My mom loves red velvet cake, but my dad's favorite is carrot cake. He's loved it ever since he ate it at a wedding nearly 20 years ago and still raves to this day about how moist and flavorful it was. So, when his birthday came around, I knew that only a carrot cake would do. It wasn't possible to replicate that exact carrot cake since I don't have a recipe for it and I never tasted it myself. Still, I trusted that the highly praised Bill's Big Carrot Cake would at least be to his satisfaction.
It was with great excitement that I began making this cake as a surprise for him. It was also the very first cake that I had ever made from scratch, so I hoped that all would go well. The only changes I made was to leave out the coconut and raisins (we like our carrot cake simple) and the nuts (due to allergies). I also used my own cream cheese frosting recipe. The cake baked up beautifully in the oven and its yummy scent permeated my kitchen.
I eagerly took the cakes out, let them cool a little, and prepared to flip them neatly out of their pans. And, that's when trouble struck. Those cakes did not want to come out. I shook them, my sister shook them, we ran knives around the edges over and over again. Finally, with a ker-plop, out they came. But, to my absolute horror, the bottom of each layer was missing, still glued to the pans, even though I had meticulously greased and floured each one prior to pouring in the batter. I was upset, who wouldn't be? But, as my sister reminded me, it's the taste that matters most. A little frosting could easily glue those pieces back on and no one would be the wiser.
She was right. Once those layers were frosted with some cream cheese frosting, the cake looked perfect.
My dad was definitely surprised and ate a big piece of it with gusto, enjoying every bite. I'm not sure how it stacks up to that carrot cake from the wedding, but it certainly meets my expectations - super moist without being oily, not the least bit heavy, and wonderfully flavorful. You can bet that this cake will make its appearance at many more birthdays in the future.
Bill's Big Carrot Cake (adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 c. grated carrots
1 c. canola oil
4 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter three 9x2 inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
Beat the sugar and oil together with a stand mixer or hand mixer on 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 in the grated carrots. Divide the batter among the baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 min. 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 min., then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. Frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting (Sweet as Sugar Cookies)
2 (8 oz. pkgs.) cream cheese (it's okay if one is low-fat cream cheese)
10 Tbsp. salted butter
2 c. powdered sugar
Beat the cream cheese with the butter until well blended. Beat in the powdered sugar until creamy.
- I baked my cake in two round cake pans instead of three. It did rise up high above the pan's edges, but didn't spill over. Still, for your peace of mind, if at all possible, use three pans as the recipe states.
- I'd recommend using parchment paper in the cake pans instead of only greasing and flouring them. Half of my cake bottoms stuck to the pans despite the fact that I greased and floured them well.
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