Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is one of those throwbacks that always reminds me of the 1970s, when the recipe emerged as a standard dessert in my repertoire. Although I loved it then, it was a bit heavy and weighed-down with ingredients, including crushed pineapple and shredded coconut. So I omitted those ingredients and made this version instead, which I have to admit, I like even better. More importantly, so did my husband, who couldn’t wait to dig into it (after an unnamed amount of ravioli) for his birthday yesterday.

You don’t have to make it as a layer cake (but oh my, is that cream cheese frosting ever delicious). You can bake it in two 8″ square pans (and freeze one for later), or one long 9″ x 14″ pan, and just dust with confectioner’s sugar when it’s cooled. You can also omit the raisins if you’re not a fan, or the nuts too if you want, making it a purely carrot cake.

You don’t have to make these cute carrot decorations either, but if you decide to gild the lily, they’re a snap to create with almond paste and food coloring. The stems are just some snips of chives that are in full bloom in my garden right now. Even a small piece of celery would work.

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Carrot Cake
Author: Ciao Chow Linda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsps. vanilla
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tsps. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 2 tsps baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsps. salt
  • 1 pound of carrots, grated
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup almond paste
  • four drops yellow food coloring
  • 1 drop red food coloring
  • powdered cocoa
  • chive stems
  2. Grease and flour two 9″ round pans (or two square 8″ pans or one 9″ x 14″ pan) and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar, oil and eggs together until pale yellow.
  4. Add the vanilla.
  5. Sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt together and add to the wet ingredients. Grate the carrots, either with a food processor or by hand, and add them to the batter with the raisins and walnuts. Mix well.
  6. Pour the batter into the pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.
  7. I also use a toothpick to test. Poke it into the center and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
  8. Frost with the cream cheese frosting and decorate with the almond paste “carrots” if desired.
  9. Alternately, dush with confectioner’s sugar.
  11. Beat the frosting ingredients together in a mixer until smooth and use about 1/4 of the frosting for between the cake layers, then spread the rest on the sides and top of cake.
  12. Decorate with crushed walnuts along the bottom of the frosted cake, and with the almond paste “carrots” on top.
  14. Use 1/4 cup of almond paste and mix with the food coloring.
  15. Shape into small carrot shapes.
  16. Using a toothpick, dip it into some cocoa, then make little indentations on the carrots to simulate “dirt.”
  17. Poke a hole in the top of each carrot, and insert a short piece of a chive stem.
  18. Place the “carrots” on top of the cake.



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Banana Muffins

Have you got leftover bananas rotting on the counter? This is a delicious and quick alternative to the ubiquitous banana bread baked in a loaf pan. The texture is much finer than a traditional banana bread and for some reason, it’s a much lighter bake, but filling at the same time (well, if you eat two of them in a row, that is. But I’m not naming names.)

The recipe, from King Arthur Baking, says it makes 12 muffins, but I got 11. When I originally made it, I thought the recipe omitted baking powder, so I added 1/2 teaspoon, since it said they don’t rise very much. On a later reading, I realized the original recipe does indeed include baking powder — a full 2 teaspoons, which is not really necessary. They rose beautifully even with only 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.  I didn’t have the oat bran called for in the recipe, so I took some old-fashioned oats and whizzed them in the blender to break up the texture. It worked perfectly.

Serve with a cup of espresso or a pot of tea and bite into the crispy, crunchy topping. You’ll won’t miss that banana bread one bit, and you might even find yourself having a second muffin too!

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Banana Muffins
Author: Ciao Chow Linda via King Arthur Baking
  • Batter
  • 1/2 cup (113g) yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (50g) vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (340g to 369g) mashed banana, 2 to 3 large bananas
  • 3/4 cup (149g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (113g) oat bran (I used old-fashioned oats that I whizzed in the food processor)
  • 1 1/2 cups (177g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Topping
  • 1/4 cup (53g) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (23g) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons (14g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) soft butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a standard muffin tin, or line with papers and grease the papers.
  2. (I got 11, not 12 muffins from this recipe.)
  3. Combine the yogurt, egg, oil, mashed banana, sugar, and oat bran in a bowl.
  4. Whisk together and set aside for 10 minutes.
  5. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg.
  6. Work the topping ingredients together until the mixture is crumbly.
  7. Whisk the banana mixture into the flour mixture.
  8. Scoop into the prepared muffin cups, filling them almost full.
  9. Sprinkle muffins with the topping.
  10. Bake the muffins for 20 to 24 minutes, until the muffins are set and browned. Remove from the oven and let rest in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and enjoy warm.