Friday, January 16, 2009

Mom's Carrot Cake

I have to say, I very predictably loved the movie Waitress. I love how the main character invents pies to express her feelings. I love how she names them names that say something about life. I love how her creativity asserts itself in unexpected joining of flavors and vibrant colors. It brings to mind other favorite food movies of mine...Ratatouille's depiction of food experience as swirls of color curling around the taster, or the character in Bonjour, Monsieur Shlomi who bakes cakes for people as an offering of affection.

Cake has been one of my metaphorical pies, a creative outlet that I hope will be a gift to the person I'm baking for. This week a friend of mine had a birthday, so I took her request for carrot cake and put to work my mom's tried and true recipe. And since my mom is the one who showed me how to love people with food, this seems an appropriate sample of my food philosophy! You'll love this moist, texture-full cake that is both light and not too sweet. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Mom's Carrot Cake

2 C flour
2 C sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 C oil
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple, very well drained
2 C finely grated carrots
1/2 C nuts (optional)
1/2 C raisins, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes and then well drained (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Stir together the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl or a stand mixer: flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda.
3. Add oil, eggs one at a time, and vanilla. When combined, add remaining ingredients and beat together.
4. Prepare the baking pan(s): this recipe makes either one 9" x 13" pan, two 10" round pans, or three 8" round pans. Trace each pan you choose on parchment paper and cut out the paper to line the bottom of each pan. Spray the bottom and sides inside each pan with a non-stick spray, and place the parchment paper liner on the bottom of each pan. Now spray the top of the parchment paper. Spoon a few tablespoons of flour into each pan, and over the sink tap and turn the pan to lightly cover the bottom and sides of the pan with flour. This technique will allow the baked cakes to come out of the pans without sticking, which is especially important for this moist cake.
5. Pour the batter into the pans, to an equal height in each pan. Bake one 9" x 13" for one hour, two 10" pans for 40 minutes, or three 8" pans for 30 minutes.
6. Cakes are done when the cake starts to slightly pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick comes out from the center with only a crumb or two.
7. Let cakes cool for 5 minutes in the pans, and then run a butter knife around the side of each cake before turning cakes out onto cooling racks.

While the cakes cool completely, make your icing!

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cube butter, softened at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese (do not use low-fat cream cheese)
1 tsp vanilla
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted (about 4 C)

Cream together the butter and cream cheese with a hand mixer or stand mixer.
Add vanilla and, gradually, the powdered sugar.
Whip until light.

Use 2 recipes of frosting for a single layer 9" x 13" cake. Use 3 recipes for a double layer 9" x 13" cake. Also great with spice cakes or fruity cakes like my cupcakes!


  1. Mmmmm....... carrot cake. It's so moist, the perfect carrot cake recipe. Remember we made this for my wedding? :)

  2. yes, I think the pineapple adds a certain sparkle to the recipe. also appropriate that the pie queen of the family should comment on my Waitress post :)

  3. OMG. i loved waitress. AND carrot cake is one of my all-time faves. you *must* try m cafe de chaya's macrobiotic version and let me know what you think!