Easter will be here before we know it, and itseems to me that one of the best ways to celebrate is with carrot cake – this is because I love to eat them and look for any excuse to do so. Here you have not just any ordinary carrot cake recipe – it is my mother’s, otherwise known as Neeners. I think it’s the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten. Don’t tell her that – I’ll never hear the end of it. She has had this recipe since time began, and so I had to attempt to decipher it from her well worn, hand written copy. This was not easy. I had to call her…”Neeners, your recipe says ‘one half of a medium sized can of pineapple’. What is a medium sized can? Is it the size of, oh, let’s say a can of chili beans you would buy at the store?” …..silence…. And then “Go for it. I don’t think it’s possible to kill this cake”. Lucky, it worked. And if you know me well enough by now, you will also know that it is impossible for me to leave a recipe alone – I have to fiddle with it. In this case, I left the cake alone, but added some caramelized fresh pineapple to top things off. This whole business is super easy to make, so how about we get this thing done?
You’ll want to grate about 4 cups of carrots, and haul a can of crushed pineapple in juice out of your pantry. While you’re in there, grab some walnuts – you’ll want to rough chop two cups. If you are not a nut person, just omit them from the recipe. I generally can take them or leave them, but think they add a needed crunch to this recipe. Your call, however. The rest of this recipe couldn’t be easier. Grab a big bowl and mix in the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and soda. Then mix together the canola oil, eggs and vanilla and add to the dry ingredients. At this point, stir in the other stuff: pineapple, carrots, and nuts. When you’ve got everything mixed in, you’ll see that it is a pretty wet batter. Do not fear – this is how it’s supposed to look.
Now, if you were Neeners, you would bake this in your big, square Corning Ware pan (I have doubled Neener’s recipe for my version). I am doubting there are many of those pans left in existence, If you’d rather bake the smaller cake, divide my recipe in half and bake in a 13×9 inch baking dish. I usually make my version in a 11×15 inch baking dish. This time, however, I decided to fancy it up a little and divided the batter into three, 9-inch cake pans and it turned out beautifully. Bake until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, and when you touch it in the middle, the cake should spring back to you, not sink in. Sinking in implies raw batter. Also, slide a wooden skewer or toothpick into the center and it should come out clean, or have some dry looking crumbs attached. You will be rewarded with a super moist cake that is loaded with the bright jewel tones of orange carrot and yellow pineapple.
While this guy is baking, you can start on your frosting. Again, simple. Some melted butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and lemon extract. Just whip it up until smooth. Please be patient and make sure your cake is completely cooled before attempting to frost or your frosting will turn into a melted puddle. That would be a shame but still edible for sure.
Then if you’re up for it, you can make some roasted pineapple. First, you must decapitate the pineapple and cut him up. This is also simple: Cut off his head and rump. Then run your knife down the sides. You’ll need to go back and take out some of those little round ‘peebs’ that remain. A peeb is just a word my sister came up with, and just means ‘little things’ – usually little undesirable things. After the peebs are gone, just cut down the sides, leaving the rectangular core. You’ll have two big slabs and two smaller ones. Cut them into about 1/2 in cubes, drizzle with Agave or honey, and drizzle with a little honey or agave and a few pinches of salt. Roast in a 250 degree oven until your pineapple is cooked through and looks like some the edges are starting to caramelize. Of course you can leave this part off if you want, but it’s pretty good if I do say so myself.
All the parts are done! Frost that cake, get that pineapple out, and dig right in – great job!!! PS: I happen to have a crop of edible flowers in our garden that appears to be taking over the universe, so used them to decorate the cake. If you share a similar predicament, you might also give it a try.
Thanks so much for reading today! xoxoxo
- FOR THE CARROT CAKE
- 2 ½ cups unbleached flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ cups canola or other neutral oil
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 cups grated carrots
- 2 cups walnuts, chopped
- 1, 20 ounce can crushed undrained pineapple
- FOR THE FROSTING
- 1, 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 stick of melted butter (8 tablespoons)
- 4 teaspoons lemon extract
- Approximately 2 pounds of powdered sugar
- FOR THE ROASTED PINEAPPLE
- I fresh pineapple, top, bottom, and sides removed. Cut the fruit away from the core and then cut into about ¾ inch pieces.
- Approximately 1 tablespoon of honey or agave
- A few pinches of salt
- A little bit of oil for spraying the pineapple.
- FOR THE CARROT CAKE
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl or bowl of a mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda.
- In a separate bowl, combine the canola oil, eggs, and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until well blended.
- Add the crushed pineapple, then mix until it’s all worked in, then add the walnuts and mix until worked in, and finally the grated carrots. Mix until well blended.
- Divide equally into 3, 9-inch cake pans that have been well sprayed with baking spray (and as an extra precaution you might want to cut out a round of parchment paper and line the bottom of each pan. Layer cakes take about 30 minutes to bake through, but make sure by giving it a little touch on the top. It should feel firm. Also, insert a wooden skewer or toothpick into the center and it should come out clean or have kind of clingy crumbs on it - not batter. OR you can bake it all in one layer in an 11x15 or a 13.5 x 10.75-inch pan or something close to that. OR you can cut the recipe in half and bake in one layer in a 9x13-inch pan OR if you happen to have one of those old Corningware square baking dishes (this is what Neeners always baked hers into until somebody who will not be mentioned dropped and broke the dish) that will work for half the recipe. Watch your time when baking one layer. It will take at least 45 minutes I'm betting for the recipe above. If you bake half the recipe, it will take about 30 minutes.
- FOR THE FROSTING
- Beat the cream cheese and melted butter together until light and fluffy. Add the lemon extract and beat to combine.
- Add about ⅓ of the powdered sugar and starting SLOWLY (so you do not end up covering yourself from head to foot in an explosion of powdered sugar) and working up to high speed, beat until fluffy. Repeat this process until you have either used all the powdered sugar in the recipe, or until it’s the texture you like.
- FOR THE ROASTED PINEAPPLE
- To save work in the future, line a cookie sheet with foil, and spray with cooking spray.
- Add the pieces of fresh pineapple, and drizzle lightly with honey or agave. Spray a little bit of oil over the pineapple to prevent drying out. A pinch of salt is also a good idea to balance out the flavors if you ask me.
- Roast at 350 degrees until pineapple looks cooked through and some of the edges have started to caramelize.
- Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, the chop into smaller pieces for decorating the top of the cake.
- TO ASSEMBLE
- If making a layer cake: Get out your cake plate and set the first layer down (top side down on the plate). Dollop some spoonfuls of frosting on the layer and spread out to the edges of the cake.
- Add the second layer of cake (top side down again) and repeat the frosting routine from above.
- Add the third layer of cake (this time top side UP), and frost.
- Decorate the top of the cake with roasted pineapple, slice and serve.
- If making a one-layer cake: Just frost, scatter on some pineapple, and you are good to go!