Okay, I have to admit that I played around with this recipe a bit. First off, I decided to lighten it up. Summer is quickly approaching and if I ever want to see myself in a bathing suit (gasp), something's got to give! I cut back the oil and sugar in this recipe by 25% (¼ cup and ½ cup less respectively). I also subbed half the flour with whole wheat. I don't care for coconut, and I hate raisins in baked goods, so those were out as well. Due to the reduction in oil, I increased the carrots by ½ cup for extra moisture.
Even with all the changes, I really liked the resulting carrot cake. It was moist with great carrot and pecan flavor. I ended up making cupcakes, which I'll forever think of as Michelle's Big Carrot Cup Cakes, because they were huge! I baked the batter in 12 individual sized panettone wrappers (I like to think of them as upscale cupcake papers). The cakes rose so nicely that they were almost too tall to eat. The icing was nice, though next time I'll use vanilla extract and not lemon juice. I thought the lemon overpowered the cream cheese flavor a bit.
As a garnish, I candied some carrot strips and attempted to make ribbons out of the strips. Next time I'll use longer carrots because my strips were so short, it was difficult to tie the ribbon. I ended up breaking up some of the candied carrot strips and using them as confetti, which looked cute.
Luckily, my official taste tester was around to see if my changes to the recipe would result in an inferior product. After eating his first cupcake, Joe said "so, if they have less fat and whole wheat flour in them, I can eat another; right?" I'll call that cupcake success.
Pictures and recipe below. The changes I made are in italics.
Bill's Big Carrot Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
For the cake:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 ½ cups grated carrots (about 10 carrots)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
I didn't include: 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
I didn't include: ½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat), room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
Candied carrot garnish
I sprayed 12 cupcake liners with release spray and put them on a sheet pan. If you're making cakes, do this:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.
To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.
To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.