March 25, 2011

A Carrot Cake Comparison


Today I made five types of carrot cake, all very different, but surprisingly none of them were that great.  There were clear favourites (the two loaded with pineapple, coconut and nuts) but they were all missing a lot of flavour.  They needed depth, they tasted like plain cake with shredded carrots, which does not a carrot cake make! Even though the cake components need work, the frostings were much better.  Some were clearly out (white chocolate,) some needed work (#5) and the rest were perfectly adequate, your regular cream cheese frosting.

I found a few things out about carrot cake.
One: Raisins have no place in carrot cake.  They don't add anything, glad I learned that one early.
Two: Don't use a food processor in the making of a cake (I'm looking at you Alton Brown.)
Three: Cocoa doesn't have a place in any carrot cake of mine.
Four: A frosting can be to sweet.  I wasn't sure this was a fact, now I know it is.
Five:  The best carrot cakes involve a few extra steps, let me explain;

#1. The first carrot cake I made, I started at 6:30 this morning from a Smitten Kitchen recipe.  The comments were: the cake was not very flavourful, even though it had the most spice of all the recipes.  The cake had a great texture, but rose the least of all five.  It had no add-ins and all in all was a pretty boring cake.

#2. This cake was from Alton Brown at the food network, it got the worst reviews of the days.  The texture on this cake was terrible, it could be best described as "eggy" but I've realized since reviewing the recipe (it has no more egg than any other recipe) that it's due to the blending of ingredients in the food processor.  Bad idea.  The cake had little flavour, again it needed more spices.
#3.  This recipe came in a very clear second place.  I got it from Whipped the blog and it is loaded with goodies, like nuts (walnuts, for me win in carrot cake) and coconut.  An addition I've never tried but very much enjoy is pineapple, I'll be making all my carrot cakes with it from now on.  It adds a tonne of moisture to the cake and a really nice fruity accent.  The carrots in this recipe were pureed, which means you need to add the step of cooking the carrots and then smooshing them down.  All that extra work makes the carrot flavour really blend in, as well as not weighing the cake down with add-ins.  Next time I might add a bit of shredded carrot just for some interest, but it's not necessary.  This cake too could have used some more spice.
#4. This recipe was from my Heavenly Cakes cookbook, which I personally thought sounded the most interesting.  Unfortunately it really didn't deliver as a great carrot cake, it was interesting but very dry.  It had the addition of raisins and cocoa, which, as I stated before really aren't a good addition to this cake.  The frosting here was white chocolate based and no one liked it.
#5.  This recipe from Bon Appetit Desserts came out as the winner.  Not only did it have our favourite, pineapple to moisten it up and add flavour, the cake was drowned in a caramel-buttermilk glaze while it was still hot and then loaded with a sweet (very sweet) cinnamon-sour cream frosting.  While this cake still needs work it received 5 out of a possible 9 votes.

So I will try two things:
-the first will be to make #3 with a bit of carrot sprinkled in and some extra spices (without making it a spice cake with carrots in it)
-following that I will make #5 with walnuts instead of pecans (they're cheaper anyway), more cinnamon and vanilla in the batter.  I'll try cutting down on the sugar in the frosting (without making it to loose, as it already is quite sloppy.)

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