutmeg and a tiny pinch of cloves

- added 1/2 mashed banana

- I cut the amount of sugar (3/4 cup for half recipe) and used brown sugar instead of white sugar

- I heaped the measure of raisins, and macerated them in hot rum.

- I subbed half the flour for King Arthur white whole wheat, and the rest was all-purpose.

- Mild olive oil works well in a cake like this, and has the benefits of monounsaturated fat.

- Rather than chopped nuts, I toasted the pecans and then ground them coarsely in the food processor

- I used low fat cream cheese in the frosting and cut quantity of lemon juice in half.

the verdict:

My daughter J.D.E was home last week, and celebrated her dad's birthday with us (and had an early celebration of her own birthday, which was yesterday!) Reactions to this cake were unanimously positive.

J.D.E: "Dorie really knows what she's doing."

Husband Jim: "It's killer. At a minimum." The birthday boy absolutely loved this cake, savoring every mouthful over the course of 3 or 4 days

I sampled a few tiny bites for reporting purposes (It's annoying that the birthdays of half my family fall during Lent nearly every year). The cake was nice and moist, not too sugary. The spices were present, but mild, so they didn't distract from the cake's carrot-y goodness. There was just the slightest hint of the banana and the coconut.

The frosting was a perfect complement to the cake - creamy, smooth, and mellow; just what I love in a cream cheese frosting. Not too tangy, not too cream cheese-y, and not too sweet. Just right.

the recipe:

Bill's Half-Size Carrot Cake,
here are the ingredients I used, adapted from Dorie Greenspan's recipe. For the directions, click here.

For the cake:

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon,
pinch each of freshly grated nutmeg and ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 4 carrots, grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade)
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened), chopped fine in a food processor
1/4 cup (heaping) moist, plump golden raisins, macerated in 1/4 cup hot rum and drained
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup mild olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 mashed banana (about 1/3 cup)

For the frosting:

4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Finely chopped toasted pecans for garnish


natalia said...

Happy birthday to your husband !! I like your hair in the wedding !! I baked the carrot cake some time ago but wasn't wise enough to split the recipe : it was huge !!

Elyse said...

So glad the bday boy loved his cake! It looks totally delicious. I adore carrot cake. And your wedding pic is precious!!

Sara said...

My husband loves carrot cake. His birthday is next month and I was thinking of making this recipe, glad to see it turned out well for you.

Anonymous said...

I love your wedding picture. Happy birthday to your husband, too. I hope he had a good one (and since the cake was a hit, it sounds like it was).

I love your substitutions. When I made this, I made the full recipe. I froze one layer and made 2 one layer cakes for 2 different parties. Everyone loved it.

Unknown said...

I loved this cake when we made it for TWD last year. Yours looks awesome! Glad your husband enjoyed it :)

Anonymous said...

Love your wedding picture. I missed this cake and have seen several post it which makes me think I need to make it for sure. Glad your husband loved his bday cake

Cathy said...

So glad that your birthday boy loved his cake (and that your birthday girl got to enjoy some too)! I think this is one of the best cakes I've ever had. I agree that the icing totally makes the cake. Your substitutions are brilliant, particularly adding mashed bananas and rumming up the raisins. And your wedding picture is great!

Unique Wedding Cakes said...

Yummy... the cake looks amazing and I will definitely have to try this recipe. Hopefully I can do it justice!

Thanks again.


Megan said...

Love the vintage wedding photo!

I remember making this cake way back in last April - it was really good!

pam said...

I love the wedding photo! You two look so serious.

Jessica said...

I love your wedding picture! I am happily anticipating rewinding this TWD at some point so I was delighted to read your notes on it. I'm glad that it was such a hit with your family, especially the birthday boy.

Audrey said...

My college roommate got married in 1981 and her sister (or his?) baked a big carrot cake to go alongside the traditional one, because (if I remember correctly) her mom said she couldn't have carrot cake as a wedding cake. I just remember being amazed that someone could bake a huge cake at home. I haven't made carrot cake in such a long time...I like the Silver Palate one where you puree the carrots. Looks delish! Happy birthday to everyone!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Really, carrot cake, german chocolate and angel food cake: they are my favorites.
I haven't tried Dorie's yet, that needs to change.

Peggy said...

Oh Nancy I can't tell you how happy I am you made this cake THIS week! I have been planning to make it myself this Saturday for my husband's birthday which was yesterday. And it is a lovely Easter cake I think. I can't wait to make it. I've tasted Cathy's version and it was great. I really like your substitutions and I think I'll try some of them in mine - especially the smashed banana. And I'm glad to know I could cut in half too, but I'll probably need all three layers. Do you think it would work as a sheetpan cake also? Beautiful cake.

Peggy said...

Oh, and I LOVE LOVE the wedding photo!!!

Reeni said...

Thanks for sharing the photo! How sweet! The cake looks moist and so scrumptious! Cream cheese frosting is the best. Happy B-day to your hubby and daughter!!

Claudia said...

Grand birthday cake - love carrot cake and what a sweet wedding picture. Just lovely!

TeaLady said...

Funny, my Bill's favorite cake is carrot also. Small World. HB to your hubs. Made the carrot cake from TWD for hubby's birthday last fall. He LOVED it.

And here is to 28 more years plus.

Jennifer said...

Your cake looks wonderful!

Di said...

Great pictures! When I was little, I used to base what I gave up for Lent on whether my birthday fell before or after Ash Wednesday (it's in late February). =) I really liked the frosting on this one, too, when we made it last year. I did a third of the recipe, baked it in two 6-inch pans, and split them so I had a total of four layers. It was a cute little cake.

Jenny said...

That cake looks good, but reading what you said, that's not Dorie's cake anymore, you have made it your own and it looks like it was a success! Good for you.

Leslie said...

How funny! I made this for a party this weekend (though I still haven't posted on it). It was a big hit. Dorie really does know what she's doing. ;-)

Kayte said...

OMW...I just scrolled down to see what I had been missing and found this birthday is next week and the carrot cake recipe was the one I was thinking of doing in my "breaking the rules week" as it was made before I joined and we all love carrot cake, it being my husband's favorite, too, so I was thinking that it would be a win-win-win-win all the way around. Love the wedding photo...I got married in 1978 and carrot cake was one of the choices also. Love the post, the cake, and the photos!