Although I don't eat it often, I love carrot cake. It was actually one of the first "difficult" things I baked for Easter a few years ago. No food processor to grate the carrots, no spice grinder to grind the cinnamon, and no mixer to cream the butter. Everything by hand. I also learned the valuable lesson of not making a cake the morning you're planning to serve it because even after hours of cooling, your cream cheese frosting will probably melt :). But the cake was delicious just the same. And when I saw Old Fashioned Carrot Bread show up on my RSS feed from Mary at One Perfect Bite, I knew I had to make it for Thanksgiving.
And yet, because the ease of the original recipe was too much for me, I had to put my own spin on it, making something simple into something terrifying. Amusingly, none of that terror was the result of my changes to the actual cake recipe. I reduced the sugar a bit and changed it from all white to both brown and white; it seemed more fitting to have brown sugar with a carrot cake. I also cut the oil in half and added it back with butter, hoping for a little more depth of flavour; something I was also hoping to accomplish with a dash of allspice. Instead of nuts, my brother suggested pumpkin seeds, believing that the orange and green colours would look especially festive and I couldn't help but agree. Besides, pumpkin seeds at Thanksgiving seemed rather appropriate.
I completely changed the shape of the cake. For two reasons really: This was the last recipe I was doing for the night and I wanted to cut the baking time in half. And because I thought I could get more pieces from a square cake then from a loaf. If I thought about that one harder, it might not have been entirely true; reason number one was solid though.
You might be thinking to yourself "well that's all pretty standard stuff Adam, definitely not anything that should have left you, "Mr. Baker" terrorized". However, if you take a look you might notice that there is coconut on the top of the cake. Somehow I thought this was a terrific idea, adding flavour, texture, and a nice look to my cake. Apparently I forgot how quickly coconut can go from toasted to burned.
After about twenty minutes it was starting to turn golden and I was starting to panic. After twenty-five minutes, I thought I was going to get a charred mess and considered not serving the cake. At thirty minutes I turned off the oven and let it sit in there for another five minutes, hoping that the cake was pretty much done and the residual heat would finish it off. The most unnerving thing was that every time I checked the cake, it didn't seem ready.
I took it out of the oven to cool and hoped for the best.
When I cut into it the next morning it was perfect. Sometimes I get lucky.
The cake was soft, moist, buttery, not to sweet or overpowered with spice and with a nice texture variance from the coconut on top and the pumpkin seeds inside. I think I have a new goto recipe for carrot cake, especially seeing as I don't have one already. However, I don't know if the coconut on top is worth the stress. Next time, it might just end up inside the batter, or on top after I frost the sucker with a good cream cheese frosting. I know someone who would love that :)
Simple Carrot Cake
Adapted from One Perfect Bite2 cups all purpose flour (260g)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup golden yellow/light brown sugar (165g)
1/2 cup sugar (100g)
1/2 cup butter, melted (113g)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup coconut for the top (though I wouldn't do this again)
Grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, salt.
Make a well in the flour mixture and add eggs, both sugars, butter, oil and vanilla. Mix until completely combined.
Stir in carrot and pumpkin.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Dump batter into prepared pan and let stand for 30 minutes. (After 30 minutes sprinkle coconut on top if you dare)
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until tooth pick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Allow to cool in pan on rack for 15 minutes before removing and allowing to cool on rack completely.