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Carrot Cake

Carrot cake has been made for many hundreds of years with variations in methods and ingredients depending on personal preferences and the country in which it was made. The flour used in carrot cake should be wholemeal, self-rising, or organic stone ground to give the cake the correct consistency and color. There are optional spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg which is sifted into the flour and baking powder or bicarbonate of soda to help the cake rise.

Carrot Cake Image

For a dark, moist carrot cake, brown sugar is used. However, honey can also be used for those on a diet or who prefer natural ingredients. A successful carrot cake can be made with butter, margarine, or a light vegetable oil (which is ideal for those who have lactose intolerance). Variations in cooking methods will also predetermine which type of fat to use. Creaming methods will require butter or margarine, while all-in-one methods can be made with oil.

Two to four large eggs are needed to help bind and raise the cake (free range are a healthy option). Vegetarian and vegan carrot cake can be made with egg substitute. Of course carrots are included in every recipe! The simplest way to prepare carrots for carrot cake is to use a food processor, alternatively hand grate them.

After these basic and essential ingredients, there are many extras which can be used to add class, style, or simply variation to the end result. Many recipes include either lemon or orange zest, which is also then used in the topping to marry the flavors. Ground almonds or desiccated coconut can also be used, along with pecan nuts. Many American carrot cake recipes have raisins or sultanas included which help produce a very moist cake.

The method used will determine the order in which the ingredients are combined together. An average sized carrot cake takes approximately 45-55 minutes to bake in an oven set at 325°F.

Once cooked, the carrot cake can be left to cool and eaten, but it is more usual to decorate it with a cream cheese and icing sugar topping with zest of lemon added to give a tangy taste. Low fat cream cheese is becoming increasingly popular to use as a more healthy option.

Carrot Cake Recipe

Here is a nice, basic recipe for carrot cake, upon which the reader may feel free to embellish:

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup golden brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 cups grated and peeled carrots

Directions
Set the oven to preheat at 350°F. Grease (or better yet, butter) and flour the sides and bottom of two 9-inch-diameter cake pans. These should have 2-inch-high sides. In a mixing bowl add flour, baking soda and powder with the cinnamon and salt (basically, all of the dry ingredients). You can use a sifter to thoroughly mix the ingredients, in a pinch simply stir with a fork. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then add oil, sugars, and juice - blend thoroughly. Now stir in the flour and dry ingredients. Sprinkle in the carrots as you are lightly stirring. Put half the ingredients in each cake pan. Place immediately in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. Check to make sure the cake is done by testing with a toothpick or knife. (When inserted into the center of the cake, it should come out without any batter clinging to it.) Transfer the cakes to racks and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Then turn out cakes onto racks to allow them to finish cooling.

At this point the carrot cake should be ready for frosting. But wait! What if a more elaborate cake is desired? Many people like to add walnuts or pecans to their recipe (try 3/4 to 1 cup). Raisins or currants are also a great addition. Another interesting variation includes pineapple.

While the cake is in the oven is the perfect time to make the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting for Carrot Cake

Ingredients
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions
Soften the cream cheese by letting it warm for several hours outside of the refrigerator. Alternatively, it can be micro-waved for a short period (do not over-cook in the microwave). The butter should also be softened in the same manner. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Spread on the cake once it has been cooled. Many people like to put walnuts in their frosting (instead of - or in addition to) walnuts in the cake.

Some other interesting recipes:
Nut Cake
Cheese Cake

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