cakes

Chocolate Sheet Cake

My family and I like to joke that Pioneer Woman stole this recipe from us, since she has such a similar one on her blog. We know it’s not true by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it makes us feel a little smug. We think to ourselves, We had an amazing family recipe that Ree Drummond decided she was going to pilfer! Because it was so awesome, of course! We’ve been robbed by fantastic Pioneer Woman, of all people! Wouldn’t it sound cool to tell people that at dinner parties?

Ahem . . . but, as I mentioned . . . not actually true. In reality, the recipe for this amazing Chocolate Sheet Cake was created by who-knows-who, and was passed around, shared, and adapted to fit into many families’ recipe boxes. Here’s an interesting discussion about the origins of the cake. Several folks on Pioneer Woman’s blog recount where they came across the recipe first: some found it printed in a newspaper decades ago, some grew up eating it in their own kitchens. My family’s recipe was passed on to us by my great aunt, Linda Houts. Bless that woman.

Readers also shared their different names for the cake: Fabulous Sheet Cake, Cowboy Sheet Cake. Beth Moore and some other folks calls their version Texas Sheet Cake — and the flavor is, indeed, big enough for even Texas! As for my family, we always just called ours Chocolate Sheet Cake. But now I’m a little jealous of all those fancy names! I might have to come up with something a little more snappy. What do you think of Majestic Imperial Fantabulous Sheet Cake o’ Love? MIFSCOL for short? Okay, okay, fine . . . we’ll stick with Chocolate Sheet Cake.

But this is one fantabulous cake. It’s simple enough that I made it as a child (repeatedly — as in, any time my mom would hand over the cocoa powder and a spoon). My favorite time- and energy-saving characteristic of this cake is that you don’t have to wait for the cake to cool to pour the rich frosting all over it. So easy and quick!

But it’s not just simple — it’s also delicious enough that I still make it as an adult (wait, what? I’m an adult?!) when I want the absolute best chocolate cake flavor. Don’t you love it when the easiest also happens to be your favorite? The cake is fluffy and extremely moist with a gooey, deep chocolate frosting. I’m telling you . . . something magic happens when you put all these ingredients together, and the product is greater than the sum of its parts!

I’ve devoured this cake in Chocolate Chickie Cake Balls, in the Ice Cream Cupcakes I posted earlier this week, and (of course) all by its lovely lonesome. It’s also the perfect platform for a big ol’ scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. After my discussion of Freezer Tetris last post, I’m sure you’ll believe me when I say that there’s a big ziplock bag of Chocolate Sheet Cake in my freezer right now, just waiting for another fun recipe where I can sneak it in! Once you get a taste, you’ll be looking for any reasons you can find to bake it, too!

Chocolate Sheet Cake



Recipe by: Linda Houts
Yields: one half sheet cake (serves about 12)

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
dash salt
1 stick butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Frosting Ingredients:
1 stick butter
4 tablespoons cocoa
6-8 tablespoons milk (as needed for consistency)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt together and set aside. Mix butter, vegetable oil, cocoa powder, and water together in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Pour over mixture of dry ingredients. Stir well, then add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Pour into a half sheet cake pan (12 x 18 in.) sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes. When a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs, the cake is done. While cake starts to cool, make the frosting. Mix butter, cocoa, and milk and bring to boil. Remove from heat and add confectioner’s sugar, nuts, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Spread over warm cake.


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Clementine Cake

I’m getting really good at u-turns. You can’t make a left turn out of my apartment complex, so a few times a week I’ll find myself sitting at a traffic light, tapping my steering wheel in a bored rhythm, waiting to make my u-turn. If the turn lane light turns red just as I get there, I’m crafty enough to stay in the straight lane for a bit and make a u-turn just up the street. If I time it right, it’s a tad bit faster than waiting for another green arrow. Because that 30 seconds really matters, y’all.

I’m also apparently the queen of the culinary u-turns lately. You remember last week’s shenanigans, right? I wasn’t overwhelmed enough with my two-day Valentine’s dessert recipe, and needed to add, oh, handmade pasta to the mix. Ridiculous.

This week there was another switch, although thankfully not as intense: I was shuffling along, planning to make some personal ice cream cakes when a post showed up in my Google Reader that I could not ignore. Whaaat — a gorgeous citrus cake appears JUST when I’m about to toss out my leftover clementines, which are getting a little squishy? Just like that, my weekend plans slammed on their brakes, put on their turn signal (because unlike the drivers around here, my plans always use their turn signal), and changed direction entirely! Clementine Cake was born!

