classic carrot cake with vanilla bean rum frosting
For many, carrot cake is a must-have on the dessert table after enjoying a fattening dinner on Easter Sunday. In my own family, it was actually quite rare. My Grandmother always made a banana pudding trifle or a layered coconut cake for Easter. I only recall eating carrot cake as a spring dessert served at church events or family get-togethers; but though it was scarcely served in my home, it has always been a family favorite when we had the pleasure of eating it.
This recipe wasn’t specifically meant for Easter, though. I’ve been meaning to post a cake for the past week but they just haven’t worked out, so I decided on this classic carrot cake with vanilla bean rum frosting and well, it happens Easter is this weekend. The recipe for this cake was given to my mother by my Grandmother which she acquired from a friend (my, what a mouthful!) twenty-something years ago. It has always been a family favorite. Of course, I did adapt it slightly. Typically, walnuts or pecans are used, but instead, I used almonds.
It’s a delicious, dense, and very moist cake. It uses a total four cups of carrots! The frosting has a very light and fluffy mouthfeel, with a slight rum flavor and vanilla bean speckled all about.
CLASSIC CARROT CAKE WITH VANILLA BEAN RUM FROSTING
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups raw cane sugar
4 large eggs, room temp.
seeds from (1) vanilla bean pod
1 1/4 cup organic canola oil
1/3 cup buttermilk, room temp.
4 cups grated carrots
3/4 cups coarsely chopped almonds
seeds from (2) vanilla bean pods
1/4 cup dark rum
8 ounces cream cheese, room temp.
8 ounces butter, room temp.
4 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of sea salt
Before starting anything, split open two vanilla pods, scrape out the seeds and place the seeds and the pods in a small jar with a lid. Add the 1/4 cup of dark rum and close the jar. Let the ingredients sit for an hour or more. When ready to use, scrape remaining seeds from the bean and discard the pieces.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three, 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices- set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla bean seeds. Beat the ingredients with an electric hand mixer until pale and fluffy; once they reach this stage, begin streaming in the oil. Add the buttermilk and then the flour in three batches, beating each addition until just combined. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the grated carrots and chopped almonds until combined. Divide the batter amongst the three prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. They’re done when the cake springs back up after being touched lightly, or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then use a knife to loosen the cake from around the edges of the pans. Invert onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
for the frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened butter and cream cheese. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula and add the powdered sugar and vanilla-infused rum. Beat on medium-high until the mixture is smooth and fluffy about3 minutes.
assemble the cake:
Place the first cake layer on a cake board/plate/stand and spoon about 3/4 cups of frosting on and spread around with an offset spatula. Repeat this with the second and then the third. Use any remaining frosting to frost around the edges. Or, you can use all the frosting on the first, second, and top layers and leave the sides naked. Decorate with fresh or edible flowers.
Much of February was one of those months for me. After three weeks of absence, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel when I thought of this chocolate vanilla sage mousse cake with pistachio and sea salt.
It’s a chapter every creative person faces more often than not: the depletion of their creative energy. It’s like sitting in a vacuum, where nothing new comes in or comes out, it’s just empty space. The worst part is feeling as though it will never go back to normal, thankfully it always does- in its own time. It is both a blessing and curse, the blessing being time to collect your thoughts, your sense of self, and to better understand your surroundings. The curse is the depressing thoughts that come with losing one of your outlets of expression. It’s like suddenly forgetting how to swim while you’re in the deepest part of the ocean.
The weather as of late has been but an early breath of spring, which is what helped bring a few ideas back to me. Many trees, shrubs, and flowers began to bloom three weeks in advance due to the warm winter season. I saw Bradford pear trees with their snow-like petals blowing in the wind, as well as cherry blossoms with their lush pink and red hues. I envisioned something chocolate being surrounded by all these blossoms, and that’s when this chocolate vanilla sage mousse cake with pistachio and sea salt came to fruition. It’s nothing too creative, to be honest. I have a chocolate mousse cake recipe rather similar to this one(also one of my most popular blog posts and recipe on this site).
