Thursday, February 21, 2013

the mother of all carrot cakes: Carrot Cake with Pecan Cream Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake with Pecan Cream Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting
Well friends, it appears that storm Q is wreaking havoc on my husband's ability to get into IND tonight,  and for that matter most of tomorrow, so I have a little unexpected free time.  It's not like he would mind if I sat at my computer and blogged, he's a big fan.  But the dinner I was planning on making, chopped buffalo chicken salad can wait until tomorrow and I can finish this post.  This is a post that has been sitting in draft form since Greg's birthday in November.  He decided at the last minute that he really wanted cheesecake, but when I served this cake (it was too late, I had already made the filling) all was forgotten.

This particularly spectacular carrot cake is from my "The Frog/Commissary Cookbook" from my favorite restaurant in downtown Philadelphia in the 80's when I was a newly wed, newly graduated and newly employed Loss Control Specialist for CIGNA Property and Casualty.  Both the restaurant and CIGNA P&C are long gone.  And many of my readers were years from being born when I bought this cookbook on a training trip to HQ in 1986.  Anyway, that's all very strange to write and realize but we'll not dwell on it.  The Frog upstairs restaurant and it's downstairs Commissary cafeteria line would be so on trend right now.  All fresh, all local and all real whole food.  Honestly, the entire experience was genius.  Not really ahead of it's time, people have known for a long time that real food is delicious.  Absolutely no regard for the dangers of butter, eggs, red meat, sugar, flour, carbs and all the other things that have at one time or another been the things that will kill us all if we eat them.  Hang around long enough and you get the feeling that balance has just got to be the answer.  I am fairly convinced that more plants is for sure a good thing that no one will ever reverse their position on, but heaven forbid we ever agree on which ones are problematic.  It's tiresome, really.

So if you want to amaze your friends and family with the absolutely most amazing carrot cake ever made, this is your cake.  It was the logo of the restaurant.  It was good almost 30 years ago and it's still crazy good today.  Have a little piece.  Tomorrow have salad.  Well, maybe a couple of meals need to be salad to balance this bad boy out.  But really, it's spectacular.  I make it in three 9-inch cake rounds (the layers are not surprisingly a little short), but it is written for a tube pan and then you slice it into layers (tricky with nuts and raisins).  You could bake it in a 9x13x2 pan, but then you would miss the filling.  Same for cupcakes, but they would be good.  If you bake it in some other form, just adjust your baking times.  If you are making the filling, it can be made days ahead and kept refrigerated.  It's best if you at least refrigerate it overnight to thicken it up for easy spreading.  I always toast my pecans, you'll be using a total of 2 1/4 C, so spread them on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice and keeping watch they do not burn.  Nuts are almost always better toasted when you add them to anything.  Not hard, just a few extra steps. You got it.  I know you do.

Pecan Cream Filling
1 1/2 C sugar
1/4 C flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C heavy cream
6 ounces unsalted butter
1 1/4 C chopped pecans, toasted
2 tsp vanilla extract

Carrot Cake
1 1/4 C canola oil
2 C sugar
2 C flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
4 C grated carrots (one pound bag)
1 C chopped pecans, toasted
1 C raisins

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces light cream cheese, room temperature
one pound confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 C shredded sweetened coconut or big toasted coconut flakes

Filling:  In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt.  Gradually stir in cream and heat over low heat adding in butter to melt.  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown in color.  Cool to lukewarm.  Stir in nuts and vanilla.  Let cool completely and then refrigerate, preferably overnight.  If too thick to spread, bring to room temperature before using.

Cake:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray and flour a 10-inch tube cake pan (angel food cake pan) or three 9-inch cake pans (or use two, whatever you have will work just keep an eye on them).  Before you start mixing, soak your raisins in either hot water to cover for 15 minutes, or spiced rum or whiskey to cover for about an hour.  Drain the raisins before adding to the cake.
In a mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine canola oil and sugar.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Stir flour mixture into oil mixture.  Add eggs, one at a time and beat until well-combined.  Add the carrots, raisins and pecans.  Pour into the prepared pan or pans.  Bake the tube pan for 70 minutes or the cake pans about 22-30 minutes.  Test the cake(s) with a toothpick that should come out clean.  Cool in tube pan until completely cool.  Cake layers can be inverted about 10 minutes after baking.

Cream Cheese Frosting:   Cream the butter well.  Add the cream cheese and beat until well-blended. Add the confectioner's sugar and vanilla and beat (start slowly or you'll have a white cloud all over everything) until fluffy.  Refrigerate if not using immediately, but bring to a spreadable temperature before using.

Assembly:  Invert cake onto a serving platter and if using a tube pan, carefully split the cake into 3 horizontal layers using a long serrated (bread) knife.  Spread the filling between the layers.  Spread the frosting over the top and sides.  If you're really going for it you can garnish the top with toasted coconut.  The finished cake should be refrigerated.

Serves 16-20

layers and filling and a mound of frosting, oh my

oh look, I decorated mine with pecans
which I did not remember 3 months later

slicing on the butler's pantry with a classic photo in the background

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