Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Carrot Cake Tuesday

Carrot CakeYesterday I really outdid myself in the kitchen. For the sake of good neighbor relations (always important in Turkey) I decided to bake a carrot cake from scratch in order to make  smily faces on the people next door. That is not to say, I would not be eating any of it myself.  Get real.

Carrot cake is one of my favorite types of cakes because you can reduce the sugar without losing too much flavor and besides. when you make a desert with a vegetable you can pretend it is healthier than, say, chocolate. I started the night before by grating the carrots. It started out fun but quickly lost its appeal as the carrots ground down to nubbins. If you have ever sheared off the corner of a knuckle on a grater, you tend to pop the last bits of a carrot in your mouth or in the garbage rather than risking a painful bloody mess. Well, 3 cups of grated carrot takes a hell of a lot longer than I had imagined.

I marinated the grated carrots in sugar-water and vanilla all in night, thinking it might make them "juicer." I stole my recipe at random from the internet but carrot cake recipes are pretty straightforward and the only thing I saw different was the spoon of baking soda. Next time, I think I will add pistachios or blanched/ground almonds and some brandy.

Cooking with alcohol is always a lot of fun but one time I nearly burned up my kitchen when I tried some kind of flambé thing. Scenario: guests in the living room, lively laughing conversation, me in the kitchen trying to suppress a panicky scream as the apartment ignites. You see, I had managed to spill some of the brandy and it went from "Wow" to "Whoops" to "OH, MY GOD!" in about thirty seconds. Beautiful blue flames were coming out of open drawers and everything I tried to use to put it out just started burning too.  Flames really do leave a lasting impression. It is like a Hallmark card of disaster.

Anyway, the cooking of the carrot cake. I used one of the doughnut shaped pans, thinking that it would ensure that the cake would be fully cooked in its interior. Nothing is more discouraging than for a cook to discover his/her creation is sludge at its heart. Dr. Frankenstein must have had that feeling a couple of weeks after his experiment.

Initially the cake started to cook too fast on the top burner so I had to more it down one rung. As the baking soda or powder worked its magic, the whole thing began to rise and spill over the edge of the pan. It could have been a mess if I had not put another larger pan beneath it. In about 30 minutes, the cake was ready. The sugar- I think I might have added way too much- caramelized and created a crispy exterior. The vanilla smell went to my head like whiskey. I let the whole thing cool but I tend to get impatient at this point and usually risk disaster. So when I tried to remove it from the pan, it tore off the top a bit but no great harm was done because it still looked fantastic. A little less oil and a little less sugar, more almonds and brandy was my verdict. I will try another one next week, God knows I have enough neighbors! I have enclosed the recipe if you want to try it out yourself. As long as you keep some sugar and baking powder/salt (and carrot of course) it can be easily tweaked and tinkered with. 

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