Mike liked this sweet dessert — but I loved it. It was a beautifully simple, dense, bright citrus cake with that lovely crackling glaze to break your fork into. No fussy frosting, so I found myself cutting slabs of it here and there to eat with my fingers!

I will say the cake itself was a bit dry (I overbaked, which could be the issue), but I had a few tricks up my sleeve to fix that. I poked holes in the cake as it cooled so the glaze would seep into the it when poured. We also served hunks of the cake with a smear of gorgeous clementine curd and a pluff of barely sweetened fresh whipped cream. I can’t recommend this serving suggestion enough — in fact, I’m going to make it a serving command (can I do that?), because the cake and fixins tasted just like a homey creamsicle!

My poor dad has been on a diet for weeks now and this is his “break” weekend. He’s not technically supposed to have cake, but I fixed him up a small slice (I promise I’m not a diet saboteur). He and my little brother both enjoyed it, so I left them a hunk for later. I may also have hidden away a bit in my own fridge! Something about refrigerating fruity baked goods always enhances the flavor, and this cake was no exception.

Clementine Cake



Recipe by: Adapted by Willow Bird Baking, Lick the Bowl Good, and Technicolor Kitchen from Jill Dupleix
Yields: one 9-inch cake

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon grated clementine zest
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons fresh squeezed clementine juice (I needed about 7 clementines total to make the cake and glaze)

Glaze Ingredients:
1 1/2 – 2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
grated clementine zest

Fresh Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar

Directions:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and set aside (I use Wilton’s Cake Release).

Cream the butter and sugar well for several minutes, until it is very pale and thick.

Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition, then add the zest. Add the flour, baking powder and salt all at once, and beat well, then slowly add the clementine juice until it is incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake for 35-40 minutes – or until an inserted skewer comes out clean (If it starts to brown too much on the top, cover loosely with a sheet of foil.) I baked mine for 40 or 45 minutes, which proved to be too long.

Allow cake to cool in pan for 15-20 minutes on a wire rack. Then invert onto a plate, remove the parchment paper and allow to cool completely before glazing.

To make the icing, stir the clementine juice into the icing sugar until you have the right spreading consistency. Using a skewer, dowel, or toothpick, poke holes through entire cake to allow glaze to seep down into it. Pour the icing onto the cake and spread with a spatula or butter knife, allowing the icing to drip down the sides of the cake.

To make fresh whipped cream, whip cream and icing sugar together until the mixture forms soft peaks. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Leave the icing to set before cutting the cake into wedges or storing in an airtight container. Serve with a smear of clementine curd, and a dollop of fresh whipped cream (and optional candied clementine peel).


Enjoy your citrus squeezin’!


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Ugly as Sin Coconut Cake

There’s this CAKE. This beautiful, gorgeous, dramatic, heart-stopper of a CAKE. I’ve been dreaming about making it for weeks (2 weeks and 2 days, to be exact): scanning the recipe online, pondering it on my drive home, lying in bed and imagining each step, right down to torching the meringue. I’ve been a little obsessed, but you’ll understand why when you see how lovely it is. Here it is in all its glory, over at Zoë Bakes. I KNOW, RIGHT?! It is stunning.

So this past Friday I gathered together all my ingredients, donned the adorable retro apron my mom made for me, and became one busy bumblebee. I left the sour cream out of the recipe accidentally, so that was my first mistake. Ever set your cake out to cool on a wire rack only to turn your head and notice an ingredient still sitting on the counter waiting to be used? Oops. It wasn’t a big deal, as it turns out, because the cake was delicious. The coconut milk added an absolutely heavenly flavor — making this one of the best white cakes I’ve ever tasted.

The filling was similarly amazing: creamy, thick coconut pastry cream folded with rich whipped cream. I knew when stacking this cake up with the delectable filling between each layer that, no matter what, I had a dessert champion on my hands.

That’s about where the success story ends. Well, maybe that’s a bit dramatic — the cake was delicious and we adored every bite. But as the title of this post suggests, my version of Zoë’s lovely cake was ugly as sin. Now, you might be thinking, “Aw, you’re being too hard on yourself; it wasn’t that ugly!” Let me clarify:

It was ugly! Lopsided, striped, U-G-L-Y-it-ain’t-got-no-alibi, UGLY. The real reason I made this cake was to achieve those beautiful burnt meringue curls that Zoë’s cake had. That clearly didn’t happen.

