For years, I’ve made this carrot-orange cake because it’s a favorite with my family. It’s a little different from a straight carrot cake recipe because it includes orange zest and freshly squeezed orange juice (navel oranges) in both the cake batter and in the cream cheese frosting recipes.
By trial and error, I’ve discovered that hand-grating the carrots (washed but unpeeled) on a box grater works the best because the grated shavings are light enough to stay suspended in the cake batter. One year, I used a Cuisinart to “grate” the carrots and they turned out to be too finely ground – and sank heavily into the bottom of the cake! This hand-grating on the hole side of the box grater takes awhile and is the most laborious part of the recipe but it’s really worth it.
The other tweaks that I’ve made to this classic recipe (mine was from Bon Appetit,) are using golden raisins instead of dark brown ones, slightly heaping teaspoons of cinnamon and ground ginger, slightly more than half a teaspoon of nutmeg. And gently folding in the grated carrots and golden raisins at the end in an up-and-down motion with a rubber spatula (similar to folding beaten egg whites into a souffle.)
For the frosting, I use two packages of Philadelphia regular cream cheese (not non-fat) and ONE stick of unsalted butter rather than two. I also only add as much confectioners sugar (one heaping cup rather than five cups) as the frosting will taste slightly sweet, but not as (overly) sweet as what the recipe calls for. Fresh orange juice and grated orange zest liven up the frosting as well. Instead of cutting the cake horizontally as the recipe suggests, and because it is such a dense, moist cake, I frost it right in the pan just as it is. A small square serving of frosted cake goes a long way!
It is baking now and smells divine. This carrot orange cake will be shared with my 97-year old mother-in-law who lives across the street, a few friends to whom I’ll take some tomorrow – and the rest will be shared with those who are close by.
Oh, and by the way, an old friend who’s a pianist recommended Leon Fleisher’s 1987 recording of Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto conducted by George Szell (“listen to the longest, most fabulous diminuendo that goes on forever at the end of the second movement!”) Seems like a good pairing to me: eating homemade carrot-orange cake with cream cheese frosting while listening to Leon Fleisher playing the “Emperor” in his heyday! Doesn’t get much better than that!
And happy mother’s day too!