By reading the title, you may be wondering, ‘why sage’? The truth is, my motto is to always add at least one fresh ingredient for the main flavoring agent in my baked goods, it is either a fruit, herb, or a vegetable. But it must be in season and at least somewhat local, to add to my motto. The sage was plucked from my sage plant in the front garden, which thrived all throughout this mild winter of ours. To my surprise, it complemented the chocolate rather well. It’s all very rich in every possible way, with hints of vanilla bean and sage all throughout the mousse. The brownie I would liken to fudge; it’s chewy and has a strong chocolate flavor.
CHOCOLATE VANILLA SAGE MOUSSE CAKE WITH PISTACHIO AND SEA SALT
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
seeds from (2) vanilla beans
1 cup coconut palm sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 fresh sage leaves, chopped
seeds from (2) vanilla beans
8-ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cups heavy cream
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons sugar
roasted pistachio, for garnish
sea salt, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C. Prepare one, 8-inch cake pan by greasing the side and bottom then lining with parchment paper.
Create a double boiler by filling a medium-sized pot with about two inches of water, then placing a heatproof bowl over the pot, making sure that it doesn’t touch the water. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add to the bowl the butter, vanilla bean seeds, coconut sugar, and cocoa powder. Stir occasionally with a spatula until the butter has melted completely and the sugar has somewhat dissolved as well. Remove from heat and let the mixture sit until slightly cooled- it should remain very warm, but not burning hot. You should be able to dip your finger in for five seconds without it burning you. Once it reaches this stage, add one egg and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined; repeat with the second egg. Add the flour and salt and stir until just combined and there are no flour streaks to be seen. Pour the chocolate into the prepared pan and spread around evenly. Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then loosen the edges with a sharp knife and invert onto a wire rack(keeping the parchment on the bottom)to cool completely. Tip: to speed up the cooling process place the brownie in the freezer until cool.
Place a medium sized bowl in the refrigerator to chill, along with the whisk attachment to an electric hand mixer.
In a small saucepan, add the butter, chopped sage leaves, and vanilla bean seeds. Cook on medium-low until the butter is melted and the sage becomes fragrant- about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, then remove the sage pieces. Place the butter in the refrigerator until firm again.
Create a double boiler and add the butter and chopped chocolate. Stir occasionally until the ingredients are melted completely. Then remove from heat.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites in a medium bowl on high with an electric mixer. When they begin to gain volume, sprinkle in the three tablespoons of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Pour the cream into the chilled bowl and beat with the chilled whisk(s) until soft peaks form.
After all this, the chocolate mixture should be warm (not hot) by now. Add the egg yolks and stir until combined.
Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate in two batches, making sure each batch is combined before adding another. Once the whipped cream is combined with the chocolate, begin to fold the egg whites in three batches, making sure each batch is fully combined before adding the next. There should be no streaks or clumps of white when finished.
Place the cooled brownie(with parchment paper still attached)in a well greased 8-inch cake pan. Then, very gently pour the mousse over the top and spread around evenly. Cover tightly with tin foil or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until firm, this will take up to six hours or you can leave it in overnight. I did the latter.
When the mousse is firm, heat a sharp knife in hot water until the blade is hot, then use it to loosen the mousse from around the edges of the pan. Firmly place the tin foil back on the pan with your hand placed in the center and gently flip until the cake falls out. Place on a flat surface and remove the parchment from the bottom of the brownie. Flip the cake back onto a cake and gently remove the foil. The mousse should not be messed up if this is done carefully.
Melt some chocolate and drizzle over the top of the cake, then top with chopped, roasted pistachio and sea salt. Cut with a hot knife and enjoy.
Today’s recipe is a start to a new path, a path I’m really excited to journey down when it comes to baking. I’m not switching over to a completely different baking method, mind you- I just wanted to start including the more alternative ways you can bake, whether it’s a completely plant-based recipe, a more traditional one, or somewhere in between. I’m always looking to open my mind and try new things, well because that’s how you learn!
