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Moist Homemade Carrot Cake from Scratch with Cream Cheese Icing
According to the food historians, the ancient Egyptians were the first culture to show evidence of advanced baking skills. Try to imagine baking cakes in stone ovens with no running water or modern appliances. The round kind of cakes made with icing were first introduced around the middle of the seventeenth century.1
Today's modern ovens and baking equipment makes it simple to produce a beautiful cake with little time invested. But to make a delicious cake even better, adding a few extra ingredients can make all the difference. Here, you'll see just how easy it is to make a moist, delicious carrot cake starting from scratch.
When I asked Mom what kind of cake she wanted for her ninety-first birthday, she quickly told me that whatever cake I made would be just fine. Secretly, I knew that her favorite of all cakes is carrot cake with cream cheese icing. The occasion of her birthday reminded me of the many cakes she made for me over the years. Now that our roles are reversed, I find myself looking back fondly to those times whenever birthdays roll around.
Since it's my turn to try to slip a few vegetables into Mom's diet, I decided to make this cake from scratch. The process is even easier if you start with a basic spice cake mix, add a can of crushed pineapple, some fresh grated carrots, raisins and nuts.
My pantry always has Tupperware containers full of all-purpose flour and granulated sugar and my spice cabinet has a supply of baking powder and baking soda, it's really no more work to measure out the ingredients and create it fresh with no added preservatives. It's likely less expensive as well.
Preheating the Oven
After gathering the ingredients, I like to prepare the cake pans before I mix the ingredients. This is also a good time to turn on the oven to 350° F. My oven takes longer than expected to heat up to temperature and is usually not hot enough when the timer sounds on the preheat cycle.
Greased and Floured Pan
Using a paper towel, I spread about a tablespoon of vegetable shortening on the bottom and sides of a nine (9") inch cake pan. There should be no globs or excess shortening. Sprinkle about a tablespoon flour into the pan and dust it around the surface to evenly coat the pan with a dusting of flour.
I get rid of any excess flour by turning the pan upside down over the trash can and tapping gently on the bottom of the pan.
Giving the raisins a hot water bath before adding them to the mix makes the cake really moist. I do this ahead of time, using a microwave safe measuring cup to heat a small amount of water. Then, I add the raisins and let them soak while I'm working on the other ingredients. Be sure to drain the raisins before adding to the mixture.
Soaking the Raisins
Now we're ready to start peeling and shredding the carrots. My favorite kitchen gadget is this flat shredder. It's handy for a number of things including shredding cheddar or mozzarella cheese, potatoes for hash browns and more.
You could use a food processor to make this task easier, but I never do, although I've owned one for years.
Preparing the Carrots
I use a potato peeler to remove the brown, outer edges of the carrots before shredding them. Doing this over a paper towel in the sink works well for easy cleanup.
With all that preparation out of the way, we're ready to begin.
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3 medium carrots - grated
1 can crushed pineapple (15 oz.)
1 1/2 cups liquid shortening
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecans (chopped)
- Using Crisco or solid vegetable shortening, grease three 9" pans with about a tablespoon of shortening per pan using a paper towel. Wipe out any excess.
- Sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour into the pan and dust it around, shaking out the excess flour. Set the pans aside.
- Select three medium size firm carrots. Wash, peel and shred them. Set aside.
- Heat about 1/2 cup of water in the microwave and add the raisins to soak.
- Mix together the dry ingredients: sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a large mixing bowl
Mix Together the Dry IngredientsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Add These Ingredients to the Dry Mix
3 eggs - Add them one at the time and mix on low
One and 1/2 cup (1.5 cups) of liquid vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Mix together on the low speed of the mixer.
Add one cup of canned pineapple (slightly drained)
Add the shredded carrots.
Add one quarter cup of shredded coconut (optional)
Blend all ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
Add the Pecans
Add the chopped pecans and stir them in by hand.
Pour the batter into the greased and floured pan dividing the mix equally.
The recipe also works using a 13 x 9 inch sheet pan which makes it easier.
Baking the Cake Using 9 Inch Pans
Baking time for three nine inch pans is about thirty-five minutes (35 min). My oven won't fit all three pans, so I bake the first two and then bake the third pan separately.
This is a heavy cake and will fall in the middle if not completely done. Make sure the top of the cake springs back when touched lightly with the fingers.
Set a timer for ten minutes (10 min.) after baking before turning the cake out of the pans onto wire racks.
Cook Time for 13 by 9 inch pan
Baking and Icing the CakeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Fresh Made Cream Cheese Icing
Fresh made frosting tastes so much better than the canned frosting with preservatives added. Here's a quick and easy recipe to make creamed cheese icing.
4 oz softened cream cheese
1 stick of margarine (or butter) softened
1 box of Confectioner's sugar - about 4 cups
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Blend the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the sugar a little at a time until it forms slight peaks when removing the beaters. Add the vanilla extract last and blend until it is a good consistency for spreading on the cooled cake.
If the icing seems too firm or dry add a teaspoon of milk.
If it's too moist or soupy add a little more powdered sugar.
For this birthday cake, I combined recipes from two different sources and made subtle changes to create my own version. I used many of the ingredients from "The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook" which I've owned since the early seventies. Other ingredients came from the carrot cake recipe in "The Pantry Cookbook," a collection of delicious treats they serve in their restaurant in downtown McKinney, Texas.
- The Food Timeline: Cake Mixes
© 2013 Peg Cole