April 03, 2011

Tropical Carrot Cake

Last weekend I made another cake.  This time I used a recipe from another blog.   It turned out really good, but I learned that I still have an awful lot to learn about frosting and decorating cakes.

I made a Tropical Carrot Cake, using a recipe presented on one of our favorite blogs, Annie's Eats.  I tend to like carrot cake anyhow, but this one sounded unusually good due to the addition of ample amounts of tropical elements, such as pineapple, coconut and macadamia nuts.  I was sold!

The recipe makes a three-layer cake with cream cheese icing.   Everything else about the cake is pretty easy, but I had quite a frustrating time with the frosting.   

The biggest problem was temperature.  My kitchen was pretty warm when I tried icing the cake, and before I was very far into the process, the icing got warm, and more liquid, which made spreading it a bit of a chore.   Since then, I've read recommendations that after preparing this sort of icing, one should refrigerate it for a half hour or so before putting it on the cake.  I'll definitely do that next time. 

As if the basic frosting wasn't enough of a chore, I had the brilliant idea of coloring some of the frosting and using that to add some decorative elements to the cake.   This was my first time ever using a pastry bag, and I now understand why people who make a lot of cakes take classes in cake decorating.  It didn't go easily.   I had assumed a pastry bag would be a pretty straight-forward tool, but I was wrong.  The warmth of the frosting was a bit of an issue here as well, but I think the primary problem was that I simply didn't know what the heck I was doing.

Nobody would mistake my cake for a professionally-decorated one, but despite all the above, I think it came out okay for a first time using this sort of icing and for my first try at using a pastry bag.  More importantly than how the cake looked, though, was the flavor, and in this area, I had no complaints.   The cake was really, really good.

The interior was moist - more so than most carrot cakes I've had - and very flavorful, and it had a bit of chew to it due to the bits of pineapple and coconut and nuts.  It was also somewhat lighter in texture than I'd expected, and in a good way.   The richly-flavored icing went well with the cake, though it did make it so rich that a very thin slice was more than enough for a serving (the first slice I took from the cake, as shown, is probably enough for three servings!

Juli and I had a bit of this, but I took most of it to work to share with my colleagues.   I was not surprised, but was still gratified, that it was a bit hit with my coworkers.  We recently added a new nurse to our staff, and when I introduced myself to her, the other nurses described me as "our baker."  I think I have a lot to learn before I claim any sort of expertise with baking, but their description was still among the nicest things I've ever been called.

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