Sure December/January is the holiday season, but for my family it is also the birthday season – mom, step-mom, husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, nephew, Scott’s cousin, me, best friend and her son as well as a long list of other important friends in my life.
I have always been good about giving gifts, but this year… BAH humbug. It’s hard to be festive and conjure the holiday spirit when you don’t have a job and the money that goes along with said job. Yes, I will give away some homemade treats – lord knows I spend enough time in the kitchen – but reality (and I’m really pretending that it doesn’t bother me) stinks.
We just celebrated my husband’s birthday and I invited a few of our Cambridge friends over for dessert and drinks. I made another batch of Peanut Brittle and an incredible Carrot Cake, recipe courtesy of Chuck Hughes, the Cooking Channel (Hey Chuck, thanks to your mom for the recipe!! I love your show – Merry Chuckmas!!). To our friends who are a big part of why we love it here – I’m so glad you were available last minute! Thank you for keeping the wine and the laughter flowing! All that REALLY matters is family and friends. I need to remember that.
by Chuck Hughes
Yield: 12 servings
2 cups/500 ml all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon/15 ml baking powder
2 teaspoons/10 ml baking soda
1 teaspoon/5 ml ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5 ml allspice
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5 ml ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5 ml ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5 ml salt
1 1/2 cups/375 ml sugar
1 cup/250 ml canola oil
3 cups/750 ml peeled and grated carrots
1 cup/250 ml chopped pineapple
1 cup/250 ml walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup/125 ml dried cherries
1/2 cup/125 ml dried golden raisins
2 packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup/125 ml butter, softened
2 1/2 cups/625 ml icing sugar (I used only 2 cups)
Zest and juice of 1 orange (I hate orange zest, so I used 1 tsp.+ vanilla instead)
1/2 cup/125 ml maple syrup
1 cup/250 ml toasted walnuts
For the cake: With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Line two 8-inch (20-cm) springform pans with parchment paper. (I used 8” cake pans instead.)
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. (I freshly ground my allspice, clove and nutmeg.)
In another bowl, combine the sugar, oil and eggs with a whisk. Gently stir in the dry ingredients. With a spatula, gently fold in the carrots, pineapple, walnuts, cherries and raisins.
Divide the batter between the pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. (I baked for 55 minutes.) Cool in the pans on a rack. Run the blade of a knife around the cakes and unmold.
For the frosting: In a bowl, cream the cream cheese with the butter and icing sugar with an electric mixer. Add the zest and juice and continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
Spread the frosting over the top of the cakes and stack them on a platter.
For the maple walnuts: In a skillet, bring the syrup to a boil. Add the walnuts and stir continuously until the syrup has crystallized around the walnuts. Pour onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let cool. Garnish the cake. (These are a beautiful and tasty addition, but fyi, they do make it difficult to cut the cake.)