I made a new friend in St Louis! Although I can be somewhat guarded and shy with new people, I love finding others who love food as much as I do. Nothing like an intense discussion on chocolate or Kitchenaids or the best restaurants to open me up...
A couple months ago, I met a classmate of Joe and Ran's; she came by the apartment to study with Ran. He disappeared inside to collect his study materials and Cate and I were left out alone. Although I had seen her around Joe's class events, we had never officially spoken. The conversation started slow at first, making our niceties and searching for some small talk. But then! Turns out we have a lot in common. Once I found out she loves reading food blogs and she found out I had a food blog, we instantly clicked and the conversation felt effortless and light.
We hung out a few times but then I disappeared to Atlanta for long periods and missed her birthday. So when I got back, I wanted to make her a cake for a belated celebration.
In the olden days, I would have just asked the person what they like and don't like, or what they're in the mood for. But I decided to be smarter and check her food board on Pinterest-- it's so much better when it's a pleasant surprise for the birthday girl or boy.
I noticed she had recently posted a simple carrot cake with a cinnamon maple frosting which sounded perfect for a birthday celebration. I made my own favorite carrot cake recipe, and amended the frosting to include some mascarpone, which toned down the sweetness from the maple syrup and added a creamier, smoother texture.
I'm finally seeing improvement in my cake baking skills! This time my layers were better and the cake didn't lean to one side at all. I did just barely have enough frosting though; perhaps because I made the layer inside a little thick (I regret nothing).
To cover up the thinned frosting on the bottom of the sides, I decided to cover the entire side with walnuts. While eating, we all tried to think up an easier way to press walnuts (or any decor) on the sides of a cake. Ran suggested putting it in a centrifuge, Joe suggested a blowgun/dart thing, (although then you'd be spitting at your cake...)
Turns out, the best way is still simply sitting there and pressing a few in at a time. Luckily, I was watching an interesting movie while doing this--it dulled the pain.
Do you guys have any thoughts on how to do it? Now every time I see a cake with the sides covered in sprinkles or nuts, I will wonder how they did it without making a complete mess...
This cake was definitely a hit. Cate couldn't stop saying "this is really good" between bites and Joe went for seconds. Even Ran, the boy who hates sweets, thought it was amazing. The rest will be served at our Game of Thrones night; although I may change the wording to say 'Happy Birthday to the 1-week old Shadow Baby'...!
(Adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
Makes one 10-inch cake OR
24 cupcakes OR
3-layer 6-inch cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb (6-7) carrots, grated or peeled*
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup walnut oil
*I prefer pureeing the carrots with the oil first *or 1 1/2 cup regular oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix all the ingredients together, starting with all the wet ingredients.
Add in all the dry ingredients last and preferably without a mixer so you can't over-beat it.
Make sure to scrape from the bottom so there are no streaks of flour.
Stir in nuts/raisins/pineapple slices to your liking.
Pour into greased cake pan.
Bake about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached (or clean).
Cinnamon Maple Frosting
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1 stick butter, room temp
2 cups powdered sugar
1 8-oz packet of cream cheese, room temp
1 8-oz container of mascarpone cheese
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup maple syrup
*(or 1 tsp maple extract)
Beat all ingredients except the mascarpone together.
Once fluffy, beat in the mascarpone last, until it's just combined and smooth.
Store in the fridge for about 20 minutes until it's firm enough to frost a cake.
Separate about a 1/4 cup of frosting and split the 1/4 cup into two bowls.
Tint one green and the other orange and pipe out carrots using your thinnest round piping tip.
*This frosting is the ideal consistency for piping onto cakes or cupcakes. I've always had a little trouble with piping my cream cheese frosting, or having it be stay stable at room temperature, but this one was perfect.
If you prefer a regular frosting, omit the maple syrup and add in milk or cream in its place.
You can also sub in a second packet of cream cheese for the mascarpone if you like (but I would never skimp on the mascarpone).