Thursday, August 25, 2011
Normally I'd go straight to the point and tell you about the cake but today we shall connect a little and kick start on a different note. Don't worry, I'll get to the cake bit soon enough. If you're tempted to scroll down all the way for the recipe though, I'm equally happy about that, simply because, that is one of the reasons why I started food blogging. Now if you're either still here because you're curious on what I'm going on about or you're back here because you realize the recipe section is missing, like I said, I promised - you will, in less than 10 minutes, be scheming to arrange for this cake to appear on your own kitchen counter.
Food and blogging are nothing new to me. Growing up, my favorite place at home was my mother's kitchen. I watched as my parents worked their magic near the stove and helped Mum bake. I assisted her in 'getting rid' of her baking failures and was the second toughest food critic in the house - the first was my late father, he had good taste and high standards. Personal blogging for me kicked off eight years ago when it was all the rage in the States and was just starting to get hip in Asia. I slowed down in recent years after moving to Singapore but never killed the blog. Last year food and blogging were combined, transforming Life is Great to what it is now. I've already reaped what I thought was the best reward out of the blogging world - making new friends, some of them my best friends now, many of whom I constantly miss dearly since I left Malaysia. Food blogging, on the other hand, not only brought me more like-minded friends but exposed me to a whole new level of knowledge and amazing experiences; like this carrot cake (see, I told you I promised).
When I started to post up recipes here, the goal was (and still is) to share with you what rocks my culinary boat. These would be things I grew up eating, my favorite food or new recipes I found which I thought would taste awesome. The humble, yet delicious carrot cake (yes, I know, where have I been all these years?) was never in my list of things-I-must-bake because I couldn't imagine what it would taste like. Would be like mushy, steamed carrots (which I dislike, I'm a raw or crunchy carrot kind of girl), would I even taste the carrots at all (have you seen those other stuffs that go into some carrot cakes?) or would it be all weird because at the end of the day, it's a cake with three whole cups of root vegetable in it? It is my best friend's favorite, the cake another friend asked for her birthday and the one Bee requested to be featured in her baking section.
So I dug out my cheese grater, put on my rubber gloves (grated skin bits from my fingers would probably be lost in all those carrots but I learned my lesson when making these so let's not get into bloody memories here) and went down to the grind with six large carrots. That business took forever but I've clearly been warned so I stuck it out and sweated it through. If you're still here and on the verge of going out to get some carrots, then let me tell you that this is the carrot cake for me, possibly for you too. With some fresh ginger and a can of crushed pineapples - I couldn't help myself. And there was some blitzed to oblivion walnuts.
But I stopped short of adding coconut and pecans, which I reckon you could, though I worry if it came to that the carrots might get jealous and decide to stage a mutiny. Then all those sweaty moments with gloves on and possibly some expletives released would be in vain. I think two additional flavors from a nut and fruit respectively, plus a little bit of spice kept the carrots happy, for the cake screamed sweet carrots like they meant business - just like they did in the medieval period. Of course the maple cream cheese frosting played the crucial role of a supporting actor, after I tried - and failed - to replace it with this mascarpone cream cheese frosting. I shall spare you the drama and let you know that this cream cheese frosting was made to feel pretty special by that quarter cup of maple syrup.
Feel free to play around with the recipe at Bee's Rasa Malaysia and have a ball while you're at it. I'd ask you to save me a piece but will completely understand if you refuse.
Note: If you're halfway out the door with your environmental friendly tote on your shoulder wondering what on earth are those dark brown spikes, I apologize. I got carried away cooking down the caramel for the toffee hazelnuts and didn't have enough hands to hold them up for fancier looking drips. I cried to Vijay for help and thanks to him I got three half descent looking ones. I'll own up and admit I'm watching too much Masterchef for my own good.
Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields 24 cupcakes/one 9-inch two-layer cake/one 8-inch three-layer cake
Adapted barely from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen.
Notes: For a soft batter and a cake with a melt-in-your-mouth crumb, like Deb I grated the carrots by hand with a box cheese grater and like her, I will not lie to you – it takes some elbow grease to get the required 3 cups. You can use the food processor but you will get thicker pieces – take care not to over do it or you will end up with carrot pulp swimming in carrot water. Like most cakes without butter and using oil instead, this is a very moist one so I chilled the cooled layers in the freezer prior to frosting.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 cup granulated/castor sugar
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1 8-ounce can pineapple slices
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 3 cups/650 grams grated peeled carrots (from about 5-6 large carrots)
- 2 inches fresh old ginger, finely grated
- 1 cup walnuts (optional)
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
For cupcakes: Line 24 cupcake molds (2 12-standard muffin tins) with liners, or butter and flour them.
For layered cakes: Butter two 9-inch-diameter or three 8-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment, butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour.
If using walnuts, lightly roast them on a baking tray or a frying pan, about 4-5 minutes. Leave to cool before processing them finely.
Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger in medium bowl to blend. Set aside. Place the pineapple slices in a blender and add some of the juices from the can. Discard excess liquid. Puree until smooth and set aside.
In a separate large bowl, whisk sugars, pineapple puree and oil until well blended. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Add in the flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in the vanilla, carrots and fresh ginger. Add in the walnuts and raisins, if using them.
For cupcakes: Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each. Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for about 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.
For layered cakes: Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans, and bake the layers for about 30 minutes each for 8-inch cakes or about 40 minutes each for 9-inch cakes; or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for about 15 minutes. Turn out onto cooling racks. Peel off parchment; cool cakes completely before icing.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields about 2 cups, sufficient for any of the combination of this cake recipe
- 2 (8-ounce/226-gram) packages cream cheese, softened at room temperature
- 1 stick/4 ounces/113 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups/230 grams confectioners’/icing sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat all the ingredients on medium speed until fluffy. Chill the frosting for about 20 to 30 minutes or until it has set up enough to spread smoothly and hold its shape.
For cupcakes: Place the maple cream cheese frosting into a piping bag fitted with your tip of choice and pipe onto cooled cupcakes accordingly.
For layered cakes: To assemble a layered cake, with an offset spatula, frost the top of one cake and place the other cake on top. Repeat for a three-layered cake. Frost the sides and top with a thin layer of frosting, chill the cake for about 30-45 minutes. Frost the cake completely to cover and decorate with swirls on the top. Chill cake for at least 30 minutes or till frosting is set. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Life Is Great explores the incredible world of food and cooking. We hope to share with you our most delicious moments and inspirations.
“Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. The you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”
Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
“Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”
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