My meringue was runny. At first I blamed it on humidity: it rained for days in Charlotte and I was whisking the meringue up right above my steamy dishwasher. But I tried again the next day in a steam-free kitchen to no avail: same results. I’m relatively sure my bowl and whisk was free of fat or residue, so I don’t think that was a problem. My mom blames the fact that I have a hand mixer rather than a stand mixer. This could be the culprit, but I sure beat until my arm was about to fall off. Maybe the most likely possibility is that I overheated my egg white and sugar mixture. The target temperature is 110-120F, but I’m pretty sure mine was past that when I removed it to whip. I’ll have to give it another shot with a cooler mixture.

Oh well. I love pretty food, cute food, sophisticated food. Mostly, though, I love food that tastes good — and this tastes good. Fantastic, even! If you don’t want to tackle the meringue, it would even be delicious covered in some slightly sweetened whipped cream and coconut. But I hope you’ll grab your stand mixer and give the meringue a try — I know I’ll be trying it again! As you can see from Zoë’s version, it’s worth it.

Coconut Cream Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting



Recipe by: Zoë Bakes (coconut pastry cream, Swiss meringue) and Fine Cooking (cake), adapted by Willow Bird Baking
Yields: 9-in. 4-layer cake

Cake Ingredients:
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
13 1/2 ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature (I left this out accidentally; still worked great)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients:
1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
pinch kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup whipping cream

Swiss Meringue Ingredients:
1 cup egg whites
2 cup sugar
pinch salt

Directions:
To bake the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in middle of the oven. Grease and line with parchment two 9×3-inch round cake pans. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Mix the coconut milk and vanilla, set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes (scrape down the bowl). Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add half the coconut milk and mix thoroughly. Continue to add the flour and coconut alternately, ending with flour. Add sour cream and mix until incorporated. Set aside in a large bowl if you don’t have a spare bowl for your mixer.

Beat the egg whites in your stand mixer with the whisk attachment (if you are using the same bowl, be sure it is VERY CLEAN or the whites will not whip up. Any fat on the bowl will prevent the whites from foaming). Beat the whites on high speed for 2-3 minutes, until it forms soft peaks. Don’t overdo it or the whites will get too stiff and not fold into the batter smoothly. Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it. Gently fold the remaining whites into the batter.

Divide evenly in the prepared pans. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the tester comes out clean. Cool on rack in pan and then invert to use.

To make the coconut pastry cream: Heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch. Once the cream is hot, remove the vanilla bean, scraping out any remaining seeds and returning them to the cream. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cream slowly to the yolks, whisking as you add. Then pour the yolk mixture into the pot of hot cream and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high for 3 more minutes. The mixture will turn thick and bubble. You need to continue to whisk for the full 3 minutes or the pastry cream will separate once it is cool. After the 3 minutes, whisk in the butter. Add the coconut flakes. Pour into a shallow dish to cool.

Cover with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream. This will prevent a thick skin from forming on the surface. Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Once it is cold, stir the pastry cream to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light. Split the two cakes in half with a knife and add 1/3 of the filling to the first cake layer. Spread it out to the edge and repeat with the other layers.

To make the Swiss Meringue: Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Rest the bowl over a pot of simmering water to form a double boiler. Scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all the sugar is off the sides of the bowl. Continue to stir the mixture until all the sugar is melted into the eggs and you no longer feel any graininess when rubbed between your fingers, about 3-5 minutes.

Place the bowl onto your mixer and whisk on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy and the bowl is just warmer than room temperature, about 8 minutes. Using a spatula, spread a nice thick layer of the meringue over the cake, make sure you have at least a cup of meringue left. Don’t worry about how it looks, you will be making spikes over the surface in a minute.

Take a glob of the meringue in your hand and press it against the meringue on the cake (Zoë has a great photo tutorial of this part on her blog). Pull that glob away from the cake and it will break off in a wispy curl. The more of a glob you lay down as a foundation on the cake, the bigger your curls will be. This may take a few times to get the hang of it, but then you’ll be off and running. Once you have the cake fully set with curls you will need a torch to toast the meringue. Hold the blow torch a ways from the cake and touch the flame down between the curls. The curls will set fire and you need to blow them out as you go. The burnt tips are lovely contrast and add a wonderful flavor.


Cake mixed, baked, and sliced into four layers.



Coconut pastry cream cooling and then spread onto a cake layer.



Cooking my Swiss meringue and preparing the cake for frosting!


Enjoy!

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Gâteau aux Noix

Am I the only one who’s already drowning in holiday plans? I’ve got so many things up my sleeve that there’s no room for my arm in there. Warm, comforting things like grandmothers’ pies, flaky croissants, and freshly baked bread. Fun, festive things like visiting the Southern Christmas Show, trimming the tree, and popping the orange Chipmunks’ Christmas cassette tape into the player. Laborious, time-consuming things like catching up on grading my Mt. Everest of student work. My calendar is full of a variety of things, but what it comes down to is one word: BUSY.

