Fork Spoon Knife is the personal blog of Asha where she chronicles her journeys in food through stories, recipes and photographs. She can also be found doodling and sharing her experiences as below.

 
                        

Oh Sweet Roses

This is the best carrot cake I have ever tasted. Period.

Carrot Cake & Roses
There is something inherently alluring about tall cakes. As with most things tall in life - men, women, buildings, mountains - there is that fascination of mingling of art and science. The sheer gravity defiance of height co-mingled with the majestic beauty. Tall is simply sexy!

In the context of food, there is more than just the visual that appeals. It is an admirable feat to make tall and well tasting specimens of baked items. By the very nature of it, baked goods are expected to be light and fluffy and give the intention of making you float with each bite. I secretly suspect that the French use oodles of butter in their pastries to accomplish just this uplifting effect! Nevertheless, barring few exceptions, such as chocolate based items that are inherently denser, the harmony of elevated and levitated is a hard one to achieve.

With the explosion of visual sharing, I see layers happening all around me. So, ok the bug bit me. A few days ago, I was rummaging through some notes and I found my illustrations of a several layered cake entirely adorned in roses of frosting. It was a captivating image even on this perusal, so I imagine I must have been particularly moved when I had originally drawn them, the summer that has passed.

Carrot Cake Sliced
I was smitten. I wanted to make it now, make up for the lost months. Except, the flavors I had noted and the colors were so last season! Nay, really, two seasons too late. But, that only worked in my favor. Truth be told, as happily as I had sketched those glorious towering layers of lemony sponge interlaced with thick and lusciously silken berry mousse, in the dampness of the drafty Winter, the grounding sensibilities of physics weighed on me.

The drafting board of my mind, yielded me a simpler solution. Why not do this in steps. For the first iteration, I would simply focus on creating the layered effect without the pressure of lightness. This meant that I could go with hearty winter cake options that are naturally robust enough to stand up high. Carrot cake is one of those seasonally perfect creations. Not only is it warm and soothing in flavor, the molecular structure of the cake is fortified by the weave of grated carrot and flour bound into the common purpose of the batter.

Four Layer Carrot Cake with Berry Frosting
I have experimented with carrot cakes several times and many are perfect for various purposes but I just did not think any of those would be right for my current purpose. This one is wonderfully airy and perfect for cupcakes, and, for being lost in the moment. But, I feared that it may be too momentary to achieve the stratified effect. This one, was well, was more work than I wanted to do. {Yes, there is an irony there :)}. I wanted a recipe that would rise loftily yet be of delicate crumb befitting a fancy tea cake.

It was to be a witch hunt then. There is no one perfect recipe that I could use. I found many that were written for commercial kitchens and really would not do well scaled down. There were some that simply did not fill me with confidence. There were others that were really heavy on butter (Oh! I didn't have any butter at home and was determined to do a non-dairy cake. I get into these moods!). There were those that were very promising in different aspects. In the end, I pulled together all the bits from the difference pieces I liked and worked them together. You would think I waved a wand and it simple came. No, this was more pouring over, cross checking, googling the science and then putting together the list I was somewhat confident of.

Lo behold! It worked. Just to be sure, I made it twice, you know, to negate the luck bit. OK, two is statistically insignificant but I warrant it is better than one!


Carrot Cake sliced and filledFour Layer Carrot Cake with Berry Frosting + Orange Filling
Like I said, there are a tons of recipes for carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting out there and I am not saying this is the best one. I am, however, saying that of all the recipes I have tested, this one hits the right balance of flavor, moistness and lightness and works wonderfully for multiple layers. I made four but this one can well handle a couple more. And, there is a delectable nuttiness running through the layers from the pecans and the whole wheat flour.

Also, on that frosting bit. I was simply appalled at the amount of frosting I needed to cover the whole cake in rosettes. So, I chucked the roses from the sides and I think it looks just fine! Besides, all that matters is the taste, right? Right!

So here is my Monday offering to you - a tray of edible roses resting on some really lovely cake. A week started sweet is gonna rock!



Carrot Cake Layered with Orange Cheese Filling and Berry Rosettes

Carrot Cake slice closeup

For the cake:
1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
1 cup unbleached white flour, sifted
1 T + 1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
2-3/4 cups grated carrots
4 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup olive oil {you can just double the olive oil and skip the canola oil}
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 a nutmeg nut
2 tsp whole cloves
2 T almond milk
1/2 cup or more chopped toasted pecans

For the frosting + filling:
Notes -
1. If you want make the roses on the sides as well, increase all the quantities by a quarter more. So, instead of 20 oz cream cheese, you will need 25 oz
2. It is not berry season. So, I highly recommend using ones that you froze over summer or flash frozen in the freezer section. The organic ones are better as the chemicals are not seeping into the fruit for all that time.

20 oz neuschaftel cream cheese or regular as you prefer, at room temperature
4 oz strained yogurt
5 T raw honey
zest of one orange
Handful of frozen berries, thawed

Baking the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare two 8 inch cake pans.

Process the raw sugar and cloves into a fine powder. Mix with the sifted flours, baking soda and salt. Grate in the half nutmeg into this mixture.

Make a well in the center and add all the liquid ingredients - eggs, oils, and almond milk.

Fold in the wet into the dry to make a thick batter.

Add the grated carrots and fold. The batter will loosen from the water of the carrots. Fold in the pecans quickly without working the dough too much, just like folding in whites.

Divide the batter evenly into the cake pans and bake for 25 to 30 mins until they are springy to touch.

Remove from pans and cook on rack. Do not touch them till they are completely cool or the frosting will not stick.

Whipping the frosting:
While the cakes cool, whip together the frosting ingredients other than the berries. Set aside until the cake is ready

Assembly:

Using a bread knife or other serrated knife cut out the domed bit of each cake, so it is relatively flat. Slice each cake horizontally in half.

Flip one of the cakes, so the top of the cake touches the cake base and makes the bottom layer.

Spread a generous amount of frosting on top. Place the other (bottom) half of this cake on top and then slather on more frosting.

For the next layer, use the bottom half of the second cake. More frosting and place the final layer.

Next, pulse the berries with the remaining frosting. Chill for 10 minutes. The cooling lets the frosting firm up and that is a lot better for piping roses.

Make yourself a cup of tea. Relax.

Phase 2 begins. Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of the berry frosting.

When you are happy with the coverage, spoon the rest of the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a wide ridged icing tip.

Squeeze out the frosting to make small rounds that look like roses. Fill the surface of the cake.

If you are covering the sides as well, continue piping.

Voila! Thats it. Brew a second pot of tea, cut yourself a huge slice and read a book. Or, if you insist on begin generous share with someone but tell them to stay silent, so you can enjoy this cake without distraction.

5 comments:

  1. This cake is really beautiful! I love the decorations on the top and the flavors you chose.

    Cheers.

    Rosa

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  2. i agree tall is sexy..and when it comes to cake like this one - I am just drooling right now. pinning this for trying it later.

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  3. Asha, What a joy to read this beautifully written post on Monday morning..Carrot cake looks delicious, your ingredient combination of cake and frosting is great. When I read the title of your post I had no idea that I will be reading wonderful carrot cake recipe...Thanks for the sweet surprise.

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    Replies
    1. Haha.. Am glad you continued reading after the title :) Happy to given you a nice surprise this morning!

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