I have baked all my life, and while I usually do not create the recipes, I am pretty good at following them. That is the difference with cooking and baking. Cooking can be totally inspired. A bit of this, a little of that. Creativity is encouraged. Baking is such a science. Tweaking the ingredients can lead to disaster.
That was a major source of frustration when I moved to Taos, New Mexico. We are at 7000 feet, and the altitude change from sea level has caused my baking successes turn to failures. Cakes and cookies do not bake evenly, collapse, and taste different. I have not been able to find the appropriate adjustments to make my favorite recipes work. So I cannot explain the joy I felt when I discovered the Mountain Mama Cooks blog. The author has perfected the art of high altitude baking. Now, if you live at or near sea level, this may not mean much to you...but to me? Desserts are back!
I was scrolling through the site and stumbled upon this recipe for carrot cake. It looked so good that I made it that very day. Not only was it delicious, but it was also the best carrot cake I have ever eaten. (and I have eaten a LOT of carrot cake in my life. I made the cake again for a potluck dinner, and it was a hit. Many people came up to me and exclaimed: "This is the best carrot cake I have ever eaten!" The cake was so successful that I made it again for another potluck (I am invited to many potlucks!) and received the same reaction. So I have been making carrot cakes, (and cupcakes from the same recipe) for every function where I am asked to bring dessert, and I have received rave reviews every time.
This is carrot week at Food Network. I could not think of a more perfect recipe to share. And it is a bundt cake which is so much easier than a layer cake. How cool is that? I made very slight tweaks to the original. I replaced the called-for vegetable oil with olive oil because I like it better and ensured alum-free baking powder was used. Otherwise, totally the delicious original recipe. Thank you, Mountain Mama!
The Best Carrot Cake I Have Ever Eaten
from Mountain Mama Cooks
(cake serves 12 or makes 20 cupcakes)
Note, the Mountain Mama blog suggested adding nuts to only half the cake top. That way you satisfy the nut lovers and the nut haters. Feel free to add nuts to the top of the entire cake if desired.
2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon alum-free baking powder
scant 1 teaspoon baking soda*
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
4 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 batch Cream Cheese Frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-cup bundt cake pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together on medium speed the eggs and sugar until pale yellow, light and fluffy. (about 3 minutes). Add the olive oil, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Beat until well mixed. Add the flour mixture in 3 parts until just incorporated. Stir in the creme fraiche, carrots and coconut.
Spoon batter evenly into prepared bundt pan. Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of cake comes out cleanly with no raw batter. Remove from oven and let cool on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cake plate and let cool completely. When completely cooled, frost with the cream cheese frosting and top with nuts if desired.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 tablespoons best quality unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
Add the softened butter and cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at medium-high speed until combined and light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Beat for another minute or until incorporated.
This recipe has been creating for baking at altitudes around 7000 feet. The Mountain Mama site suggests increasing the sugar to 1 1/2 cups and increasing he baking soda to 1/2 teaspoon if baking at sea level.
*Scant means lacking a small part of the whole; not quite up to full measure. In other words, 1 scant teaspoon means not quite a whole teaspoon but a little less (from Whats Cooking America)
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California Girl in Taos
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California Girl in Taos
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