Or maybe three words: BUSY BUSY BUSY.

All that BUSYness coming up is partly why this past weekend was so wonderful. Mike and I enjoyed our trip to Greensboro in our favorite way: with food! We hastily devoured McGriddles and Krispy Kremes, a delicious Thai lunch, and even a fancy dinner in downtown Greensboro. Obviously, we’re professionally trained to handle major consumption. Please don’t try this at home.


Hot doughnuts now! Two hot glazed originals, two raspberry filled, a pumpkin spice, and a chocolate custard-filled.


Sweet Mike before his test, and Thai food afterward!

We also got a chance to just relax. Well, okay, I relaxed. Mike practiced math, was tested on math, and then reflected/brooded about math. I felt a little guilty leisurely browsing the poetry section of a Borders bookstore while he took his math GRE a few blocks away! Thankfully, the test is over, and Mike can finally rest — until he gets his scores back and has to finish up grad school applications, that is. Eek, I’m getting stressed out again — back to this past weekend . . .

I browsed high and low to find the perfect cake for Mike and I to enjoy together on our trip. I wanted something hearty and rustic that could travel without much fuss. I also wanted something homey and special — something we’d remember a few months from now. When a friend sent me Molly of Orangette’s post about Gâteau aux Noix, it sounded perfect.

In fact, this very cake had made a warm home in Molly’s own travel memories — in her case, of visiting Les Eyzies-de-Tayac in southwestern France. The hotel baked these cakes and packaged slices in cellophane for them to eat during a long day outdoors. Since that trip, she’d been looking for a recipe to recreate the memory. After reading her recollections, I couldn’t wait to bake the “brown, humble, nutty” cake she described.

Indeed, she had described the gâteau aux noix perfectly. The cake retains the subtle, sophisticated flavor of dry white wine, while the nuts taste homey and familiar. It’s a simple cake that you can wrap up and cart about until you’re ready to enjoy it. I can also see this being an ideal pantry staple from which to swipe a hunk after each meal.

Mike and I first tried the cake with cinnamon whipped cream, but I decided that accompaniment eclipsed the gentle wine flavor. We then popped open a jar of pears in white grape juice (Trader Joe’s) to slice up with our cake instead. The flavors were perfect together. If you’re dying for creaminess, though, feel free to add a small dollop of whipped cream — just be sure it’s not heavy on the vanilla.

If you need a bit of simplicity in your life, then from my home to yours, here’s the cake for you!

Gâteau aux Noix, or French Walnut Cake



Recipe by: Orangette, adapted slightly from Saveur Cooks Authentic French
Yields: 1, 9-inch cake.

Ingredients:
½ cup chopped walnuts, or a touch more
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup walnut oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Place walnuts in a small dry saucepan and toast over medium heat, shaking pan, until nuts are fragrant, 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

Beat eggs in a medium bowl with an electric mixer. Gradually add sugar and beat until mixture is pale yellow, light, and fluffy. Add walnut oil and wine and mix well.

Generously grease a 9” cake pan (I used an 8-inch with no problem, by the way; your cake will just be a bit thicker). Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. Gently fold in walnuts, and then pour batter into prepared pan. NOTE: Mixing a touch of the flour with the walnuts before folding them in may help evenly distribute them.

Bake cake until a toothpick can be inserted and pulled out clean, about 40 minutes (mine took only 30-35, however, and required a bit of tenting with foil for the last five). Remove from oven, cool for ten minutes, and then turn out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely and serve in wedges. Loosely whipped cream would be a nice accompaniment, if possible.

NOTE: We served this with cinnamon whipped cream, which may have proven too bold a flavor for this subtle cake. We then switched to serving it with jarred pears in white grape juice (Trader Joe’s), which was a perfect complement!


Mixing up the batter.


Baking and fresh out of the oven!


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Barefoot Contessa’s Carrot Pineapple Cake

Yesterday was my church’s annual Fall Festival, complete with rides, games, costumes, boatloads of candy, and funnel cakes. I didn’t actually attend (I know, I know. I can’t believe I passed up a funnel cake, either), but agreed to bake a cake for the cake walk.


Fall falling outside my window.

