I had the urge to make carrot after a co-worker of Todd’s mentioned she was making one for her wedding. Unfortunately, a prior carrot cake making endeavor was traumatic and I hadn’t made one since. What happened was after I baked the big beautiful cake, it developed little flecks of green. I did some research to try to find out what caused the green and didn’t get any clear cut answer. Nigella said it was the carrot skins that cause this, but I used skinned, pre-shredded carrots, so I think it was a chemical reaction to the baking soda. At any rate, it put me off carrot cake for a while and I’ve always been a huge fan. This cake needed to be redemptive, which meant using less baking soda.
After looking at many recipes on-line, I ended up making the cake as written below. Most versions at least 2 teaspoons of baking soda, but I used 1 tsp. soda and 1 tsp. powder. Other versions use 2 cups white sugar, but I used half white, half brown. Instead of a full cup of oil, I used half oil and half butter. I also used pineapple, which some people opt not to use but which I love. Following the lead of an allrecipes cake that had about 400 good reviews, I let the carrots sit in the sugar for 10 minutes and develop a juice. I don’t know white what this does besides add moisture, but it worked for me so I’d probably do it again to make a super-moist carrot cake.
Interestingly, after making this cake, I read that Chris Kimball of Cook’s Illustrated does the carrot macerating step too, only in his version he uses a bit more sugar and dumps off the excess juice. I’ll be trying his method next, as it seemed to promise another type of carrot cake I really love – -the dark, flaky and moist type. But back to the cake at hand, this one is a very moist, dense cake which holds up very well and which people tend to love. My girlfriend said it tasted like Fall.
Dense and Moist Carrot Cake
3 cups shredded carrots (I shredded mine myself this time, though I think pre-shredded would be okay)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple (about 1 cup before draining)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans
12 oz cream cheese, softened
6 ounces butter (12 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla
4-5 cups powdered sugar (taste as you go, don’t just trust amount on paper)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 2 (8 inch) round cake pans with flour-added cooking spray or spray a 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray. If using 8 inch pans, you might want to line bottom with parchment because this cake is sticky.
In a large plastic bowl mixing bowl, stir together carrots and both sugars. Let sit for about 10 minutes; the sugar will form a juice. Stir in oil, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, pineapple and fresh ginger.
Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir flour mixture and toasted nuts into carrot mixture. Pour into prepared pans or pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes (13×9 inch pan might take longer) or until tester comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then turn from pans if using 8 inch. The cake is fairly delicate, so be careful. Cool completely and prepare frosting.
Beat together cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Stir in sugar, then beat until fluffy and light. Beat in lemon juice to taste. Frost cake!