The Pantry: SL’s “Best Carrot Cake” My Way

Let me start by saying that Frankentoe is not my friend.   It came between me and my new mixer for far too long.  However, yesterday, I built up my stamina and hobbled around the kitchen putting together a carrot cake for my folks as a thank you gift.  I was doubtful at first as I’d never made a carrot cake, and the one I found had little resemblance to cakes I’ve made in the past.  The recipe I found through Southern Living magazine was dubbed “Best Carrot Cake,” and, despite the over 70 reviews that all gave the cake outstanding marks, I found its name to be a pretty bold claim.

It’s important to know that I’m sort of a carrot cake snob.  Yeah, as I said, I’d never made one before, but I’ve eaten a lot of them, and most of them have been—well—not that good.  In fact, I can only think of a few that have been noteworthy.  And this somehow made the idea of actually making this cake all the more daunting to me.  What if I made a sub-par cake, too?  Something as dry and tasteless as so many other carrot cakes out there?  Okay, really, nothing.  If I messed it up, then the world wouldn’t end.  I’d just find another recipe and try it again.  But this was the “Best Carrot Cake,” right?  So what could go wrong?

Turns out, things could seem to go wrong, but in the end, they turned out oh so right.  I didn’t make the cake portion as directed—I changed ingredients, made some substitutions—and it was amazing.  The cream cheese frosting, though—I made that exactly the way the recipe was written, and that frosting recipe yielded the absolute most amazingly rich frosting I have ever had in my life.  In fact, it was so rich that I’m going to have to try a less calorie laden way to make it in the future.  The butter, the cream cheese…it nearly gave me a heart attack just putting it into the bowl.

In the end, the consensus was that this was absolutely the best carrot cake any of us had ever had.  This one is getting reserved for the most special of occasions, and even then—given how rich, moist, and utterly decadent this cake was, I’ll probably bake it up in cupcake form, or work to make it much more low calorie with some healthier substitutions.

Forgive me for not reproducing the recipes here, but, well, it’s just not good manners, since they deserve all the credit they can get.  I simply didn’t have to tweak, rearrange, or add much at all.  You can find the original recipes for the cake , buttermilk glaze, and cream cheese frosting on My Recipes, Southern Living’s repository for their and sister publications’ recipes.

What I did differently:

When baking the cake, I changed the carrots, pineapple, and walnuts to : 2 ¼ cups carrots, shredded—about 5 medium carrots; 1 cup pineapple tidbits, well drained; ¾ cup chopped and toasted walnuts, toasted; and I added ¼ cup shredded and toasted coconut and 1/3 cup raisins.

I used the exact same dry ingredients for which the original recipe called.

But I did use a vinegar/ milk substitution for the buttermilk with the wet ingredients.

The batter was fairly thin, but all the cinnamon made it smell wonderful.

And the fruits and nuts were easily folded into the batter.

I used 2 9-inch pans instead of 3, and the original instructions suggested that the pans be lined with paper, which I didn’t do because I’ve had problems with parchment paper burning in the oven; however, I think if you’ve worked with parchment paper successfully before, then you should go for it because the cake is super moist and sticky.

I baked my layers for 30 minutes, then placed tin foil over the tops to keep them from browning too much, and took them out after 40 minutes.

I used a milk/ vinegar substitution for the buttermilk in both the cake and the glaze.  My suggestion–do what they say and use buttermilk–my glaze ended up with clumps that had to be seived out.

Now, I have to tell you, I let mine sit in the pans for over an hour after pouring the glaze over them because I was feeding the munchkin lunch when the timer beeped.  I should’ve just let her make a mess.  When I got around to taking them out during her nap, I discovered that the sticky glaze had adhered them to the pans.  Easy fix though—I set them in the sink in about an inch of super-hot water for a couple of minutes, and they slid out with minimal effort and only a little damage.

After I removed the cakes, I let them cool for another 15 minutes, and then frosted them.  I’m terrible at frosting cakes, so I don’t know if your experience will jive with mine, but I had about ¾ to 1 cup leftover after frosting this cake. Of course, that’s probably because there were supposed to be three layers, not two.

Now, make the cake, and nvite some people over.

And, for heaven’s sake, send ’em home with leftovers so you don’t eat the rest yourself!

This is all that’s left of ours:

Enjoy!

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