Classic Carrot Cake with Vanilla Bean Rum Frosting

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


 cake:

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

   frosting:

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

 method:

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. 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three, 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices- set aside.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

  Monkey bread has long been a favorite recipe of mine, with its warm, gooey, cinnamon goodness.  It’s one of those foods you savor in your childhood and long crave into your adulthood and the rest of your life, but never find yourself enjoying it as often as you would like.  As a child, it was a rare treat; my mom didn’t really bake many things outside of muffins, cookies, or birthday cake.  Cinnamon rolls almost always came from a can and homemade doughnuts weren’t a thing until I began to bake for fun.  Although this pull-apart cinnamon grapefruit bread with earl grey lavender glaze isn’t monkey bread, it closely resembles it (sans the gooeyness) in way of the process.

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

  I recently realized there aren’t any recipes on my site with grapefruit as an ingredient.  I thought it best I post at least one including grapefruit before the season runs out, which is when I decided on this pull-apart cinnamon grapefruit bread with earl grey lavender glaze.  When it comes to grapefruit Florida ruby red is the best(in my opinion) and it’s what I used for this recipe.  Though it’s only the zest you need for the bread, still, I’ve found that that variety is what holds the flavor in the peel the best.

  I wish this bread had lasted longer than it did.  It was taken rather well by my family, my mom especially.  Which is surprising because she doesn’t like lavender and this had dried lavender sprinkled all over the top to add more flavor.  In any case you don’t have lavender on hand, just make a trip to your local garden center.  Most stores where plants are sold have small pots of lavender growing as of now and you can find them rather cheap as I did.  Once you have one, pluck as many buds off as you can and set them out to dry, then use.

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze


PULL-APART CINNAMON GRAPEFRUIT BREAD WITH EARL GREY LAVENDER GLAZE

 bread

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

3/4 cups whole milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar

zest from 1 grapefruit

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

 sugar, cinnamon, and butter coating

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon 

 earl grey + lavender glaze

tea:

1 cup water

2 earl grey tea bags

1 sprig of fresh lavender

glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons of the tea you made

dried lavender buds (optional)

 method:

 for the dough

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and heavy cream until warm.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the yeast and pour in 1/2 cup of the warm milk, stir slightly and let it sit until the yeast dissolves and is foamy(5-7 minutes).  Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl, set aside.  Once the yeast has dissolved, add the egg yolk, sugar, and remaining milk and whisk until just combined.  Sprinkle in 1 cup of flour, the grapefruit zest, and the soften cubed butter; mix on medium-low speed with the dough hook attached and slowly pour in the remaining flour.  Continue to mix until the dough begins to wipe the sides of the mixing bowl clean.  It should be very soft, but not sticky.  Remove from mixing bowl and place in a lightly buttered bowl.  Cover with a thin towel and let it rise in warm, dry place until doubled in size, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  2. 10 minutes before the dough has finished its rising process, preheat the oven to 350°F / 177°C.  Butter well the sides and bottom of an 8-inch by 4-inch loaf pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper, lightly buttering this as well.  Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl and set aside.  On a plate, combine the sugar and cinnamon.  
  3. Once the dough has finished rising, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands for 1 minute.  Begin to tear various sized pieces (medium to small sizes) of dough in your hands and roll into a ball.  Dip the dough ball into the melted butter and cover with the sugar mixture, lastly place the dough ball in the pan.  Continue this process until all the dough is used and is evenly distributed in the loaf pan.  Place the pan on the lowest rack in the oven and bake for 55 minutes to an hour, until nicely browned.  Cool 10 minutes in the pan.  Using a sharp knife, carefully loosen the bread from around the edges of the pan.  Invert onto a plate and drizzle generously with the glaze.  Top with dried lavender and enjoy warm!

  for the glaze:

  1. Bring the water to a boil with the lavender sprig, then remove from heat and add the two tea bags.  Steep for 10 minutes then remove the lavender sprig and the tea bags.  Cool the tea completely before using.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, sift the confectioner’s sugar.  Add two tablespoons of the cooled tea to the sugar and whisk until smooth, it should drizzle thick and not runny.  If it’s runny, add a 1/4 more of powdered sugar.  if it is to thick, add 1/2 teaspoon more of tea.  Drizzle onto the bread when it’s still warm and top with dried lavender buds.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Honey Fig Italian Meringue Buttercream

  Why yes, this is another chocolate cake to add to my {growing} collection.  One can never have too many chocolate cake recipes, can they?  This one is special as it includes shredded garden fresh zucchini, which gives the cake a tender and moist crumb.  Also, a pinch of cinnamon because zucchini, chocolate, and cinnamon seem like close-knit friends, they go so well together! 

