Gourmet Cooking Club: Cara, Carrots & Cream Cheese
Since my arrival in NYC, I’ve joined a Gourmet Cooking Club where a bunch of us get together every month and we do a potluck dinner with a theme and at the end of the year we put together a cookbook of all of our recipes. Does life get any better than this? I have found my people.
My first Gourmet Club was last season, which was a picnic in Central Park and I made my signature Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Technically this was my initiation into the group and the Food Blog definitely gave me some “street cred”. These ladies are hardcore., as in one of them even took lessons at Cordon Bleu. Oh la la!!! They don’t make simple recipes, they don’t use mixes and everything they cook looks like it came from Jean-Georges’ kitchen. We are talking about fresh pizza, homemade fruit tarts, French Toast Casseroles… you get it.
Since my Chocolate Chip Banana Bread initiation, I have had some minor mishaps! Once my Coffee Cake broke and another time my Bubby Lucy cookies turned out limp – I killed a family recipe, brutal.
Tonight’s Gourmet Cooking Club is a “Farm to Table” theme – I wasn’t sure what I was going to make but I knew that I needed to redeem myself. Don’t get me wrong, these girls are great and we’re not competing against each other. This was more of a personal challenge (Oprah Style).
I realized that I’ve never made a real cake, like the one with two layers that you need to ice. I googled, I looked through cookbooks, checked out the archive of Braude Family Recipes and I decided I was going all the way. A standard rule in entertaining is to not make a recipe for the first time when you have guests. Your immediate family (circle of trust), your significant other, your doorman – these people are your trial and error crew – not your guests. Capiche?!
Tonight, I went against this golden rule and decided that I was going to make my first Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. This recipe came from FineCooking.com. Given that the cake is currently in my fridge – I can't tell you if it is actually good, but you know sometimes when you have that gut feeling. I will let the ladies of the Gourmet Club judge.
I am also recording the cake here, just in case the ride over to 57th and Lexington isn’t smooth (24 streets and 2 avenues over in a New York cab is risky).
Classic Carrot Layer Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
by Abigail Johnson Dodge
Serve twelve to fourteen.
Yields one 9-inch layer cake.
For the cake
1 cup canola, corn, or vegetable oil; more for the pans
2 cups (9 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. table salt
4 large eggs
2-1/2 cups (8-3/4 oz.) lightly packed, finely grated carrots
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup raisins
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the frosting
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
12 oz. (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. table salt
Make the cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and flour the sides of two 9x2-inch round cake pans, tapping out any excess flour. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the oil, eggs, carrots, brown sugar, walnuts, raisins, and vanilla on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just blended, about 30 seconds. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
Bake until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed and a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pans to loosen the cakes, invert them onto the rack, remove the pans, and carefully peel away the parchment. Set the cakes aside to cool completely before frosting.
Carefully set one cake upside down on a large, flat serving plate. Using a metal spatula, evenly spread about 1-1/2 cups of the frosting over the top of the cake. Top with the remaining cake layer, upside down. Spread a thin layer (about 1/3 cup) of frosting over the entire cake to seal in any crumbs and fill in any gaps between layers. Refrigerate until the frosting is cold and firm, about 20 minutes. Spread the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. The cake is best served slightly chilled or at room temperature. The flavors of this moist cake only improve with time, so feel free to bake and frost the cake up to a few days ahead.
Nutrition information (per serving): (perhaps too much information?)
Calories (kcal): 840; Fat (kcal): 54; Fat Calories (g): 480; Saturated Fat (g): 22; Protein (g): 8; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 20; Carbohydrates (g): 86; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 9; Sodium (mg): 550; Cholesterol (mg): 150; Fiber (g): 2;
Wish me luck! Off to the Gourmet Cooking Club!