I once lied so that I wouldn’t have to eat a piece of carrot cake.
I remember the day so vividly; there was a birthday in my kindergarten class, and someone’s mother had made carrot cake cupcakes for everyone. As they were being handed out, my excitement turned to horror. Shaggy with coconut and clearly neither chocolate nor vanilla, these cupcakes were so unnatural, so unappetizing, so scary looking that in my greatest stroke of lying genius I politely informed the approaching mother that I was “allergic to cupcakes.”
It was, I believed, the perfect lie. I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, I received a bit of unspoken pity because of my mysterious dietary restrictions, and most importantly, I didn’t have to eat one of those gross cupcakes.
Oh how far I have come. With carrot cake that is. My lying skills have really not improved much.
This is a darn good recipe for carrot cake. It’s so moist and simple — any picky kindergartener would enjoy it. But it’s also special, because it was used by my husband’s grandma Ruth and is used now by her daughter and grandsons (and me!). Unfortunately, I never got to meet Ruth, but she seems to have possessed everything that I want for myself: a meaningful career, a husband who adored her, and a talent for cooking that was unforgettable to her family and friends.
For the purposes of this post (and the celebration of a friend’s birthday), I spruced the cake up a bit. When plain and unfrosted, however, it is practically perfect.
Ruth’s Carrot Cake
The original recipe called for “salad oil”, which means you can use any neutral flavored oil.
You want the carrots to be somewhere between a fine grate and a puree. I chopped mine up in a small food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, a grater is ok, but use the finest grate possible.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees (and take out your butter and cream cheese to soften for the frosting if you’re making some).
Grease a pan (2 round 9-inch pans or a 9 x 13 would work fine)
1 1/2 C oil (see note above)
2 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon (or 1 1/4 tsp vietnamese cinnamon)
1 tsp salt
3 C finely grated raw carrots (see note above)
Mix together first three ingredients, beat well.
Beat in eggs one at a time.
In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, except for carrots.
Add dry ingredients to wet, then add carrots.
Stir until just combined.
Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for up to an hour.
Check the cake after 25 minutes, and every 5 minutes after that if you think it is almost done. I baked mine in two batches in a shallow baker’s quarter sheet, and each only took about a half hour. Cupcakes could take only 15 or 20 minutes.
While your cakes are cooling, make your frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 8oz pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 1/2 C confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
Beat the cream cheese and butter together with 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar.
While the mixer is running, add the rest of the powdered sugar in 1/4 cup scoops, beating well before each new addition.
Add vanilla and beat a few more minutes until combined and fluffy.
Ginger Honey Syrup
1/4 C honey
1/8 C water
3 inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced into thin coins
Simmer all ingredients over low heat for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and allow ginger to steep in the honey before removing with a slotted spoon.
Drizzle over the top of the cake after assembling.
Editor’s Note: this post is part of the series “Texas Toasted” by guest blogger Grace Steinel Jones.