I have learned that carrot cake is a funny thing. You either love it or you run screaming from the person who dared utter the term. The reason is understandable; it’s basically fruitcake and we have all been well versed throughout life on the evils of fruitcake. However I like fruitcake- IF it’s made correctly. Yes, I’m one of those people. The wierdos who are delighted to receive a quality fruitcake at Christmas and think that a well made carrot cake is a thing of beauty. But it MUST be made correctly. There are thousands of recipes for carrot cake if you run a search. Out of these, nearly all will be hideous. Most will be too dry, some will be bland, some will have bizzare ingredients (like the one I found with sesame paste in it). Most of the recipes out there will end in utter failure. Carrot cake should be moist but not gooey, well spiced but not overpowering, and nicely sweet but not sickeningly so. This cake is everything a carrot cake should be. I serve it one of 2 ways: as a cake or as a trifle. Pair it with my cream cheese frosting and you may well weep with joy. Well… you will if you’re a carrot cake person :.) And before you groan at the thought of heavy, grainy, too-sweet cream cheese frosting and decide to pass, hear me out. This is not like all the others. It’s smooth, creamy, and mellow. It has about half the sugar as the traditional recipe and goes perfectly with this cake. I also use about 1 cup of it as the base for my trifle cream, as I will explain. SO! Carrot cake! Will you give it one more go & see if you, too, are a carrot cake person?
Fisrt, let’s bake the cake:
This is a small can of crushed pineapple. It MUST be crushed. No tidbits, no chunks.
When you drain your pineapple don’t throw the juice away! The raisins need to soak and there is nothing better you can use than the juice from the pineapple. Let the raisins soak while you get the carrots ready.
This recipe differs from most because the carrots are steamed instead of just grated into the batter. This, I think, makes all the difference in the world .
While the carrots are steaming you can get your dry ingredients together. You’ll need flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. You can use cloves if you want, however I despise cloves (unless hidden in the above mentioned yearly fruitcake) and don’t bother even buying any.
When the carrots are done cooking take a potato masher to them. You can use a ricer or a foodmill if you prefer. Don’t have a potato masher? Get one. They are good for alot more than just mashing potatoes! (But they are pretty darn good at that too.)
Now put your wet ingredients together. You’ll need the carrots, of course, oil of your choice but no olive oil, unsweetened applasauce (I use half oil, half applesauce and the results are awesome!), the pineapple, 3 eggs, 1T of the juice from the raisins.
Now if you’re ready, combine the wet and dry. You may not know it, but you can prepare these 2 halves of the recipe in advance if you need to; they will keep for awhile. So if you get interrupted & need to attend to something else just don’t combine the wet & dry until you’re ready to bake the cake. Once combined, put the batter into a well greased & floured 9 inch pan.
The batter will come very close to the top of the pan. In my case the batter will run over into the well a bit. If you need to you can put some in a pan and make some muffins or small cakes. However it works for you.
Et viola! The finished cake. It will most likely need to be darker than you are comfortable with it being to get done all the way through. It’s a thick batter- give it time :.)
Now… If you’re just wanting a cake with frosting leave it where it is and frost it when it’s cool. Or you can take it out of the pan and frost it. But if you want to make my trifle you need to let it cool completely and cut it into 1 inch cubes.
Make your trifle cream out of 1 cup cream cheese frosting and one tub cool whip. Yes- cool whip. This part is putting together- not baking. ;.) (Update April 16, 2014: having come a long way in eliminating nasty artificial things from our diet, I do not use Cool Whip anymore. Whipped, sweetened heavy cream will work beautifully here.) Make sure the frosting is room temperature and the cool whip (or whipped cream) is thawed. Use either a stand mixer or a hand held mixer to whip the 2 together.
Get your trifle dish out or you can use whatever you have on hand. My trifle dish is packed right now so I used the insert out of a 4 quart slow cooker. Layer the cake and cream, starting and finishing with the cake. You will get 3 layers of cake out of this recipe .
Very nice, no? Now, the hard part. You can’t eat this cake right after you make it- in cake or trifle form. You must think ahead when making this recipe. It will be good a few hours after you make it, but the next day it will be truly awe inspiring! So let good things come to those who wait… if you can :.)
1 1/2 C All purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 – 3/4 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 C Cooked, mashed Carrots
3/4 C Oil ( I use half canola oil & half unsweetend applesauce. Chunky is good too)
1- 8 1/4 oz Can Crushed Pineapple, drained, reserving juice for soaking raisins
1 1/2 C Granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp Pineapple Juice from saoking raisins
1/4 C Soaked raisins (These are optional. If you don’t use them don’t forget to reserve 1 Tbsp of the juice when you drain the pineapple.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch pan. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the wet ingredients, including sugar, in another bowl. Add the wet to the dry and stir gently until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-55 minutes, until tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool completely, taking out of the pan if you wish. Frost or prepare as a trifle.
Cream Cheese Frosting & Trifle Cream Base
8 oz Cream Cheese, softened to room temp (any fat content you please. I use reduced fat)
1/2 C Butter, softened to room temp
1/2 Lb powdered sugar
1 tsp + Vanilla (this is to taste really. If you want more vanilla, add it)
In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy & lightened. Add vanilla & mix well. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix very well. Makes enough to frost one 9 inch cake plus about 1 C left over to do as you please with.
1 C Cream Cheese Frosting, room temp
1 tub Cool Whip or store-brand equivalent, thawed OR 2 C Whipped, sweetened heavy cream
In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer beat to thoroughly combine.