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Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is one of those throwbacks that always reminds me of the 1970s, when the recipe emerged as a standard dessert in my repertoire. Although I loved it then, it was a bit heavy and weighed-down with ingredients, including crushed pineapple and shredded coconut. So I omitted those ingredients and made this version instead, which I have to admit, I like even better. More importantly, so did my husband, who couldn’t wait to dig into it (after an unnamed amount of ravioli) for his birthday yesterday.

You don’t have to make it as a layer cake (but oh my, is that cream cheese frosting ever delicious). You can bake it in two 8″ square pans (and freeze one for later), or one long 9″ x 14″ pan, and just dust with confectioner’s sugar when it’s cooled. You can also omit the raisins if you’re not a fan, or the nuts too if you want, making it a purely carrot cake.

You don’t have to make these cute carrot decorations either, but if you decide to gild the lily, they’re a snap to create with almond paste and food coloring. The stems are just some snips of chives that are in full bloom in my garden right now. Even a small piece of celery would work.

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Carrot Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CAKE:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1⅓ cups vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ tsps. vanilla
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tsps. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 2 tsps baking soda
  • 1½ tsps. salt
  • 1 pound of carrots, grated
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • FOR THE CARROT DECORATIONS:
  • ¼ cup almond paste
  • four drops yellow food coloring
  • 1 drop red food coloring
  • powdered cocoa
  • chive stems
Instructions
  1. FOR THE CAKE:
  2. Grease and flour two 9" round pans (or two square 8" pans or one 9" x 14" pan) and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar, oil and eggs together until pale yellow.
  4. Add the vanilla.
  5. Sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt together and add to the wet ingredients. Grate the carrots, either with a food processor or by hand, and add them to the batter with the raisins and walnuts. Mix well.
  6. Pour the batter into the pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.
  7. I also use a toothpick to test. Poke it into the center and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
  8. Frost with the cream cheese frosting and decorate with the almond paste "carrots" if desired.
  9. Alternately, dush with confectioner's sugar.
  10. FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
  11. Beat the frosting ingredients together in a mixer until smooth and use about ¼ of the frosting for between the cake layers, then spread the rest on the sides and top of cake.
  12. Decorate with crushed walnuts along the bottom of the frosted cake, and with the almond paste "carrots" on top.
  13. TO MAKE THE ALMOND PASTE CARROTS:
  14. Use ¼ cup of almond paste and mix with the food coloring.
  15. Shape into small carrot shapes.
  16. Using a toothpick, dip it into some cocoa, then make little indentations on the carrots to simulate "dirt."
  17. Poke a hole in the top of each carrot, and insert a short piece of a chive stem.
  18. Place the "carrots" on top of the cake.