Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Carrot Cake, and Tiny Tiger

There has been a lot of excitement in our home these past few days, since we brought home a tiny little tiger to live with us. She has monopolized my time, following me around and squeaking to get my attention. I did, however, find the time to throw together a quick carrot cake to celebrate G's return home from Hong Kong. I hesitate to bake cakes these days, since there is only the two of us and no nearby relatives to force leftovers on. Experimenting with new cakes, cookies and breads was the highlight of my last job. On the weekends when Frenchy was off, Rebecca and I would stretch our creative muscles, baking blueberry muffins, sandwich buns, pumpkin bread, and anything else we could think of. There was never an issue with using it up, whatever didn't go into our mouths ended up on breakfast trays alongside danishs and turnovers, or used as sandwich bread in the restaurant kitchen. We would sit on milk crates on the loading dock with cookbooks open in our laps. Rebecca smoked cigarettes while we salivated over pictures of chocolate cakes, brioche, and page after page of bread recipes. Then the prioritizing began: what did we have time to make above and beyond our normal work? Also, what could be made without arousing suspicion from Frenchy that we were doing anything besides what he had specifically written for us on our "to do" list. He was so paranoid that we might outshine him in one regard or another that any deviance from everyday mudane tasks was considered mutiny. Once the Executive Chef asked me to make a pizza dough for him, and with the extra dough I made a tasty foccaica bread for the staff to nibble on. When Frenchy heard the Executive Chef complementing my bread, he pulled me aside by the arm and spat at me- "Don't fuck with me!"
Alas, now that I have my own home, with no parents of chefs claiming kitchen dominance, my culinary creativity is still stifled- simply by the fact that I have not enough friends to eat all the sweet treats and breads I desire to make. So when I decided to make this carrot cake, I scaled it down by a serious amount. Scaling is always an issue with baking, you may end up with an inferior product whether scaling up or down. However, this recipe yielded one perfect 8"x3" loaf of carrot cake, which I threw together in about 20 minutes.

Carrot Cake (adapted from "The Joy of Cooking")

1/2 cup and 2 heaping tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice*
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 eggs
3/4 cup finely grated carrot
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare pan by rubbing with butter and dusting with flour so all sides are evenly coated. Shake out excess.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt in a medium sized bowl, or mixer. Stir to combine.
3. Add the oil and the eggs, stirring well to combine.
4. Stir in the carrots, raisins and nuts, until a sloppy batter is formed. Pour in to the prepared pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven, turning once halfways through the baking process. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to rest in the pan for ten minutes before unmolding.

Cream Cheese Icing

1 tablespoon soft butter
2 tablespoon soften cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature. Cream together butter and cheese. 2. Stir in icing sugar until a creamy consistency is reached. Stir in vanilla.
3. Ensure the cake is thoroughly cooled before frosting.

*Pumpkin pie spice is made by "Clubhouse", and contains: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Using this spice mixture is so much simpler than measuring out all the individual spices. If you haven't got any, then use: 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1 pinch of ground cloves.

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