First, I want to thank you guys so much for all your thoughts and well-wishes for our family over the last couple of weeks! My husband’s gallbladder problem turned out to be more serious than they originally thought and he wound up in the hospital for a week, so I appreciate Sara picking up my slack last week while I single-handedly kept our local gas stations and fast food restaurants in business. He’s home and doing much, much better, thank goodness!
ANYWAY. This is the awesome dessert I was going to post before everything went downhill. We have a great, easy carrot sheet cake in our book that we love, but this is the carrot cake for celebrations and murder by sugar. This is my friend Jeni’s (who I always seem to be stealing recipes from) trademark cake, and it comes from my all-time favorite all-purpose cookbook. Abolish any notions that carrot cake is in some way good for you because this one is definitely not. I’ll try to be better, I promise.
You’ll need your typical cake-making ingredients–flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk. Then you’ll need cinnamon, carrots, crushed pineapple, pecans, and coconut. And butter. And we haven’t even gotten to the frosting.
Preheat your oven to 350. Now…this is where things get interesting because I improvise depending on what I can find in my super-disorganized cupboards strikes my fancy creatively. The recipe calls for 3 9″ round pans. I have 2 8″ round pans. I have 1 9″ round pan. I have 3 square 8″ pans. However, there is not enough batter to fill 3 8″ pans (I’m sure someone who’s awesome at math can explain that one to me). Jeni uses 2 9″ round pans and uses the extra batter to make a few cupcakes, but I ended up using 2 8″ square pans and it worked fine. Whatever you do, you just need to keep an eye on the cakes (a good idea in any situation because so many factors go into cake doneness).
So yeah, grease whatever pans you’re using. As an extra precaution, you can line the greased pans with wax or parchment paper–it’s not a bad idea because these cakes are heavy and dense and the paper will help you get the cakes out of the pan easier. However, it’s not 100% required. If you use paper, lightly grease and flour it and set it aside.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and then bake for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Now this is where things get evil. You know our buttermilk syrup? Yeah, we’re pretty much going to drizzle a slightly undercooked version of that all over the cakes. While the cakes are baking, combine the buttermilk glaze ingredients (below) in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the syrup is light golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the cakes are done baking, remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Drizzle the warm buttermilk glaze over the cakes and allow the cakes to cool completely.
To make the frosting, you’ll need butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla. You can also add a little almond extract if you like it. Which I do.
Beat together the softened cream cheese, butter, and extracts. Add 3/4 lb. of powdered sugar and then test the frosting–if you like it sweeter and softer, add a little more, but I really like a pronounced cream cheese flavor, so I go easy on the sugar. I know you’re shocked.
Tear four thin strips of wax paper or aluminum foil and form a square on the plate that you’ll be serving the cake on. Place a layer of cake on top of the strips. Gently ice the top of the cake layer and then add another layer (repeat if you have three layers).
For best presentation, it’s better to refrigerate the cake overnight and then let it return to room temperature before serving.
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. grated carrot
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
2/3 c. coconut
1 c. chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
Buttermilk Glaze (below)
Cream Cheese Frosting (below)
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease cake pans (see notes above) and, if desired, line the prepared pans with wax or parchment paper and then lightly grease and flour the paper. Set aside.
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined. Fold in the carrots. Fold in the pineapple, coconut, and pecans. Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
While the cakes are baking, prepare the buttermilk glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the warm cakes and then cool the cakes completely on a wire rack. When the cakes are cool, tear four thin strips of parchment or wax paper or aluminum foil and make a square on the serving plate. Place one layer on top of the square. Prepare the cream cheese frosting and spread some frosting on the bottom layer of the cake. Place another layer on top of the frosted layer (repeat if using a third layer). Frost the entire cake with cream cheese frosting and decorate with coconut and chopped pecans if desired. For best presentation, refrigerate overnight and then allow to come to room temperature before serving.
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. butter
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 4 minutes or until the syrup is light golden.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
11 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. real butter, softened
3/4-1 lb. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (1/2 tsp. can be replaced with almond extract if desired)
Combine butter, cream cheese, and extracts and beat until combined and fluffy. Add 3/4 lb. powdered sugar and beat on high speed until fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to taste.