Flour's Classic Carrot Cake

>> Thursday, September 8, 2011

One of the many reasons I try to take my camera everywhere with me is because it makes me look for opportunities to capture some of the hidden beauty in the world that is sometimes overlooked as the mundane and ordinary. I think sometimes we don't expect to see beauty in the unexpected places. But isn't it usually there that we often see it shining through the most?

There are times however where those unanticipated beauty cannot be captured by the camera. They might be in words overheard on the train, gestures seen in the elevator, or feelings expressed over a cup of hot chocolate. But I'm not too good with capturing those kind of moments with words. 

I took the following photos recently...they are not what you might call beautiful or great shots by any stretch but the stories and moments associated with them are.

Carrot cakes are my replacement banana cakes in the days when bananas are still over ten dollars per kilo. Like banana cakes, they are non-fussy and non-pretentious. You eat them for what they are and not because how they look. 

I recently bought Joanne Chang's Flour cookbook which proved to be a lot of fun reading especially the stories associated with each of the recipes. But to be honest I wasn't thrilled initially when I flipped it through as it was loaded with recipes that I don't normally like to make...well just treats which require a lot of ingredients that I try to minimize in my diet (which rules out most of the delicious baked goodies I know!) But after trying a few recipes here and there with everything turning out delicious, I realised that maybe I just needed to learn portion control. Or give away the cake as soon as I take a slice. (Which didn't happen this this case unfortunately....)

This carrot cake is the best I've made (yes, even compared Sydney's own Bourke Street Bakery version I made last year). It is everything I want a carrot cake to be: loads of shredded carrots for that moist crumbly texture, just the right portion of spices, juicy sweet raisin and crunchy walnuts. I don't normally frost my carrot cakes but this time I followed through the recipe and just decreased the icing sugar amount by a little bit. And instead of a thick layer of frosting in the middle layer of the cake, I just had a thin-ish layer of it - which was just the right amount for me!

Classic Carrot Cake
Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang
Makes one 8-inch, 2-layer cake
Or 12 cupcakes
For the carrot cake:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (220 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (160 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups (260 grams) tightly packed shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) raisins
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts, toasted and chopped
For the cream cheese frosting:
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese, left at room temperature for 4 hours
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick/114 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups (230 grams) confectioners' sugar

For the carrot cake:

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan (or line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners).
2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the eggs and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3–4 minutes, or until the mixture is light and thick. (This step will take 8–10 minutes if using a handheld mixer.) In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. On low speed, slowly pour the oil mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. This should take about 30 seconds.
3. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. When most of the flour mixture has been incorporated, add the carrots, raisins, and walnuts and continue to fold until the batter is homogenous. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan (or divide evenly among the prepared muffin cups).
4. Bake the cake flour for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (or the cupcakes for about 50 minutes), or until the top is golden brown and springs back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool completley in the pan on a wire rack.
For the cream cheese frosting:
5. While the cake is baking, put the cream cheese in the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until smooth. If you have forgotten to take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator 4 hours in advance, you can softren it in a microwave on medium power for 30 seconds. Add the butter and continue to beat for another 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the confectioners' sugar. Beat for 1 more minute, or until well mixed. You should have about 3 1/2 cups.
6. Cover the frosting and refrigerate for 2–3 hours before using to allow it firm up enough to pipe and spread. (The frosting can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

7. Remove the cake from the pan and split it into two layers. Place the bottom layer, cut-side up, on a cake plate. Spoon about half of the frosting onto the layer and, using an offset spatula, spread it evenly to the edges. Place the top layer, cut-side down, on top and press down to adhere. Spoon on about 1 cup of the frosting and spread it over the top and down the sides of the cake. This is the crumb coat which will keep any loose crumbs from migrating to the surface of the finished cake. Spoon the remaining frosting on top of the cake, and spread it evenly across the top and down the sides.

(If you have baked cupcakes, remove them from the muffin tin. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch star tip and fill the bag with the frosting, then pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Or, spread the frosting on the cupcakes with an icing spatula.
8. The cake (or cupcakes) can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It is best served a littel cooler than room temperature, so remove it from the refrigerator about 2 hours before serving.

...and provide for those who grieve in Zion — 
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes
the oil of joy instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. 
They will be called oaks of righteousness,  
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

 -Isaiah 61:3


Von September 8, 2011 at 10:12 PM  

Wow...you take your camera out with you all the time?!?!? I barely take my camera out because I'm always too scared I'll break it :) haha....
But I get what you mean- there are so many times when I see things and wish I had my camera with me to capture the moment!! Your carrot cake looks really good (especially the icing!)! I don't really like carrot cake, but i have to say, I'm tempted to try this after seeing these beautiful pictures and reading your description!!

grub September 9, 2011 at 12:02 AM  

nom carrot cake! the one i make turns more orangey-dark brown. bananas better be cheap again soon, i'm suffering from lack of banana cake ;)

and yeh i know what you mean when you say you take your camera everywhere. i don't take it to uni though because i already lug enough :P

Vivian - vxdollface September 9, 2011 at 12:30 AM  

I agree, I'm having banana cake withdrawal symptoms and need something to replace it xD mm carrot cake is tasty too ^^
the cherry blossom pic is very pretty!

Anonymous,  September 9, 2011 at 1:28 AM  

This looks fantastic! My husband loves carrot cake, I might have to make this for his upcoming birthday. And WOW! $10 a kilo?? Ouch. I'm sorry. Bananas in our area cost about $1/kilo... I'm not making you feel any better about this situation, am I? Oops ;)

Jeannie September 9, 2011 at 2:13 AM  

Been a while since I last bake carrot cake too and yes, I too am trying to resist the temptation to bake everyday!

Ana Rita Marreiros September 9, 2011 at 2:45 AM  

A beautifull cake!!!


