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Carrot Cake

  • May 19, 2021

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
  • 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
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup almond paste
  • four drops yellow food coloring
  • 1 drop red food coloring
  • powdered cocoa
  • chive stems
  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.
  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.
  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.


Banana Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

  • February 24, 2014

 It’s wickedly caloric but wickedly good. I’m blaming it all on a snowstorm and that salted caramel sauce I saw on Stacey Snacks’ blog. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 I had just come in from shoveling the driveway for the umpteenth time this year and although it was cold outside, I had worked up a sweat and was craving ice cream. All I had was plain vanilla, but to dress it up, I could quickly whip up a caramel sauce. Never mind that there are a gazillion calories in caramel sauce (not to mention ice cream). Hey, I deserved it after all the shoveling this season.
Fast forward two days later when I had baked a banana cake for my Italian chit chat group. Not just any banana cake, but really the best banana cake I’d ever tried. It’s from my friend Jan, who gave me the recipe decades ago when our kids were babies. Over the years, I lost sight of it and finally took the time to scrounge through stacks of old recipes to find it. I could have made the buttercream frosting that came with the recipe – delicious in its own right. But with the extra caramel sauce that was too much of a temptation for my weak resolve, I used it instead in a frosting, incorporating a bit of leftover cream cheese too and sharing the caramel goodness (and calories) with a bunch of other women.
Now you can enjoy it too. Just make sure you balance the calories with some jogging – or snow shoveling – which shouldn’t be a problem with a lot of winter still ahead of us.

Jan’s Banana Cake
printable recipe here

2 eggs
2/3 c. softened butter
1 t. vanilla
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 1/4 c. mashed very ripe bananas (about 2)

crushed walnuts for decorating the sides of the cake

Grease the bottom and sides of two layer cake pans and line with greased waxed or parchment paper. Beat the first four ingredients together until smooth. Combine the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, alternately with the buttermilk and banana. Pour and spread in the prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees until centers are set – about 20 to 25 minutes. when cold, fill and frost with either rich butter icing or the cream cheese caramel frosting. Decorate the top with a little of the reserved caramel sauce, and press crushed walnuts onto the sides of the cake.

Rich Butter Icing  (a delicious recipe, and the original one that Jan uses, but I used the cream cheese caramel frosting instead)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2 c. sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 egg yolk
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T. cream

Cream Cheese Caramel Frosting

6 oz. – 8 oz. softened cream cheese (a typical bar of cream cheese is 8 oz., but I had already eaten some, so I used only what was left – 6 oz. – and it was fine)
1/2 cup butter
1 c. confectioner’s sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 cup caramel sauce (below)
Beat the cream cheese and butter until well blended. Add the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and caramel sauce until smooth. Spread on interior layer of cake, then on the sides and top of cake.

After incorporating the 1/2 cup caramel sauce into the frosting, you’ll have enough caramel sauce left over to drizzle over the top of the cake too. Drizzle in concentric circles, then run a toothpick or knife through the circles at equal distances. You might need to reheat the sauce a bit to make it pourable

Salted Caramel Sauce (from Bon Appetit):

1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (not regular salt)

In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the water and sugar on medium boil until turning golden, 8-10 minutes.
You can scrape the brown bits on the sides of the pan down with a wet pastry brush.


Take the golden liquid off the heat and carefully add in the cream, it will bubble and boil, so be careful not to splatter yourself.

Place back on the stove and stir for 2 minutes.

Add in 3 tbsp butter and salt and cook another minute or two until the butter and mixture is nice and smooth.

Transfer to a heat resistant vessel, and place in the fridge to cool. You can make the caramel sauce 5 days in advance.