Amy’s Carrot Cake

Amy’s Carrot Cake PhotoThe Dos and Don’ts of Carrot Cake
I’m making a carrot cake this weekend for Easter. While it may not be the most innovative choice for an Easter dessert, it is a family tradition. So…

The hardest thing about making a carrot cake for my extended family is that there are a number of rules one needs to follow in order to make it edible for everyone. First off, it better not have any raisins. To the younger members of our family raisins—in any way shape or form—are a horror that cannot be suffered no matter the recipe. I have no idea what event occurred in their early childhoods to foment such a visceral reaction to this particular dried fruit. But, to them, raisins are the very definition of eeew.

To be fair, I have my own issues. For example, you will never see pineapple in my carrot cake. I love pineapple and will happily devour a perfectly ripe one in a single sitting. But, there is something about adding it to a carrot cake that just doesn’t work for me. Also, I will always use pecans instead of walnuts. Doesn’t matter what I am making. Pecans are better than walnuts. There. I said it.

Lastly, I gotta add some coconut. True, it may not be traditional but the added flavor makes it non-negotiable.

When all is said and done, after everyone’s rules have been followed, you are left with a truly classic Eastern celebration dessert, Amy’s Carrot Cake. Let’s be honest though, while the cake does actually matter, its most important purpose, really, is to serve as the vehicle for cream cheese frosting consumption.

Amy’s Carrot Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, lightly toasted
1 cup shredded coconut, sweetened
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 pound (3-3/4 cups) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)

For decorating
Toasted finely chopped nuts and/or toasted coconut (optional)

Preheat the oven
Position the racks so the oven is divided into thirds. Preheat the oven to 325 ºF.

Prepare the pans
Butter three 9-inch round, 2-inch deep cake pans. Dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess.

Make the batter
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, and coconut.

Using the paddle attachment in a mixer, beat the sugar and oil together until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low, and gently stir in the flour mixture only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently stir in the nuts.

Bake the cake
Divide the batter evenly among the baking pans and smooth over the top. Slide the pans into the preheated oven. Bake the cakes for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the pans, top to bottom and front to back, at around twenty minutes.

The cakes are ready when they just start to come away from the edges and a knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. Transfer the pans to cooling racks, cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool to room temperature.

Note: At this point, the cakes can be wrapped airtight in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months. (Thaw before frosting.)

Make the frosting
Working in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice.

If you are adding shredded coconut to the filling, scoop out about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this portion.

Frost the cake
Place one layer of the cake, right-side up, on a cardboard round or a cake plate. If you’ve added coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer.

Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second cake layer by placing the second layer top-side down. Frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting.

Top with the last cake layer, this time right-side up. Use the plain frosting to cover the top and the sides of the cake. Finish the top layer with swirls of frosting. Top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut by sprinkling these ingredients over the frosting while it is soft.

Slide the cake into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set the frosting.

To serve
The cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper, overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature.

To store
Store the cake covered. It will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen, uncovered, and then, when it is firm, wrapped airtight and kept in the freezer for up to 2 months. To defrost, leave it wrapped in the refrigerator overnight.


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