When I think of ginger molasses cookies, I think of round, flat, cracked tops(much like the ginger cookiesI created last year); and their texture and taste just right. I was prepared to be challenged as I’d never veered off the path of your usual ingredients: wheat flour, eggs, milk, and butter. And I was, indeed, challenged by it. I read so many different articles of what I should be pairing with what and to be honest, I was about to pull every hair off my scalp. I now have a much higher reverence for those that mustbake this way due to their health or conscious; you really do sacrifice a lot of things, one of them being your product won’t always look as dazzling as the original. But, that doesn’t always mean the taste and texture aren’t delicious, they may even be better than the original! “All that glisters is not gold”, as Shakespeare wrote, right?
Anyway, I tried my hardest to get these cookies posted before New Year’s Eve(and I did!). Originally, they were to be posted the beginning of this week, but I sat down and uploaded the photos I had taken before I left for Christmas, only to find I was very displeased at how they turned out. I spent all of Thursday revising and testing the recipe I wrote out and finally, after the fourth baking attempt, they came out as I wanted- Slight crunch around the edges, but the middle soft, chocolatey and spicy. You’re probably thinking what made me want to put chili pepper inside a cookie. Well, I love spicy things and chocolate, so I thought I’d give the molasses cookie a slight twist. Also because I picked a bunch of chili peppers out of the garden this summer and let them sit in the kitchen to dry and they looked so nice, so I crushed them up and threw them in. It goes so well with the other spices!
It’s hard to believe that 2016 is coming to an end, I feel it was just yesterday we were all celebrating the start! A lot has happened in these twelve short months, but I’m ready for 2017. I’m looking forward to trying new things, things that challenge me to think, see, and achieve differently. Like many other’s, one of my goals in 2017 is to be healthier, happier, and more responsible in the way I’m eating. Which of course, will affect what ingredients I use in the recipes I create and post. Hoping you have a wonderful New Year! One that’s hopeful(the next four years may look a bit bleak here in the United States), full of positive change, love, and happiness. xo
SPICEY VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHUNK GINGER MOLASSES COOKIES
1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon chili pepper, ground(I used 1 dry chili pepper blended in a food processor)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegan butter (I used Earth Balance), room temp.
3/4 cup demerara cane sugar
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1 tablespoon finely ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons water, warm
5-ounces dark chocolate chopped into chunks
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare one large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, stir together the ground flaxseed and water and set aside for five minutes(this is your substitute egg).
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, salt, baking soda, and spices and whisk well; set aside.
In a separate mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and molasses and beat with an electric hand mixer until smooth and all the ingredients are incorporated. Add the flaxseed and beat until combined, then add half the flour; beat until combined. Add the remaining flour and beat until just combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the chopped chocolate.
Using an ice cream/cookie scoop, scoop out the dough and place them 2-inches apart from each other on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake for 11-18 minutes until the edges are slightly darker than the center. Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
December, despite being born in this month, there’s not much I really look forward to in it except for my birthday, Christmas, and the closing of another year and the beginning of another year alive. It can be a depressing month, mainly due to the scenery and the weather. It gets quite windy where I am located and the house is surrounded by a forest of trees so everything becomes quite dull and lifeless looking blowing in the wind. The grass turns brittle and the trees gray and spiritless without their coat of leaves. Winter reminds me just how quickly the other seasons fade, as it always seems the longest. It also makes me appreciate the other seasons a lot more.
When it comes to my creativity, it usually relies on the mood of the day. I’m somewhat one with the weather, all it takes is a cold, cloudy day to bring me into the depths of despair. For photography, especially food, December light can be difficult to work with. By the time I’m back from work and done test baking, the light is practically gone and I hadn’t even decided what backdrop to use.. and it’s only four o’clock in the afternoon.
Anyway, I could honestly go on about the depressing things about December and just the season of winter in general, but let’s skip that because I’m sure you probably share the same if you’re not a winter person; if you happen to be a winter person, well, good for you! I won’t understand why, but that’s okay. I once was, but I honestly don’t know why I enjoyed it. I think it was because I was a child, born and raised without knowing what cold actually felt like. Up until I moved to Virginia, wearing a sundress and flip flops to my Grandmother’s Christmas dinner was normal. Now, I actually have to wear pants.