GratefulPrayerThankfulHeart September 9, 2011 at 8:53 AM  

I love your shots especially the unique angles and perspective. Very pretty.

The carrot cake looks delicious. It is one of my all-time favorite cakes. SO dense, rich and moist. I should take your recommendation about the amount of frosting. I mound mine on :)

OohLookBel September 9, 2011 at 9:06 AM  

Your photos are seriously good - such great tones and subjects. Love the carrot cake, too, though it's the icing that I like the most =)

Janine September 9, 2011 at 10:45 AM  

the photos in the middle, especially those of the trees are exquisite! And you've got me hooked - I'm definitely trying flour's recipe out next!

StarletStarlet September 9, 2011 at 11:13 AM  

Dang girl, you take SUCH beautiful images. I do take my camera places too.

Btw, if I were given a choice between banana vs carrot cake...I probably will take both :D

renee@sweetsugarbean September 9, 2011 at 1:00 PM  

Love the photo of the alliums - and that's one cute cat! But the cake! Wow! Super gorgeous. I never say no to carrot cake, and you just had to slather that decadent cream cheese icing on it. Thank You!

PFx September 10, 2011 at 1:01 AM  

I love your take on the opera house, just the perfect size and capture of content comfort. ;)
I always wonder about the beginning of a carrotcake, who would have thought to put carrot in the cake, a drunk/stoned escapades...?

Erika Beth, the Messy Chef September 10, 2011 at 3:02 AM  

This cake looks delightful. Glad to hear it's the best you've had. Don't you just love an outcome like that?
PS I love your photos!

Zoe September 10, 2011 at 3:36 PM  

Both your photos and cake are so beautiful. You got thinking of baking this carrot cake too!

Love the photo with cherry blossom. Very spectacular!

Food Glorious Food! September 11, 2011 at 6:46 AM  

WOW!! you really have talent! Not only baking but great photography skill!

Dolly September 11, 2011 at 11:21 AM  

if theres one cake i love. I love carrot, ive only made one version and sticked with it.. casue its never faield.. but i must try yours.

one thing i find with carrot cake.. it doesnt rise that high :( how do you get it to rise high so its a nice and thick clab of cake?


Lori September 11, 2011 at 1:22 PM  

I know just what you mean with the camera. I find more and more that I feel like I've forgotten a part of me when I go out without it. There is always something of beauty I wish I could take a picture of.

I have had such a craving for carrot cake lately. It's not my favorite cake, but I love a good slice of it every now and then. This one looks delicious! I need to look up the cookbook as well.

Dolly September 11, 2011 at 3:23 PM  

ur blog insipried me to make a carrot cake.. omg i should be studying!!..


def. will try this reciepe when i have buttermilk :)

Viv September 11, 2011 at 5:52 PM  

Dolly: Hehe did you end up baking it? I hope so, so that u can compare with your go-to recipe and let me know which is nicer :) Regarding your question - my cake didn't rise much too (just a little bit from the baking powder i think) so im guessing the higher your batter is, the taller the cakes gonna be. so maybe use a smaller pan might help? Btw, when I open the link to leads me to fb main page for some reasons? ><

Cookie and Kate September 12, 2011 at 11:48 AM  

I so wish that I could have a slice of your carrot cake right now! It looks incredible. I'm shocked that bananas cost over ten dollars a pound in Australia, although it makes total sense that it would cost a lot more to ship bananas so far!

Aizi September 12, 2011 at 9:17 PM  

yes, yes, yes! lovely pics as always and interesting recipe!
ps. take my camera along all the time too, even tho 8hrs are spent at the office, one never knows!

Juliana September 13, 2011 at 10:08 AM  

We love carrot cake...yours turned out to pretty. Love your pictures!
Hope you have a wonderful week ahead Viv :-)

Nic@diningwithastud September 13, 2011 at 10:48 AM  

Your photos are beautiful :) and well done for taking your camera out all the time. I only take mine when I am eating cos its so damn heavy lol, but I always see things I would like to snap when I am cameraless

Amelia September 13, 2011 at 11:58 AM  

Beautiful photos. Your carrot cake looks delicious too.

sugarpuffi September 13, 2011 at 1:17 PM  

awesome carrot cake recipe! and love the photo of the blossom...so pretty!

Deborah September 13, 2011 at 3:35 PM  

All of your photos are so gorgeous! And this cake looks like absolute perfection.

Nami | Just One Cookbook September 13, 2011 at 6:11 PM  

I see why you take great pictures all the time! You "practice"! The snaps you took are all beautiful. Your eyes are trained to take good pictures. I bring camera out to take kids pictures, but I mostly failed maybe because they move too much. Hehee. Your carrot cake looks delicious. I didn't know this existence until I came to the US, and still refused to eat it (I can accept pumpkin but not carrot in sweets) for many years...until kids party offered a carrot cake and I had to eat it... DELICIOUS. I wasted many years not eating it and now I'm catching up. Yours look PERFECT.

tartedujour September 14, 2011 at 10:56 PM  

Beautiful photos as always! I sure wish I had a slice of that beautiful carrot cake with my coffee this morning!

Chris April 23, 2012 at 1:34 PM  

Hi, Just made your yummy carrot cake. Thanks for sharing that great recipe...it's so delicious for morning tea. I used honey & orange juice in a low-fat cream cheese for the frosting though. I've posted a photo here if you want to check out mine! http://pinterest.com/pin/186617978279371300/

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Rachel Watts June 21, 2014 at 2:48 PM  

This cake is on my agenda tonight :) Gorgeous pics fyi. Captured beautifully.

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Unknown October 20, 2020 at 12:22 PM  

Okay I just made the cake and it’s super low and small. I don’t know how I’m going to cut it in half? I wish it called for double the ingredients.

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