When in doubt, bake a cake! A few weeks ago, while cat-sitting for my boyfriend (read: spending the entire week buried in kitty fluff) I began to feel restless. An undeniable urge came over me – the urge to bake a layer cake. I set out to the grocery store, curious to see if they had a 4″ cake pan. I knew baking a double layer, 9″ cake for two people was ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous. There was no way I was going to make that much cake at 8pm the night before Alexei returned. I mean, no way…
Except that they didn’t have small cake pans. By that point I was so taken with cake lust, I had no choice. I had to make a cake. And not just any cake, but a carrot cake – something I’ve always enjoyed, but never order; that at least maintained the illusion that, as a non-chocolate cake, I might be able to avoid eating the whole thing in one weekend.
For the cake itself I used Smitten Kitchen’s Carrot Cake recipe to a T, but went another direction with the frosting. (Blasphemy!) I’d trust Deb Perelman with pretty much any recipe (especially when it comes to sweets) but I wanted a nutty, slightly spicier frosting that maple just couldn’t offer me – a cinnamon cream cheese frosting.
Carrot Cake (
adapted copied from the lovely Smitten Kitchen)
makes one 2-layer cake
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots
Preheat oven to 350°F. (Grating the carrots takes a little bit longer than you’d think, but I plopped down in front of the TV and watched The West Wing while I did it. Easy as pie… or carrot cake.) Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line with wax paper. Butter and flour paper, and set aside.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger together in a medium-sized bowl. Mix sugar and oil with a hand or stand mixer in a larger bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time, then add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until blended. Stir in carrots (you can add walnuts or raisins here if you like).
Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean. Cook cakes in pans for at least 15 minutes. I just left mine alone while I worked on Eggs Benedict (it was one of those nights). Once the cakes have completely cooled, turn out onto racks (if you have them) and gently peel off the wax paper.
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Sweetened with Honey)
enough to frost entire cake, and then some
16 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz unsalted butter, softened
6 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cinnamon
Make sure both your cream cheese and butter are room temperature and completely softened. In a large bowl, mix them together until creamed. Mix in vanilla extract and cinnamon. Then, slowly mix in powdered sugar, one cup at a time. The frosting should be light, fluffy, and impossible to resist.
Frost your bottom layer first, using an offset spatula and about 3/4 cup frosting. Do the same with your second layer and place on top. Now, here’s a trick that really helps – when you’re frosting the outside of the entire cake, start by just barely covering the whole thing. It’s called a “crumb coat.” You should still have a sizable amount of frosting left by the time you’re done. Do your best to keep from eating whole spoonfuls of it while your cake sets in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Once the frosting has set, use that same spatula (and a straight palette knife if you’ve got it for the sides), spreading the rest of the frosting evenly over the entire cake. Use the back of a spoon to get cute little swirls on top, and then dust with a layer of cinnamon. (The Sweetened with Honey frosting recipe is enough for a 3-layer cake, so you might have to do some liberal tasting as you go. Just sayin’.)
To store your cake, set the frosting (again) for 30 minutes in the fridge, then cover the entire thing in cling wrap and keep chilled. Take it out about a half hour before serving so that cream cheese frosting can get warm and soften up.
Next time, I promised Alexei I’d find that 4″ pan so I could make a mini cake. We loved this monstrosity so much, it lasted the entire week. I meant to take the cake out on the town and share, but got too bogged down by work and stress to do so. Learn from my mistake, no matter how busy you are: find a way to share with friends!