Sunday, March 13, 2011

Carrot Cake

My family loves the carrot cake from the restaurant J.Alexanders.

It's seriously the bomb.

My husband and I have talked about what foods and places we'd pick to talk about if we were Food Network stars appearing on the show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate". (It's okay. I know that's kind of nerdy...) Well J.Alexanders's carrot cake is by far the BEST carrot cake we've ever eaten. Ever. One slice is huge- like the size of a brick. It's so moist and dense filled with walnuts, coconut, raisins, spices, and of course carrots. It's served warm and has this thick cream cheese glaze over the top.

All that to say, this weekend I did some research into carrot cakes. What are ways to make them moist, what are common ingredients, and how to make the best cream cheese icing. On Sunday afternoon my husband Brian, my sister-in-law Sarah, and I threw on our aprons and baked a carrot cake inspired by the epitome of all carrot cakes from J.Alexanders. I mean, it was kind of a daunting task. Our carrot cake luckily turned out to be amazing. While it's not exactly the same as J.Alexanders, we think it's a pretty close second.

Our carrot cake is full of plump golden raisins, toasty walnuts, sweet carrots, coconut, and pineapple, and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. After it is baked, it is brushed with an orange-clove infused simple syrup for extra moistness. To finish it off, each slice is given a generous dollop of cream cheese icing that just melts over the top when the cake is hot. I hope you and your family enjoy.

The Brown Family Carrot Cake
Makes 2 8x8x2 inch cake layers
Serves 18

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking poowder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 1/2 cups grated carrot
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1. Allow the golden raisins to soak in the boiling water for about 20 minutes.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
3.  Using a mixer, mix together the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar for about 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla extract. While mixing, slowly stream in the oil until well combined.  Add the flour and spice mixture in 3 batches, making sure not to over mix. Over mixing the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients will cause the cake to become tough.
4. Gently fold in each of the remaining ingredients using a rubber spatula- walnuts, coconut, pineapple, carrot, and the drained golden raisins which will now be very plump.
5. Divide the batter between two 8x8x2 inch cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
6. Immediately after the cake is done, poke several holes in the top using a toothpick.  Use a pastry brush to liberally brush the orange-clove simple syrup (directions below) over the top of the hot cakes.
7. Cut each cake into about 9 pieces and top each with the cream cheese icing (directions below) just before serving.

Simple Syrup:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 inch peel of orange
  • 4 whole cloves
1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel of a 4 inch strip of the zest of an orange. Poke 4 holes in the strip using a toothpick and stick 1 clove in each hole.
2. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. The mixture should be clear.
3. Remove the simple syrup from the heat and drop the orange zest strip in the syrup. Allow the mixture to cool while the orange and clove infuse the syrup. Remove the zest strips before use.

Cream Cheese Icing:
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar

1. Using a mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the milk and vanilla extract and once again mix until smooth. Add the lemon zest.
2. Mix the sugar into the cream cheese mixture in 3 small batches until smooth and creamy.
3. Keep refrigerated when not in use.

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