"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: cream cheese frosting

carrot-orange cake . . . and music too!

carrot-orange cake with cream cheese frosting. . .

carrot-orange cake with cream cheese frosting. . .

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.) carrot cake 1

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!




banana cake . . .

banana cakeWhen we can’t keep up with eating the bananas we’ve bought, they sometimes edge up on us and then I’m thinking about making a banana walnut bread or, in a recipe I found online, a “very moist” banana cake. What attracted me to this recipe were: the promise of moistness after settling the cake down in the freezer for 45 minutes straight out of the oven; the inclusion of fresh buttermilk and the idea that the cake got better as it aged in the refrigerator.

So this morning, I peeled four bananas and mashed them by hand with a fork in a bowl, adding two teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. In another bowl, I measured out three cups of flour, salt and baking soda. Finally in a large bowl, I placed a stick and a half of unsalted butter and nuked it so that it was soft but not melted. Two cups and an eighth of turbinado sugar were beaten into the butter with an old hand mixer, adding three organic fresh eggs one at a time plus two teaspoons of vanilla. Then, according to the recipe, I alternated adding the flour mixture with one and half cups of fresh buttermilk into the creamed mixture. The bananas went in at the very end. The batter looked rich and smooth. I poured it into a 9 X 13 prepared baking pan, then into a 275 degree oven for about an hour and twelve minutes. That’s when a toothpick inserted into the cake came out clean.

In the meantime, I had reconnoitered in the freezer and positioned a cookie sheet so that I could transfer the freshly baked cake right on to it and placed in the freezer for 45 minutes. I had not heard of this before but the recipe swore by this step as a way to ensure the cake would be very moist. After I took it out of the freezer, I waited about a half hour at room temperature before I mixed up a cream cheese frosting to spread on the top. Half a stick of room temperature unsalted butter with eight ounces of Philadelphia cream cheese and about a half cup of confectioners sugar mixed together with the cleaned beaters of my little mixer produced a not very sweet frosting that just covered the top of the sheet cake. Carefully topped with plastic wrap, I set the frosted cake into the fridge to await our first tasting after dinner tonight.

Honestly, the recipe took a long time to prepare. I followed it to the letter including adding fresh lemon juice to the bananas and alternating the dry and wet ingredients culminating with the bananas at the end. The frosting always turns out well–I resisted adding either lemon juice or vanilla, wanting it to be rather austere in its cream cheese-ness. I’m curious to see what kind of alchemy the freezer cooling step produced and will let you know in a little while.

Later: We cut a large piece for G. to take across the street for his 95-year old mother and brother, J. After dinner, we ate our first piece. It was very moist and had a not-sweet banana flavor. The edges of the cake were not dry nor crusty. The frosting was just right, thinly spread along the top. We’ll have it for dessert tonight also when B. joins us for a supper of shepherd’s pie, asparagus and crescent rolls.

Even Later: Just had a nice square of banana cake for dessert tonight, and the recipe was accurate: tastes even better a day later. The cake was moist, tender, flavorful. Worth the time and trouble to follow the recipe ~ a keeper!