Now, let’s talk chocolate cake. My birthday was just last week and I decided to bake my own cake for the occasion for the very first time. I think it’s a tradition I should start doing every year. My youngest sister insisted I wasn’t allowed to do such a thing, but by who’s authority, I persisted! I did most everything the night before to save time, but really, I don’t think I saved much time at all. I still found myself with this cake four hours later while the rest of the family anxiously awaited its arrival onto the kitchen counter top so they could eat it.
A little while ago I began adding a fruit jam to my cakes. It adds an exceptionally moist and tender crumb when you do so! The frosting includes chocolate pudding, then once it is on the cake, more chocolate in the form of ganache. As you probably know if you take a brisk scroll through my blog, I am chocolate obsessed. I also happen to love cake, so I have quite a few chocolate cake variations on this site. I’ve learned so much about baking cake in the year that has passed since I’ve started this blog journey- so much so, that I look back to a few of the cakes I’ve made and think to myself, “why the heck did I make it that way?”. You live and you learn, as C.S. Lewis so truthfully wrote,
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
DARK CHOCOLATE POMEGRANATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE
100 grams dark cocoa powder ( 1 1/4 cups )
1 cup boiling water
175g unsalted butter, room temp.
500g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
4 large eggs, room temp.
250g cake flour ( 2 cups + 2 tablespoons )
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
300g milk, room temp.
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
Chocolate frosting and Ganache:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa powdered
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
for the jam:
Scrape the seeds out from the pomegranate and place them in a small saucepan along with the 1/2 cup sugar and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring the mixer often, until the sugar dissolves; reduce to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until the fruit is soft and has broken down some. Remove from heat and press the jam through a fine mesh sieve with a bowl underneath. Discard the seeds from the sieve and bring the jam to room temperature.
In a medium-sized, heat-proof bowl, add the cocoa powder; pour the boiling water over the cocoa and let it sit for 10 minutes, then stir until smooth; set aside and bring to room temperature.
Once all the ingredients have reached room temperature, begin on the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare three, 8-inch round cake pans in the usual way: grease, parchment paper, then a light coat of grease over the paper.
Using an electric standing mixer with whisks attached, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy- about 7-8 minutes on medium-high speed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, set aside. Once the butter and sugar have been creamed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium-low speed after each addition as well as scraping down the sides of the bowl and beaters with a spatula.
Add the cooled cocoa mixture, pomegranate jam, a third of the flour, and a third of the milk to the butter mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and add the remaining flour on medium speed while streaming in the rest of the milk, beat until combined. Pour batter equally amongst the three prepared pans and evenly spread around. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops of the cakes quickly spring back up when lightly touched.
Cool the cakes 10 minutes in their pans then gently use a knife to loosen the cakes from around the edges of the pan and invert onto cooling racks to cool completely for about 1-2 hours.
for the frosting and ganache:
Place a medium-sized heatproof bowl in the freezer so it will be chilled for later use.
In a small saucepan, bring the milk, vanilla, and cocoa powder to a simmer over medium-low heat then turn off the heat.
Heat a double boiler over medium heat and add the egg yolks and sugar. Stir with a whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is pale yellow. Continue to whisk the mixture and slowly stream in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir constantly until thickened. Once, thickened, remove from heat and immediately pour the pudding into the chilled bowl and whisk briskly till the pudding is cool to the touch.
Now, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cooled pudding(be sure it doesn’t have the slightest warmth to it or else the butter will melt) on medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of extra cocoa powder and a pinch of salt; beat on medium-high speed till the mixture is fluffy and becomes slightly pale in color(about 4 minutes or so).
For the ganache: finely chop the bittersweet chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in the microwave or on the stovetop. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for five minutes undisturbed then stir until smooth. Let the mixture cool so it can reach a spreadable consistency.