IMG_3239 IMG_3245 

 I tried my hand at Italian meringue buttercream for the first time and I must say, it’s so good!  While researching, I came across various people saying it can be somewhat difficult to make if you’re not familiar with making meringue.   Being myself, I took on the challenge.  It was the first time I’ve ever made meringue, and using my own quantities at that.  The first try was okay, but not quite what I wanted as it was a bit too sweet.  So I tried one more time by changing the quantities of a few ingredients.  The second try was a charm!  Then came adding the butter, a step I didn’t get to on the first try.  At first, I thought it wasn’t looking too promising.  After letting it whip for a little while longer, it suddenly turned into a luxurious buttercream.  Smooth and glossy, with the most amazing texture.  I then added the honey fig jam I had just made, along with a wee bit of vanilla.  The camera didn’t really pick it up, but it has a slight pink tint to it.

IMG_3267 IMG_3234

 I spent at least two hours photographing this cake.  The light was just not on my side!  My home has an insane amount of windows, so I usually have a pretty good amount of light anywhere in the house.  It’s also surrounded by greenery, so finding the right type of light can be difficult.  It usually depends on how bright the sun is shining during the time of day I’m shooting.  I was shooting in mid-afternoon light and the sun was giving out harsh, bright light, causing everything outside to reflect their colors through the windows.  So, almost all the light coming into the house was green, and green is my biggest pet peeve when photographing food.  Long story short, I was in Lightroom for quite some time trying to tone down all the colors coming in from outside.  I’m quite pleased with how they turned out, despite spending so much time photographing and then editing them.

IMG_3278 IMG_3305IMG_3338


chocolate zucchini cake + honey fig italian meringue buttercream

for the cake:

175 grams unsalted butter, room temp.

500 g granulated sugar 

4 large eggs, room temp.

250 g all-purpose flour ( 2 cups + 2 tablespoons )

100 g cocoa powder ( 1 1/4 cups )

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

312 g almond milk, room temp. ( 1 3/4 cups)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 cup shredded zucchini

 for the honey fig jam:

1 pound ripe figs

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

for the  frosting:

5 egg whites, room temp.

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup water

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

 fig jam, room temp.

lemon wedge


method:
cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 170°C.  Prepare three, 8-inch cake pans by greasing, laying down parchment paper, then lightly greasing again.
  2.  Sift the flour and cocoa powder; combine the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Whisk well and set aside.
  3. In an electric standing mixer / hand mixer with whisk(s) attached, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy- about eight minutes.  Scrape down the sides and bottom on the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition(scraping down the bowl after adding each one).  Add the vanilla and beat till just combined.  Add one-third of the flour and one-third of the almond milk; beat on medium speed until just combined.  Add the remaining two-thirds of flour and almond milk and beat on high for 15 seconds.  With a spatula, fold in the shredded zucchini until it’s evenly distributed.
  4. Pour batter evenly amongst the three prepared cake pans and using an offset spatula, evenly spread around in the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Check for doneness using a toothpick, if it comes out clean- it’s done; if not, bake three more minutes.  Remove from oven and let the cakes sit in the pan for 10 minutes.  Use a sharp knife to loosen the edges, then invert onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.
honey fig jam:
  1. Wash, cut stems off, and then slice figs into halves.  Add to a medium sized saucepan and gently mash them until they are well broken up.
  2. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and honey to the figs and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then let the mixture simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until the figs are soft and the mixture is somewhat thick when it runs off the spoon.  About 15-20 minutes.  Pour the mixture into a sieve over a cool bowl and gently press with a spoon to squeeze the good stuff off from the pulp.  Discard the pulp.  Bring the jam to complete room temperature before using it the frosting.  It’s best to make it the day before, then cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on the countertop overnight.
honey fig italian meringue buttercream:
  1. Wipe down the bowl of an electric mixer with the lemon wedge and squeeze about 1/4 teaspoon of it into the bottom of the bowl.  Add the egg whites.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water.  Stir over high heat until the sugar is dissolved and begins to boil.  Once boiling, cease stirring and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan.  Bring the sugar to 240°F, once it reaches that temperature, turn off the heat.  Begin beating the egg whites on medium-high speed until they’re frothy and pale in color.  Then, very slowly and carefully ( it’s hot!) begin to pour a very thin stream of the hot sugar into the beating whites.  Increase the speed to high and continue beating until medium peaks form.  Before adding any butter, make sure the meringue is completely cool to the touch, without a hint of warmth to it.   
  3.  Add the butter and beat on medium-high speed till it all comes together and forms a nice, whipped buttercream.  Turn the mixer off and add the vanilla and the fig jam.  Beat on low until just combined.   
assemble and frost the cake:
  1. Place the first layer on your cake stand, plate, or cake board.  Add about 3/4 cups of frosting and evenly spread around.  Place the second layer, bottom facing up, on top of the frosted layer and add another 3/4 cups of frosting.  Spread around and add the third and final layer, bottom facing up.  Use the remaining frosting to frost the top and around the sides of the cake.  Cut and serve.