I’m a strong supporter of the expression “time flies when you’re having fun.” A lengthy car ride can be excruciating yet a week of beachside vacation seems to be over as quickly as you can blink.
This past weekend, my younger brother graduated college.
I’m not especially weepy about the event in and of itself – graduations are a blast. The two-hour ceremony (which I correctly predicted would be similar in nature to the car ride I described above) is a small price to pay for a weekend of restaurants, parties and dorky photos of a few thousand cap-and-gowned entrants to the already sparse job market.
The part that gets me is the fact that if my little brother is old enough to graduate college than that makes me…well, not old, exactly but older. Older than I was three years ago when I walked across a stage, in the shortest heels I could find to decrease the likelihood of tripping, to receive my own diploma.
Graduating is both exciting (a time for celebration) and scary (what comes next?) Luckily, I can’t think of better remedy for nerves or a better way to celebrate than cake. My brother, who in his early youth sustained a strict, self-imposed diet regimen of hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and plain cheese pizza, has for some reason always loved carrot cake.
Why he would choose a vegetable-based cake over, say, a chocolate cake with chocolate on top of more chocolate, is beyond me, but what the graduate wants, the graduate gets.
And as a side note, did you know that carrot cake batter is really orange? Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting but my shock was palpable when I peeked over the rim of the bowl of my KitchenAid and saw what was going on in there.
Walnut Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 pound raw carrots (about 2 1/2 cups finely grated)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting:
¼ cup unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp. lemon zest (about one small lemon)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350F and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter or spray 9 x 2 inch cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper (I was out of parchment paper and had to wiggle the pans a little in order to remove the cakes, but they didn’t stick significantly.
2. Toast the pecans or walnuts for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely. Peel and finely grate the carrots. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the eggs until frothy (about 1 minute). Gradually add the sugar and beat until the batter is thick and light colored, about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the oil in a steady stream and then beat in vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. With a large rubber spatula, fold in carrots and walnuts.
5. Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. After about ten minutes, invert the cakes onto the wire rack, remove the pans and let cool completely before frosting.
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese and butter on low speed, or until just blended or with no lumps (or in my case, a few lumps that you can cleverly disguise later with walnuts). Graudally add sugar until fully incorporated and smooth. Blend in vanilla and lemon zest.
2. To assemble: Place one cake layer, top side down on your serving plate (or use a level or serrated knife to remove cake’s crown). Spread with about 1/3 of frosting. Gently place the other cake, top side up, onto the frosting and spread the rest over the top and sides of cake. If desired, top cake with remaining toasted walnuts or pecans.