Assemble the cake:
Place the first layer on a cake board/cake stand/plate and spoon about 3/4 cup of frosting onto the top. Evenly spread around then place the second layer, top-side down onto the first layer. Spread another 3/4 cup of frosting and place the third and final layer on top, again, top-side of the layer facing down onto the previous layer. Add the remaining frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Place the cake in the fridge for 10 minutes so the frosting can firm up some. Once the frosting is somewhat firm to the touch, add the ganache and spread around the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with edible flowers and greenery(optional).
I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving quickly crept up on me this year. I feel that was 2016 in general as everything flew by so quickly; birthdays, the seasons, holidays. It makes me somewhat sad, but happy at the same time. I would say Thanksgiving is somewhat bittersweet for me. I love the food and family time(even though it can be a bit crazy at times), but it pains me to say goodbye to autumn and hello to winter, which happens to be my least favorite time of the year due to the cold.
Anyway, this recipe was sort of a last minute idea and something I wanted to post before I hop on a plane and head south for Thanksgiving. It’s a deliciously tart, cranberry tart with the addition of citrus and bittersweet chocolate- two, very complementary flavors to cranberry if I do say so. It reminded me so much of my favorite chocolate bar: dark, not-so-sweet, with crunchy pieces of dried orange peel speckled throughout each bite. The crust is crumbly with a nutty and slightly sweet flavor. It almost reminds me of cherry pie.
I will say I’ve never once liked cranberries. Well, until recently. The only time we’d eat them would be at Thanksgiving and they were in the form of the ever so popular canned cranberry sauce. Incredibly sweet stuff and not at all of my liking. But, like most things, you have to start with fresh ingredients and see if you truly like or dislike them. I despise most anything that comes in a can now, so it’s my motto to always use fresh when possible. I try to bake by the seasons. And so, I found my love for cranberries when I decided to use them fresh. The filling for this tart I could eat by the spoonful as it’s just so delicious! While simmering away in the saucepan with the citrus, cloves, and cinnamon it lets out the most amazing scent as it floats about the house.
Speaking of cloves, be sure to remove all of them before pouring the filling into the tart shell. I accidently left two or three pieces inside and they made their way into my mouth. Biting into cloves isn’t very appetizing, as they’re a bit potent, to say the least.
CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY ORANGE TART
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup super-fine almond flour
4-ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 large egg (+ 2 tablespoons of a smaller, slightly beaten egg), room temp.
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 orange slices
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon cornstarch
8-ounces bittersweet chocolate; chopped finely
4-ounces heavy cream
sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
With an electric standing mixer, add the softened butter, vanilla, and salt. Cream till smooth and just combined. Add the confectioner’s sugar and almond flour and mix on medium until just combined. Add the flour and large egg, mix until it comes together, and add the two tablespoons of the beaten egg. Mix on medium until the dough comes together(don’t over beat). It should be a very soft dough. Once finished, tightly wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours(until firm). Once firm, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a large rectangle or circle(depending on the tart pan you’re using). Gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and place into the tart pan. carefully press the dough into the pan till it’s fitted, then using a fork, poke holes all around the bottom. Place in the refrigerator until firm again; while it’s doing so, preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C. Once preheated, brush the tart with egg wash (1 egg + 1 teaspoon water, beaten) and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the edges shine and are slightly golden and the bottom is cooked through. Cool completely.
Bump the oven heat up to 375° F.
In a medium sized saucepan, add the freshly squeezed orange juice, orange slices, cloves, cinnamon, and then the cranberries. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cranberries have popped; remove the orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. In a small bowl add two teaspoons of water to the cornstarch and stir until combined. Add this mixture to the cranberries and cook, stirring over medium heat until somewhat thickened. Pour the cranberries into the cooled tart shell and evenly spread around. Sprinkle the orange zest over the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and cool completely. Once cooled, remove from tart pan.
Chop the chocolate finely and place in a bowl that holds heat well. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until it begins to steam. Pour over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Spread around the top of the tart and let it harden. Garnish the top with flaked sea salt or orange zest and serve.