Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Favorite Carrot Cake!

I've been struggling with how to start this post. Heck I deleted the first draft entirely. Sometimes it's difficult to articulate things that are personal.

So as you know, Father's Day recently passed. My father and I don't have a close relationship; it's a long story. I'm sure there are quite a few reading this that are in the same boat hence I felt the need to be open on this subject. It's wonderful to see stories like Joy the Baker's relationship with her dad and it's uplifting to know that sort of thing does exist.

While it is nice to see, just make sure that you never compare; "comparison is the thief of joy." It's apples to oranges! Families rarely reflect those sentimental hallmark cards and that's okay. Seriously- it's okay *hugs* What is important is that you don't short change yourself. Spend your energy and love on people and activities that make you happy. It doesn't matter if it's hanging out with your peeps, making a gourmet meal for your cat, taking a walk, or baking a cake (wink wink). In with the good, out with the bad.

My focus on Father's Day was friends and family. I dropped off Mike to watch Super Man with his pops and then spent some time with my amazing big brother. As luck with have it, there was a convenient surprise near the restaurant! Our "second" set of parents, Olga and Tonito, had just finished lunch so we got to catch up with them for a little bit. I got to give a big hug to Tonito which meant a lot; he's always been incredibly kind and doted on me growing up. This is the man who still tried to cut my pizza into bite-size pieces... when I was 24. Love him! Afterwards, the evening was spent relaxing with the in-laws and grubbing on Mexican food!

Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better Father's Day.

I wanted to make something special for my father-in-law. He is a lovable guy and a touch on the silly side. More importantly, I appreciate the connection he shares with his son. Mike nominated carrot cake again as it is his pop's favorite cake (which I find adorable considering his wife is a "carrot-top" feisty red head). I've tried a few recipes here and there but decided to bust out the big guns, also known was America's Test Kitchen. Yes, I'm a total sucker for their recipes. They were recommended by a caterer so you know they must be doing something right.

With no bias, I have to say: this cake is awesome. It is now my favorite carrot cake recipe of all time. Where to begin? Super moist, easy to make, balanced, and refined.  Everybody who tried this cake raved about it and I was thrilled to see my father-in-law like it so much.

The ingredients are thoughtful and new to my carrot cake arsenal. Instead of raisins, this recipe calls for dried currants. I've never cooked with these before! Currants are sort of like raisins, but they are less sweet and smaller in size. You can usually find them in the same aisle as the raisins. The currants just about melt into the cake.

The other highlight of the cake was the genius cooking method. As luck would have it, the recipe calls for a 18x12 cooking pan which I had JUST bought for a custom cake order. You pour the entire batter directly into the pan as a solid block of cake. Make sure you have a wire rack that can handle holding this bad boy! When the cake has cooled, you cut it into 4 thin, even 9x6 slices. This eliminates the need to level the cake entirely and creates perfectly even layers. Professional and excellent!

Cream cheese frosting is always a treat. This rendition is not overly sweet and has another unique ingredient: powdered buttermilk. Trust, I wish I understood what magic this brings to the frosting but it was delicious! Make sure when you frost the cake to go easy on the interior; that's 4 layers of cake and it adds up.

Finally, the toasted pecans are a perfect accent flavor. They compliment the sweetness of the cream cheese frosting and provide a nice subtle texture. Feel free to sprinkle them in between the layers as you frost if you're a pecan lover.

Make sure you grab yourself a slice- it goes quick! The pictures are used with the remaining cake so it's not to full size. For the full recipe, you have to sneak a copy unless you have a subscription to America's Test Kitchen. I found my version here.