You remember cake walks, right? There are numbers painted or chalked onto the ground, and you walk on them as music plays. When the music stops a number is called, and the lucky person standing on that number takes home a homemade (one hopes) cake. It’s the simplest game — no skill required! — with the best prize. There is a tad bit of strategy involved, though: you want the Good Cake. You know the one. You see it sitting on the side table waiting for it’s turn to be auctioned off. While other cakes might look small, slouchy, dry, or plain, the Good Cake is gigantic — maybe a sheet or layer cake — with fluffy frosting piled high. The baker’s loving effort is showcased with careful decorations and neat packaging. You time your turn to walk based on when the Good Cake is finally up to be won.

Remembering my own childhood cake walks, I knew I wanted whatever cake I baked to be the Good Cake. I wanted people to all jump in line for the cake walk when it was up on the podium, to shout with glee when they won, or perhaps to brawl a little for it as though it were the last musical chair. Okay, okay, I guess brawling at the church festival is out. Maybe they can just feel a little scrappy. With my Good Cake aspirations in mind, I set out searching for a cake that met these criteria: a moist layer cake that didn’t require refrigeration and had fluffy frosting, decorating potential, and a widely popular flavor. I settled on Ina Garten’s Carrot Pineapple Cake.

Carrot cake is Mike’s absolute favorite, and that’s part of what drew me to this gorgeous cake. On the first birthday I ever baked for him wayyyy back in high school, my mom helped me fashion a little round carrot cake that he adored. For the last decade, though, I haven’t made him another — instead, we only get it when we eat out. Of course I needed to rectify that! I decided I’d make one for us with Ina’s decadent, thick cream cheese frosting while making one for the festival with a sturdier buttercream.


Two cakes and lovely fall foliage.

The cake turned out exceedingly moist, chunky, and dense. It’s an adventure of walnuts, carrots, raisins, cream cheese, and spice cake in every mouthful. The pineapples don’t really come through as a separate flavor, but serve more to moisten the cake. Each slice is a homey, thick, creamy, wonderful experience. Carrot cake isn’t typically my favorite flavor, but if anything could change my mind, it’d be a thick hunk o’ this baby. I’m going for full disclosure here: I definitely just ate piece #3. While I loved the cake, Mike was over the proverbial moon (and maybe even wound around it a few times). I hope the lucky cake walker was as well!

Decorating these cakes was my favorite part; how often do you get to try two presentations at once? For our version, I went with simple elegance: a cream cheese swoosh and some walnuts. For the cake walkers’ version, I wanted to do something a little fancy. I’d seen this incredibly cute autumn tree decoration on a Taste of Home recipe:


Photo by Taste of Home

They created this with melted chocolate, raisins, golden raisins, and dried cranberries. Isn’t it adorable?! But chocolate on a carrot pineapple cake didn’t sound appealing, so I had to be resourceful. I decided to use cinnamon sprinkled over a tree stencil to create my “spice tree.” I broke out my exacto knife and some poster board to cut out a tree stencil. This in itself was quite the feat: on my first try I painstakingly drew and cut out a tree only to realize it was too big for the cake! I had to sit down and start over. Anyone need a large tree stencil?


Attempt #1 at a tree stencil, with my inspiration on the left.


Attempts #1 and #2 for comparison.

I’m glad I took the time to fiddle with the poster board, because the cake decoration certainly turned out sweet. I can’t wait to use this idea again with melted chocolate. I have a feeling it’ll be a bit easier!

I hope you’ll take some time to make a Good Cake sometime soon. This one’s a great candidate — two luxurious layers of fall flavors.

Carrot Pineapple Cake



Recipe by: Barefoot Contessa (adapted by me)
Yields: one two-layer, 8- or 9-inch cake

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 pound carrots, grated
1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Buttercream Frosting (if you prefer):
2/3 cup white shortening
2/3 cup butter
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon imitation butter flavoring

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans. NOTE: You can also use 9-inch pans, but need to adjust the baking time.

For the cake: Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Add to the batter and mix well.

Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. NOTE: For 9-inch pans, I baked around 40-45 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.

For the frosting: Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth. If you prefer buttercream, simply mix those ingredients together until they reach frosting consistency. NOTE: I’d use cream cheese frosting unless, like me, you needed a cake that did not require refrigeration.

Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with diced pineapple, chopped walnuts, or other technique.


Mixing up two cakes.


My cookin’ buddy prepared for (in)action, and then more alert when she sees two cooling cakes!


All frosted and decorated!



Oh, have you seen Byrd’s Halloween costume on the About Willow Bird Baking page? Disregard her pained expression, and please do not call Canine Protective Services! She wore the costume for a total of 10 seconds — just long enough to endure a few photos!


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