I just came across some photos from April, when I made my husband the carrot cake he had requested for his birthday. When I first posted this recipe, I claimed it was my No. 1 recipe and a few year’s later, I think it has held its ground. I haven’t met a carrot cake I like better. The unexpected and time consuming trick is cooking and pureeing the carrots before mixing them into the cake. The pureed carrots make the cake so moist and the added coconut, walnuts, and pineapple bring just the right amount of texture and sweetness.
The night before his birthday, I whipped the frosting, baked the cake layers and left them to cool. First thing in the morning, before the kids woke up, I snuck down, brewed a pot of coffee, leveled the layers and assembled the cake. Leveling cakes always leaves a nice mound of scraps that I never waste. I put them on a plate for nibbling.
When Baby Whipped woke up that morning, one of the first things she wanted to do was try out the swim cap and goggles we’d recently bought her. She has a fun spirit and it didn’t surprise me to see her running up and down the halls with her footy jammies, Nemo cap and goggles. It did surprise, some minutes later, to find her laughing with a mouthful of cake.
When I asked her where she got the cake, her eyes twinkled as she waved me towards the kitchen. Though I hoped she had discovered the scraps, the frosting on the corner of her mouth suggested worse. When we reached the kitchen she was more than happy to reenact her crime. She dragged her stool to the counter and stretched her full arm’s length to reach the cake that I had pushed to the far corner. She was quite pleased with herself.
We often call Baby Whipped “the jolly rascal.” Her naughty behavior is usually funny and sometimes quite clever. Most of all, she is proud of it and exudes such joy that it’s hard to get too mad at her. When we give her “time outs” for being naughty, she does her time without complaining, says sorry, and jumps right back in the game. Rarely any whining.
When I came across these photos again, I laughed out loud. These are the memories that I know we will cherish for years. The old baking perfectionist in me didn’t mind the hunk out of the side of the cake one bit. Laughter trumps perfect cake.
Luscious, moist carrot cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups canola oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups shelled walnuts, chopped
1 cup shredded coconut
1-1/2 cups pureed, cooked carrots
1 small 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
Cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
1/2 cup walnuts for the top (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper. Peel and cook carrots until a fork easily can be poked into them. One small bag of full-sized carrots should yield about the right amount of pureed, cooked carrots. Drain the carrots and puree while still warm in a blender or food processor until they are smooth. Measure out 1-1/2 cups of the carrot puree and set aside.
2. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Stir dry ingredients together with a whisk to combine well. Add oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well for about 2 minutes. Fold in walnuts, coconut, carrots, and pineapple. Pour equal amounts of batter into each pan. Set in the middle of the oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until edges have pulled away from sides and toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.
3. Remove from oven and let cool in pans 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and cool completely. When cool, level cakes to take humps off the center with a serrated knife. Spread cream cheese frosting between the layers and on top. I leave the sides out in the open because they are a beautiful brown and nice and crunchy. Sprinkle chopped nuts on the top if desired.
Cream cheese frosting
(Makes enough for middle and top of cake. Double if you want to frost sides)
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1. Cream together cheese and butter.
2. Slowly stir in sifted confectioners sugar and continue beating until incorporated and light and fluffy.