Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese
*This post made it to the Foodbuzz Daily Top 9 on 21 Sep 2010!*
For those of you who read my original post, please don’t be confused if this one is somewhat different! Earlier today I used my iPhone to take the original post offline because I wanted to make some changes, but unbeknownst to me the crappy WordPress app on my phone deleted 90% of my text. I only found out when I got home, went to my blog admin page and stared at my computer screen in horror. *sob*
In recent weeks I’ve been doing a lot more of what I call subsistence cooking – that is, preparing simple classic Chinese dishes that you can get done quickly and serve regularly to your family. This, coupled with my recent blues-y state, have left me in want of suitable blogging material.
So a few days ago I decided that to break myself out of this cycle, I should make something special. Something that would take a bit more effort and leave me feeling completely satisfied that I tried, even if it didn’t turn out to be a complete success. I rummaged through many of my cookbooks and felt largely uninspired until I notice IT: a big brown book sitting shyly at the far end of my cookbook collection entitled “Boulevard: The Cookbook“.
The book was given to me by a friend some time ago. She loved the legendary restaurant overlooking the Ferry Market in San Francisco, and bought me their cookbook to inspire me. At the time I received it, everything in the book seemed so over my head I didn’t even bother considering the possibility that I might actually make something from it. But this time I thought, “Maybe I’ll just take a peek.”
I thumbed through it, soaked in the gorgeous food porn scattered throughout the laminated pages, and stopped dead in my tracks when I came across a picture of the most beautiful carrot cake I had ever seen. It consisted of 6 layers of cake interspersed with cream cheese filling, all sitting atop a lovely pool of gooey caramel, and accompanied by three scoops of sorbet. I glanced through the recipe for the cake, thought it looked doable, and bookmarked it.
Yesterday I went about my task. The cake was actually very easy to make (save for the carrot grating, which left my poor little arms sore all evening), as was the cream cheese filling. The tricky bit was putting it all together. Instead of one big cake with 6 layers, I ended up with two littler cakes – one with 5 layers, and the other with 4. Not exactly perfection! Still though, it wasn’t a total disaster, so I was pretty pleased with myself =)
Oh and the cake was completely delicious. Very soft and moist, unlike many carrot cakes you get outside which can sometimes be quite dry. I loved it, and so did some of my good friends. My husband’s only complaint was that it didn’t have walnuts in it. That was because Boulevard puts the walnuts in the caramel, but I’m not including the recipe for the caramel here because (a) the instructions were not well written and (b) it was way sweet. There was no real need for caramel.. the cake was plenty moist and sweet on its own. I do include a note on where you should add the walnuts though, if you would like to do that.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese
(adapted closely from Boulevard: The Cookbook By Nancy Oakes, Pamela Mazzola and Lisa Weiss)
Click here for printable recipe.
Ingredients (serves 12):
- 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt (I used 3/4 tsp of Morton’s Lite Salt, which is also quite coarse, like kosher salt. If you prefer you can use 1/2 tsp table salt instead)
- 1 cup grape seed oil or other flavourless vegetable oil (I think Canola and Sunflower are ok too)
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup caster sugar
- 3 large eggs (approx. 150-160g – if your eggs weight too much please chuck the excess)
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-3 large carrots (about 360-370g total weight before they are peeled and the ends removed)
- 50g chopped walnuts, toasted in oven at 180 degC for 9 minutes (**optional**)
Cream Cheese Filling
- 2 packs cream cheese (16 oz / 450g), room temperature
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1. (Carrot Cake) Peel the carrot, cut off the ends, and grate crosswise using a coarse grater like this. Set aside the grated carrots.
I would advise peeling and grating the carrots either the day before or earlier on the actual day because it is EXHAUSTING, and you want to be full of energy when assembling your cake.
2. Pre-heat oven to 180 degC. Spray a 9 x 12 inch baking pan (that comes up at least 1-inch on the sides) with nonstick cooking spray, line the pan with baking parchment, and spray one more time over the parchment. Set aside.
3. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside.
4. Whisk the oil, brown sugar, caster sugar, eggs and vanilla together in a large bowl by hand or with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the flour mixture and continue whisking till the flour is completely blended into the mixture. Using a silicon spatula, stir in the grated carrots and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan.
If you like, here’s where you add the toasted walnuts to the batter before pouring it into the pan. But instead of doing the layering in steps 7 to 9, just cut the cake lengthwise in half and stack one half over the other with the cream cheese filling in between.
5. Bake for about 27 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean and just slightly moist. Allow cake to cool COMPLETELY in the pan on a wire rack. (To be safe allow it to cool for about 1 hour. Otherwise the cake becomes impossible to handle.)
Pictures for steps 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5:
6. (Cream Cheese Filling) Fit your electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Mix in the icing sugar on low speed and stop once to scrape down the inside of the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat on medium speed till the filling is smooth and free of lumps. Keep the cream cheese at room temperature so it is spreadable.
7. (Assembly) Place a cutting board on top of your cake pan and, gripping the board and pan together securely, invert the carrot cake onto the cutting board and peel off the parchment. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake lengthwise in half. Slice each half into 3 thin layers to get 6 layers in total.
8. Place a sheet of parchment on a dry work surface, and use two large spatulas to lift up 1 cake layer and place it on the parchment. Using a flat spatula, spread about 1/2 cup of the cream cheese filling over the layer. Alternate the cake layers and filling, ending with a cake layer. (Press down lightly on each cake layer as it is added so the cake will be compact.) Transfer the filled layers with the parchment onto a baking pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
9. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake crosswise on the diagonal into alternating triangles that are 1 inch wide at their base, yielding 24 triangles in total.
Basically this step gets you pyramid-shaped pieces. Clearly, I did not bother trying this! Too much work. Also, I cut the original cake both lengthwise and width wise, so that I had two smaller cakes. Each was supposed to have 6 layers, but because some of my layers were a real mess I ended up with one cake with 4 layers and another with 5 layers!
Pictures for steps 6, 7 and 8:
Oh look at that sloppy goodness…
And after a little nip & tuck: