Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When life gives you carrots...

My mom is a great cook. Lord help you if you go to her house and turn down something to eat if its offered to you. You might not be invited back! I've always thought that Mom's cooking is amazing because she actually likes to cook. She takes pride in everything she makes and I think that makes all the difference.

But for as much as my mom is a great cook, her baking skills are a little... lacking (no offense Mom!). Cookies and cakes in my house were mostly store bought since Mom's time and energy went into cooking meals. Not that us kids minded...we were more than happy with the goodies she brought home.

The one exception to Mom's bad baking is her carrot cake. She makes the most amazing, moist, fabulous, fight-for-the-last-slice carrot cake. No one can explain why this cake defies the bad baking rule. But no one cares, because its that good.

I finally asked Mom for the recipe. Baking is an old friend to me now...how badly could I mess it up?

I started with a bag of carrots and peeled them all. One bag will give you enough carrots for 2 cakes.

Then I grated them. I totally cheated and used my MIL's salad spinner. That thing grates at lightning speed. I didn't even know what a salad spinner was until she let me borrow it.

Mixed it all up and stuck it into the oven, feeling pretty darn proud of myself. Heck, not only was it do-able, it was easy! Why did I wait years to ask for this recipe?
While the cake baked, I made Mom's frosting. Holy heavens...so good!
This is where my story of over-confident baking turns sour. I pulled the cake out of the oven and it didn't quite look right. It was dried out on the top and sides. I didn't think I'd left it in too long, but apparently I had.
The cake cooled for more than 20 minutes before I tried to remove it. I had greased that sucker like crazy and it still stuck to the pan, breaking apart and crumbling all over my cooling rack.
Not wanting to waste all of it, I sliced off the hard parts and threw all of the moist parts into a bowl and mixed the icing in to make cake balls.

This turned out to be the best cake disaster ever! The cake balls were amazingly good after they'd chilled in the fridge for awhile.

But, I'm not one to admit defeat so easily (and I still had enough carrot for another cake), so I searched online for other recipes. Most were very similar to Mom's, but with a few minor differences. I chose to up the oil, lower the salt, add baking powder and substitute some of the white sugar for brown sugar for take two.
This time the cake was perfect. The minor changes and lower temperature (I lowered it 15 degrees) made all the difference.

Hubby was in the mood to decorate.


If you want to give it a whirl, here's Mom's recipe with my changes:
Carrot Cake Recipe
oil - 1 and 1/4 cup
white sugar - 1 cup
brown sugar - 1 cup
eggs - 4
salt - 1/4 teaspoon
cinnamon - 2 teaspoons
baking soda - 2 teaspoons
baking powder - 2 teaspoons
flour - 2 cups
carrots - 3 cups grated
vanilla extract - 2 teaspoons

Step 1: In a large bowl, mix oil, sugar, and eggs.
Step 2: Add salt, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and flour. Mix well.
Step 3: Add grated carrots and vanilla extract. Mix well.
Bake at 335 degrees for 40 minutes (or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean).
While the cake is baking, make the super simple icing and let it chill.
cream cheese - 16 ozs
powdered sugar - 1 cup
vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
Mix all ingredients well and chill.
Enjoy and don't blame me for any expanding waistlines! :)


Snap said...

WOW! Looks delicious ... cake balls and cake! I'll gain weight just looking!

Cami said...

Oh yummy! I love cake!

Kristina P. said...

That's the great thing about cake disasters. Now you can make cake balls!

Andrea Moberly said...

mmmmmm i'm drooling! Carrot Cake is my hubby's fav, so I'll have to try this one! I bet your cake dried out cause you used a dark pan. I have ruined many a baked good using my dark non-stick pans! Lowering the temp is a trick I learned a while back and now I'm not so bad at baking!

Laura said...

Clever idea with the cake balls! I don't mind cooking, but I hate baking! I won't bake anything other than cookies from packaged dough and banana bread or brownies from a mix. I gave up trying to make cakes a long time ago. I just leave that to my husband. My mom couldn't/still can't cook, but my dad was a wonderful cook. I really miss his cooking.

kado! said...

oh...you had me at Carrot Cake...it is My Favorite cake of all time!!!!!!

....and I had no idea a salad spinner chopped things...I thought it just spun the water out of the lettuce??!!?? I must not be thinking of the same tool?

...I pull out my food processor for tasks like that..I don't use it often...but for some things I am so thankful I have it!

Subway Hooker said...

Holy Moley! You decorated that cake like a pro, girl! Yummy!

Bezzie said...

You rock! Carrot balls!!!!!

Mimi said...

Yum, I love carrot cake! I hardly bake anymore, but I remember one carrot recipe I tried, has some pineapple and lemon...it was good too ;)

Katrina said...

You're a real trooper! I probably woulda dumped the whole thing out! I really want to start baking more and decorating cookies to give as gifts. One day....
The cake turned out beautiful! I had my first carrot cake about 2 weeks ago. For some reason I've never wanted to eat any before. It was great.