Best Ever Birthday Carrot Cake

photo-384You know that cake you ask for every year on your birthday, the one that makes you feel special and loved and happy all at once? The kind of cake you go back for seconds, not only because its YOUR birthday but its YOUR favorite cake and its freaking delicious. This carrot cake is THAT cake for me, my mother’s best ever birthday carrot cake.

Today isn’t my birthday, (although you might have seen in my last post, Ski Boots in the Kitchen just turned 1!) but I decided I needed a little slice of heaven! Whenever I go to a restaurant and they have carrot cake on the menu, I have to try it. Let me tell you good carrot cake is hard to come by and I am usually disappointed because its not as good as PomPom’s recipe.

There are two places that know how to do it right- one of the best carrot cakes I’ve ever had is at Bol in Vail, Colorado and the second runner up is from the Deer Valley Bakery (they made my carrot cake wedding cake… can you tell yet I’m slightly obsessed?) but that’s it. If you come across a restaurant that has better carrot cake than these two places call me, I’ll fly anywhere just to try it.

Long story short, I’ve been tasting cakes made with carrot for years and this one will forever be my favorite not only because its outrageously delicious but it brings me back home and its always made with love! Happy celebrating and cake eating- Enjoy!

Best Ever Birthday Carrot Cake (click for printer friendly version)

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup powdered milk
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 small can (8oz) crushed pineapple and juice
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans) (optional)

For the frosting:

  • 1 8oz. block of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 (1/2 cup) stick of butter at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1lb box confectioners sugar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees
  2. Grease, flour and line with parchment paper 3, 9″ round cake pans
  3. Using a hand mixer, combine oil and honey in a bowl. Add eggs one at a time, blend in vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and powdered milk.
  5. Blend the sifted dry ingredients with the honey, oil and eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients (grated carrots, crushed pineapple, coconut, raisins and chopped nuts).
  6. Pour batter into the 3 prepared baking pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let them cool completely on racks until ready to ice.
  7. While the cake is cooling, using a hand mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, confectioners sugar and vanilla in a bowl.
  8. When cake has fully cooled, place the first layer on a cake plate, spreading a thin layer of icing between each layer of cake. Spread a thin layer of icing around the outside of the cake and place in the fridge for 1 hour. This is called a “crumb layer” this will keep all the crumbs stuck to the first layer of frosting giving you the perfect looking cake when you frost the final layer! For more directions on how to perfectly frost a cake see here. Enjoy! 
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Lentil and Sausage Soup for a (warm) winter’s night

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Although its starting to feel too much like spring here- I there’s nothing more satisfying than a big bowl of soup for dinner, even if it doesn’t look anything like winter out your door. This is more of a stew than soup, but it has a lot of fresh veggies and fresh spinach which gives it vibrant color and delicious flavor! I modified this recipe and used vegetarian sausage from Whole Foods instead of meat sausage and vegetable stock to make the stew vegetarian. photo-231The sausage was so tasty you’d never know it was vegetarian- I bought the Italian style with garlic and red pepper to give it a kick! Any sausage you use will taste great. I also added twice the amount of spinach as I am a huge fan of spinach and I wanted more green in my soup. The red wine vinegar really opens up all the flavors so don’t leave it out- its a must! Enjoy!!

Lentil & Sausage Soup (Click for printer friendly version)
Serves 4 hungry adults with lots of leftovers.
Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cup French green lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 or 4 sausages made with herbs and/or garlic
  • 1 large yellow or white onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup sturdy red wine
  • 3 stalks of celery, and their leaves if possible
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram or an equivalent amount of fresh
  • 4 or 5 carrots, depending on their size
  • 4 cups chicken or beef stock (or vegetable)
  • 3 tablespoons organic ketchup
  • 2 cups chopped spinach (I did 4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Red wine vinegar, to taste

Directions:

  1. Fill at tea kettle and bring it to a boil while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Heat the 4 cups of stock either on the stove or in the microwave if you don’t have time (or space) on the stove.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large pot/skillet with one bay leaf and cook sausage until browned on each side (even if the sausage is already fully cooked) remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Rinse the lentils in cold water two or three times, pick out any stones or other debris, and put the lentils on the stove in a saucepan with at least three cups of hot water from the kettle. Cook lentils over medium heat, stirring occasionally. (don’t worry if the lentils are not fully cooked when you add them to the soup.)
  5. Meanwhile, dice the onions so they are about ½” square; chop the garlic. Cut celery into small dices and carrots into slices or chunks depending on how thick they are, and set them aside. Add the remaining oil, as well as the onions and garlic, to the pan in which the sausages were browned; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the onions start to look a bit translucent, push them aside with a spoon and add the wine. Cook for a minute or two to deglaze the pot.
  6. Stir the lentils in with the cooking water. It doesn’t matter whether they are cooked. Just add them now, and add the stock to the pot with the onions and garlic. Add the celery and marjoram and stir well, continuing to cook.
  7. Add the carrots to the pot, with the reserved sausages, and the salt and pepper to taste, and stir well.
  8. Cook for at least another ten minutes, adding more water if necessary and stirring occasionally, to prevent the lentils from sticking.
  9. Add the ketchup and stir well (I didn’t measure the ketchup I just added enough till it looked good- but I am also weirdly obsessed with ketchup). Cook until the carrots are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Add the spinach and the parsley. Heat soup until very hot!
  10. Pass the red wine vinegar separately, for people to add, to taste. Serve with a hearty whole grain bread and fresh butter.IMG_6965

Original recipe from Food52