I never thought of myself as a person who owns a cake stand. As you can see: things have changed. Since I am the new owner of a cake stand (one which I requested on our wedding registry; one that a nice, generous friend purchased for me), I have to become something else I'm not: a person who knows how to make cakes. I thought I would start off with a carrot cake. I selected carrot cake as the inaugural cake in my baking cakes curriculum, one, because it's Marcus' favorite cake, and, two, because cream cheese frosting speaks to me in hypnotizing ways.
Generally, I was happy with the result. The cake was flavorful--spicy, nutty, carrot-y--and the cream cheese frosting was sublime. My one critique was that while the cake was moist enough on the inside, it was tough around the edges and the bottom. I sent a cake SOS on twitter, which brought back some interesting suggestions. @moderndomestic suggested checking my oven temp and also recommended cake strips. I had never heard of cake strips; apparently, they help protect the edges of our cake from becoming dry. I'm willing to try them. Not so fast! @cookin_n_cussin isn't so enamored with cake strips; he suggested reducing the oven heat by 25 degrees. @mangoandtomato suggested poking holes in the cake, making a simple syrup, and pouring it on top before I frosted it (she thought the entire cake was dry, not just the edges). All were very helpful suggestions, which I will add to my "cake doctor" files.
p.s., Modern Domestic did a post on cake strips over here.
If you plan to use this recipe, make sure to watch the heat on this one and don't overcook the edges and bottom of the cake! If you make it, let me know how it turns out. Until then, what type of cake should I try next?
Classic Carrot Cake
For the cake1 cup canola, corn, or vegetable oil; more for the pans
2 cups (9 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground ginger (Note: I substituted cloves because I didn't have ginger)
3/4 tsp. table salt
4 large eggs
2-1/2 cups (8-3/4 oz.) lightly packed, finely grated carrots
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (Note: I used a full cup)
1/2 cup raisins (Note: I used jumbo golden and brown raisins)
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the frosting1 lb. cream cheese, softened
12 oz. (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar (Note: I only used 3.5 cups)
4 tsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: I only used 2 tsp)
3/4 tsp. table salt
Make the cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and flour the sides of two 9x2-inch round cake pans, tapping out any excess flour. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the oil, eggs, carrots, brown sugar, walnuts, raisins, and vanilla on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just blended, about 30 seconds. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
Bake until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed and a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. (Note: make sure you don't overcook so the edges become tough!).
Let cool in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pans to loosen the cakes, invert them onto the rack, remove the pans, and carefully peel away the parchment. Set the cakes aside to cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter with the mixer on medium speed until very smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on medium high until blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cover the frosting and set aside at room temperature until the layers are completely cool.
Assemble the cake
Carefully set one cake upside down on a large, flat serving plate. Using a metal spatula, evenly spread about 1-1/2 cups of the frosting over the top of the cake. Top with the remaining cake layer, upside down. Spread a thin layer (about 1/3 cup) of frosting over the entire cake to seal in any crumbs and fill in any gaps between layers. Refrigerate until the frosting is cold and firm, about 20 minutes. Spread the entire cake with the remaining frosting. For more tips on how to frost a layer cake, watch our video.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. The cake is best served slightly chilled or at room temperature.
Make Ahead TipsThe flavors of this moist cake only improve with time, so feel free to bake and frost the cake up to a few days ahead.