People, as if we need one more reason to share our very best recipes, it's this: should we lose a recipe, we can call to ask, "By chance, did I give you my carrot cake recipe?" and then sigh with relief when hearing, "Yeah! It's our favorite."
My sad story: I've lost my carrot cake recipe. It wasn't even my recipe, it was my grandmother's, the carrot cake recipe she made for my 17th birthday the year it was just the two of us, the carrot cake recipe I made for her 80th birthday when family gathered from all over the country, the carrot cake that I made, after she died a few months later, year after year after year to commemorate her birthday, delivering fat squares to friends, neighbors and in her special memory, elderly acquaintances, often to huge surprise and delight.
I've searched high and low. I've called family and friends. It was hand-written on a smudged-up 3x5 orange index card, wrapped in a plastic sleeve. The flipside includes notes on each year's deliveries and details my own 'secret technique' for moist, flavorful carrot cake. I even remember the last likely time I made it: in 2001, when my parents were here on Gramma's birthday.
My sister doesn't have it. My cousins don't have it. For some reason, it didn't make the family cookbooks on either side and it's not in the church cookbooks I've contributed to. I fear it's lost forever - a special shame since as 100s of thousands of visitors to A Veggie Venture and KitchenParade.com can attest, I am hardly, what shall we say, stingy? with good recipes.
I'm sad, teary even. Sure, everyone has a decent carrot cake recipe. And the lost recipe may not have been so special except that it was particularly mine, my grandmother's, the one we shared. And I want it back! And I especially wanted it, now, to share with Danielle from Habeas Brulee who's collecting stories and recipes for her "Sweet Gifts" edition of Sugar High Friday.
Instead, I'm sharing Cook's Illustrated's 2003 recipe for Simple Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, adapted for cupcakes. Luckily, it's a great carrot cake recipe -- it's just not mine. But you? It can be yours. And if it does become yours, won't you please be sure to share it?
Oh, and the excellent cream cheese icing that comes from Cook's Illustrated recipe? It's now mine, too, the one I'll put on Gramma's carrot cake, should I ever ever ever be lucky enough to find my recipe. (Why? It's slightly lighter, in texture, flavor and calories, than most cream cheese icings, the result of less butter. Be aware, however, that it doesn't harden.) If I do, you'll be the first to know because no matter what, I'm sharing it with the world.
~ more Baking with Vegetables recipes ~
CARROT CAKE CUPCAKES
Hands-on time: 65 minutes (for cupcakes, less time for 9x13)
Time to table: about 2 hours
Makes a 9x13 cake or (halving the ingredients below) 12 cupcakes
2-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring (see KITCHEN TIPS)
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/14 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil (or canola or safflower)
Preheat oven to 350F. For 9x13, spray pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment, then spray the parchment. (This seems to be able to lift the entire cake out of the pan. To just cut pieces right in the pan, I think you could safely skip this step.) For cupcakes, grease muffin tins well. (I used vegetable oil and the cupcakes were quite sticky. Next time I'll use Baker's Joy or use cupcake papers.)
Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
With a food processor (see KITCHEN TIPS), grate the carrots, transfer to another dish. Add the sugars and eggs to the food processor and process for 20 seconds. With the food processor running, pour the oil into the food processor in a slow stream, then process for another 20 seconds. Stir this mixture and the carrots into the dry ingredients until no flour streaks remain.
Pour into prepared 9x13 or muffin tins. For 9x13, bake for 35-40 minutes (rotate half-way through) or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. For cupcakes, bake for about 30 minutes. For 9x13, let cool to room temperature. For cupcakes, let cool about 10 minutes, then remove from tins. For 9x13, Cook's Illustrated suggests inverting the cake onto a wire rack, peeling off the parchment, then inverting onto a serving plate.
Spread icing over top.
CREAM CHEESE ICING / CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
8 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool (I used Neufchatel, the reduced-fat cream cheese)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool (see KITCHEN TIPS)
1 tablespoon sour cream (loved this addition!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 cups powdered sugar (also called icing sugar, confectioner's sugar, it's the white powdery stuff)
In the food processor (washed), mix the cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla til smooth, wiping down the sides as needed. Add the powdered sugar and process til smooth, just a few seconds. NOTE: Half the icing was more than enough for a dozen cupcakes.
Nearly all my recipes for baked goods read, xx cups flour, "fluffed to aerate before measuring". This is because flour packs down from its own weight, fluffing the flour makes a huge difference in the ultimate lightness of baked goods, pancakes, biscuits, etc. Today I fluffed the flour before measuring it, then weighed it to compare with Cook's Illustrated weight information. The two were 100% in synch. It's one more reason to invest in a kitchen scale.
I used the 'standard' size muffin tins and the batter came up a little higher than preferred, creating a 'cap' that made it harder to remove the muffins. Next time I'll use the next size up or only fill the muffin cups half-full versus 2/3 full.
What if you don't have a food processor? A hand grater works just great for carrots. But this recipe uses a food processor to mix the sugars, eggs and oil -- and Cook's Illustrated's notes say that this is a critical step, that emulsifying the sugar, eggs and oil disperses the fat throughout the mixture, so it doesn't sink to the bottom, creating a heavy, soggy, bottom.
I let the cream cheese and butter warm up a bit in the food processor while the cupcakes baked.
Leftovers should be refrigerated.
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Eat more vegetables! A Veggie Venture is the home of Veggie Evangelist Alanna Kellogg and is the award-winning source of free vegetable recipes, quick, easy, and yes, delicious. Start with the Alphabet of Vegetables or dive into all the Weight Watchers vegetable recipes or all the low carb vegetable recipes. © Copyright 2008