Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kitchening: The Little Carrot Cake that Could

I think the carrot variety is my favorite kind of cake. Recently, I popped into a new western bakery shop (the kind that promises to be void of the formidable meat floss) and saw these small deepish dish carrot cakes all lathered up with cream cheese frosting. The cake was out of my price range and I'd much rather make it myself anyway. So, the next week I was down at the cookware supply market and saw cake pans of every shape and size including a little deep dish number with a removable bottom and a tiny price tag, so, of course, I put my money on the corner and made it my own.

This week I have a small dinner party to go to, which was a perfect opportunity to try out my shiny new pan...and here is the recipe:

The Little Carrot Cake That Could
(adapted from Emeril's Potluck--Gigi's Carrot Cake and my favorite carrot cakes in Shanghai)

Makes one 6 inch, deep dish carrot cake

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4-1/3 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (I did half finely grated, half coarsely)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup unrefined sugar (you can use refined too)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
generous dash of nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream cheese frosting
250 grams (8.8 oz) cream cheese, softened (I used low-fat, Nufatel to make myself feel better)
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3-1/2 cup powdered sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more to taste)
Zest of one lemon
Chopped pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan. Butter pan and set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Pour over grated carrots. Stir to combine and set it on its lonesome for a few.

3. I know you're supposed to sift all the dry ingredients but I never do...so throw everything into a large bowl. Mix together and then add the wet ingredients (eggs, vanilla, and carrot mixture) until combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes. Test it with a toothpick to make sure it's ready. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for ten minutes. Invert onto the rack and let cool completely.

5. For the frosting, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth and airy. Add in the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and zest. Try it out and adjust for flavor and consistency. Be warned that you will see specs of the zest, so if you like smooth creamy spec-free frosting, then you've come to the wrong recipe.

6. If the cake is a little crumbly on the outside, put it in the fridge for a half hour or so to firm it up a bit. This will make it easier to frost. For the frosting, dollop, lather, spread, repeat. It's going to be thick and messy, which is it's M.O. Since this cake is so small, I just held it up on my palm and frosted around my hand. I then set it on a plate and dropped the pecans onto the top until I liked how it looked.

7. Serve immediately, or store in the fridge, unless you're making this during the winter in Shanghai, in which case your kitchen is cold enough, I'm sure.

*Full disclosure--when I transported mine, the frosting did run a bit. Therefore, I'd suggest putting it in the fridge longer, adding more butter, or eat it quick!


(and look how easy it is to pack!)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When in Rome

Today a friend of mine asked why Chinese is such a difficult language. I think it was a rhetorical question but I answered anyway. I told her it is because, if it were easy we might get the false impression that we could not only understand the language but also the culture. After almost 5 years here, I don't feel like I've gotten very far even after a year of working with Chinese people. I think understanding individuals is easier than the culture as a whole (if one can ever refer to culture as a whole). A very short thought which I hope to elaborate on later. Must run off, but just thought I'd post something real quick.

In other news. It rained, sleeted, and snowed today. Boy, was the weather busy. In honor of the white fluffy stuff, I'm resurrecting a bit of Christmas: