We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Retro-Style: Lawn Fête Carrot Cake (Traditional and Gluten-Free Versions)

by Linda
Photos by Michelle

"Life, people learned, was not easy. Life was not cake. Life was not carrot cake." — Tao Lin

   Carrot cake had been around quite awhile now—long enough for we sisters to consider it retro. Still, it is the favorite cake of many. It remains a perennial best-seller in any restaurant, café or market that I have worked in during the last, let's say almost 40 years. Case in point, my brother-in-law, Jay requested this cake for his recent birthday celebration this past June, and it is always in the cake case at the Whole Foods Market® where I work.

My brother-in-law, Jay, blows out the candles on his carrot birthday cake.
   When I started searching the Internet looking for the actual history of carrot cake, I found that its origins can be traced back to Medieval times, and I happily stumbled upon a quirky and adorable blog post packed with information and cheeky illustrations that made me smile. The blog is Cakespy—check out the intriguing history of carrot cake by clicking here.
   My very favorite recipe for carrot cake comes from a somewhat unlikely source. Anti-feminist, Marabel Morgan, and her now very dated The Total Woman Cookbook has surprisingly produced some of our family's best-loved sweet treats, including her simply scrumptious Creamy Rice Pudding that is one of my very favorite desserts.
   Her delicious carrot cake recipe has served me well over the years. I used this cake recipe for my standard carrot cake offering in the hotels and restaurants where I worked as a pastry chef, baker, caterer and private chef in the Santa Ynez Valley. I remember when I was working as the pastry chef at the Los Olivos Grand Hotel, that Cooks Illustrated came out with a carrot cake recipe that they touted as having tweaked until it was the best their chefs had ever tasted. I remember trying it out, but it simply wasn't as good as Marabel's.

Michelle and Jay celebrated Maddie's first birthday with a carrot cake.
   Over the years the legion of carrot cakes that I have made have been the stars of many a wedding, birthday party and special event. One time I made a huge three layer carrot sheet cake toward the end of my baking career from this recipe for cowboy queen, Dale Evans, when she visited the Santa Ynez Valley circa 1991. Dale was the wife of Roy Rogers—King of the Cowboys, and Dale was was fondly referred to as Queen of the West. She wrote the popular song, "Happy Trails to You" and the tune became the famous couple's theme song evermore. My carrot cake for Dale's party was frosted with the traditional cream cheese frosting and had "Happy Trails to You" emblazoned over the surface in chocolate icing. Additionally, I decorated the cake with beautiful fresh flowers and lots of colorful ribbons, and it took two of us to carry it out to the delivery van. Alas, I had a photo of it at one time, but has now been misplace somewhere in my archives or lost in my travels. It was reported back to me, though, that Dale had loved the cake and so did the crowd that attended the event—its massiveness reduced to a few remaining crumbs.
   Every family that I know has their own cherished recipe for carrot cake, but if you are just beginning to bake, or you are looking for a change, give this recipe a try. It really is a winner.

A short eighteen years later, it is now Maddie who is baking her dad a 
carrot cake for his recent birthday.
Lawn Fête Carrot Cake (Traditional and Gluten-Free Versions)

Adapted from the Total Woman Cookbook by Marabel Morgan

   I am happy to report that when Michelle made this cake for Jay's birthday that she came up with a gluten-free variation. This cake is moist and dense and is more "carrot" than "spice" cake. Since it is so moist, it keeps well for at least a week under refrigeration.

Gluten-Free Dry Ingredients:
2 cups (280g) Jeanne's All-Purpose Gluten-Free Blend or Cup 4 Cup
1-1/2 tsps guar gum, preferred, or xanthan gum (omit if using Cup 4 Cup)
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp allspice

Traditional Dry Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps cinnamon
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp allspice (optional)

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup crushed pineapple, including juice

Wet Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar                                           
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
8 Tbsps unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsps vanilla extract mixed with 2-1/4 tsps baking soda

Buttermilk Glaze:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsps butter
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste

Cream Cheese Frosting (we double the recipe):
16-oz confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3-ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
approximately 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice or milk, optional

Special Equipment:
10-inch tube cake pan, (do not use a fluted tube pan or a Bundt pan
3 8-inch round cake pans
Parchment paper

Food Processor Method:
1. In the oven, move one rack to the lower third and the other rack to the upper third of the oven. Place a cookie sheet on the top rack; it will act as a shield during baking to prevent the cake layers from overbrowning. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (all-purpose flour or tapioca flour) a 10-inch tube cake pan or line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment and the grease and flour (all-purpose flour or tapioca flour).

2. In a food processor, with a steel blade, process dry ingredients until mixed (about 30-60 seconds), remove from bowl and set aside.
3. In a food processor, with a steel blade, pulse the nuts to chop. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.
4. In a food processor, with a shredding disc, shred the carrots. Add to carrots to the walnuts.

5. In an empty bowl of the food processor, with a steel blade, process sugar and eggs for 60 seconds.
6. Add soft butter and melted coconut oil to sugar and egg mixture and process butter for an additional 60 seconds.
7. In a small dish stir together the baking soda and vanilla. Add to wet ingredients and pulse on and off 5 or 6 times.
8. Remove lid from food processor, pour all dry ingredients on top of wet ingredients, secure lid, pulse mixture 3 to 5 times until flour ingredients just disappear. Do not over mix batter. Add the chopped nuts, shredded carrots and flaked coconut, if using. Pulse 3 to 5 until just mixed.
9. Transfer the batter to the prepared tube pan, or divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans. Bake the tube pan for 55-65 minutes until done. Alternatively, bake the cake layers for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

10a. When the tube cake is done, let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then invert it onto a serving tray. Decorate with Buttermilk Glaze. Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing.
10b. When the 8-inch cake layers are done, let cool for 10 minutes before inverting on wire racks to cool completely. Frost the cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Mixer Method for Cake Batter:

1. Marabel Morgan directs readers to, "Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Pour into prepared pans." While that sounds tempting, we cream the butter with the sugar and then add the eggs and combine well before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Buttermilk Glaze:
Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer gently 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over top of cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or milk to thin the frosting, if it is too thick. Decorate with nut halves, if desired.

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