A Year of Cakes: Let's Start with Carrots

The Year of Cakes is one of my goals in 2015: to bake at least one cake a month, complete with icing and decorations. By the end of it, I want to feel comfortable enough to create my own cake recipes. 

Mike and I have been drowning in carrots since our winter CSA started up last month. I love carrots; and I could eat these sweet, crunchy things everyday, with or without hummus. But there's just something about adding something so good for you to cake that's appealing to me. Let's call it having your veggies and eating your cake, too. (We don't have to call it that, don't worry.)
I've been wanting to make a carrot cake for a while now. Mike's parents had a delicious carrot cake at Thanksgiving, and I hadn't been able to shake the flavors of it. Now that I had the carrots, I just needed the recipe.
The goal of this year of making cakes is to get comfortable enough with making cakes that I can start experimenting with my own recipes and flavor combinations. But to start, I wanted to use a recipe of someone I've admired for a while: Izy from Top with Cinnamon. After a long search, I settled on her recipe for carrot cake, as posted on Design*SpongeI won't paste the recipe here (I didn't stray from it this time), but I will say that I found I needed more frosting than her recipe makes (and Mike still complained that he wanted more between the layers). I also made the little carrots using regular old food dye and pastry bags. 

Part of this challenge for me is also in the decorating, so I went with the outer layer of toasted coconut along with the traditional carrots on top. I was surprised to find that the decorating/icing makes as much of a mess as the actual baking of the cake, but it was worth it. I spaced out the two enough that it didn't feel like I was washing dishes all day (even though I was).
In all, I think this mission is off to a great start! We took the cake over to our friends' house for a game night, and it was a real hit. I was a little worried right after I mixed the shredded carrots, which I shredded using a food processor, into the batter; they looked a little too thick and long. I thought they'd have a strange texture in the finished cake, but I needn't have worried! The carrots added a nice slight crunch in the cake, which balanced nicely with the chewy raisins sprinkled throughout. At first, the taste of the orange zest was distracting for me (perhaps because it's not a flavor I associate with carrot cake?), but it eventually grew on me. It brightened the cake and served as a nice foil to the spicy nutmeg and ginger flavors.

I would definitely make this cake again (and I will! I have so many raisins!). I might pull back on the orange zest next time, and definitely double (or triple) the icing recipe to make sure I have enough. I'd also probably change the ratio of cream cheese to powdered sugar in the icing; I prefer my icings less sweet and a little more savory for a carrot cake.

The cake is all gone now (my coworkers finished it off), but at least we have these Instagram shots to remember her by...
Follow along on Instagram using the hashtag #yearofcakes!

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