I must admit when I find a recipe I like, well, it’s a keeper. It eventually finds a place in our family traditions, and I’m hard pressed to move it. For instance, every Thanksgiving and Christmas I make Pretzel Berry Dessert. Every year. And only at the holidays. We don’t usually eat it any other time. But, when we do? We scarf down the pan in no time at all.
That’s one of the wonderful things about recipe traditions. If a certain dish belongs to a specific holiday, it’s okay to go whole hog on it because, after all, it’s only once a year.
And so, my Easter dessert is one that I rarely make any other time of the year. Not because we don’t like it. Au contraire! We love it. But, it just has a place of honor on Easter Sunday. It is The Best Carrot Cake Ever.
Last year in a fit of creativity, I added a Risen Jesus cake topper. (Yes, it’s a playmobil from the Roman collection, but it works.) Usually I just sprinkle the nuts into the shape of a cross. This year I might go all out and bake it in the shape of an empty tomb. If I do, you can be sure that I’ll report back!
Ultimate Carrot Cake
adapted from one found in Fine Cooking Magazine #63, pp. 50. You can see the original, created by Greg Case here. I’ve edited the following to show what I do when I make it. I cheat a little. For the “right way,” which includes currants, visit the original recipe and the article where Mr. Case explains how he perfected carrot cake.
For the cake:
nonstick spray for the pan
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
For the frosting:
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and completely softened at room temperature
1 lb. cream cheese, cut into pieces and completely softened at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9×13-inch cake pan with non-stick spray. In a food processor (use the steel blade), chop the carrots very finely to about the consistency of couscous. Transfer to a small bowl and rinse the food processor bowl (you’ll need it again).
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Whisk to blend thoroughly. Transfer 1/4 cup of this mixture to a small bowl and add the 3 oz. nuts. Toss to combine.
In the food processor (again use the steel blade), mix the eggs and sugars until blended. With the machine running, slowly add the oils in a steady stream until combined. Scrape this mixture into the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine. Add the carrots and the floured nuts; stir to combine.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool on a rack to room temperature before inverting the pan to remove the cake. Let cool completely before frosting.
Meanwhile, fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (a hand mixer works, too). Beat the butter on medium speed until it’s quite light, fluffy, and resembles whipped cream, about 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese one piece at a time, beating well after each addition. When all the cream cheese is incorporated, reduce the speed to medium low and gradually add the sugar and vanilla, stopping the mixer each time you add the sugar. Mix just enough to remove any lumps; scrape the bowl as needed. If the frosting seems a bit loose, refrigerate it for a few minutes until it seems spreadable.
Scrape about two-thirds of the frosting onto the center of the cake. With a narrow metal offset spatula, push the frosting from the center out to and just over the cake’s edges. Spread with as few strokes as possible to prevent crumbs from catching in the frosting. Cover the top of the cake first then use the remaining frosting along with what’s creeping over the edges of the cake to cover the sides. Once the cake is covered, drag the front tip of the spatula back and forth from end to end to create a textured surface on the top of the cake. If you like, sprinkle the nuts on top of the cake and press them into the sides.
Got a great Easter dessert to share with us? How about a fantastic menu plan for Resurrection Sunday? We want to see it!
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