I have a confession to make; I used to despise carrot cake. Truly, utterly, and deeply. My carrot cake eating experiences had always been characteristically stringy, with the carrot pieces still too chewy, and the cake was always really dry. The cream cheese icing was also never cream-cheese-y enough for my taste. But that was before I had one little slice of carrot cake that turned my whole world upside down. Well, not really, but it WAS pretty darn tootin' good. It was while I was working NBC's press tour. Lunch was provided for us and so I went down the lunch buffet with my plate, a little bit of cheese here, some deli meats there, and then I came to the dessert selection at the end. I don't know what made me pick the carrot cake when I've always hated carrot cake, maybe it was because I was delirious from standing for the past 5 hours running a microphone back and forth between various members of the press in a giant ballroom, but I took a piece and sat down and started eating. It was wonderful; moist, soft, rich, and with the best cream cheese frosting I have ever had, hands down. I told Jeremy about it and he confided that carrot cake was his favorite cake of all, which kind of weirded me out. Not chocolate? Not yellow cake? Red velvet? Carrot? Really? But, like any loving girlfriend, I knew that on his birthday I would make the cake he wanted. So last week I scoured cookbooks and the internet, looking for nuances in various carrot cakes recipes that I wanted to combine into one ultimate carrot cake. Crushed pineapple sounded interesting, and I liked the idea of coconut, but hate shredded coconut baked into things (once again, the weird stringy texture), so I used coconut milk to add the coconut flavor instead. It came out perfect, incredibly moist and soft and full of that cinnamon brown sugar-y carrot cake flavor. The best carrot cake I've ever had, and Jeremy, too.
.....It was so good, in fact, that three days later Jeremy asked me to marry him. Yes, we are engaged! I couldn't be happier about it. We spent the weekend in San Francisco and he proposed at the end of the day in the pouring down rain by the seaside. We were completely alone on the pier at night and it was wonderfully romantic and sweet and perfect. So here's to carrot cake, and all the joy it brings.
2 and 1/2 Cups Shredded Carrots
Reserved Carrot Tops (optional for decoration)
2 and 1/3 Cups Flour
1 and 1/2 Cups White Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Canned Coconut Milk
3/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Drained Crushed Pineapple
1/2 Cup Crushed Pecan Pieces
1/3 Cup Crushed Walnut Pieces
2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
First, make the cream cheese frosting. Then place it in the refrigerator to help it harden a bit. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then cut (3) 8-inch circles out of parchment paper and place them in the bottoms of 3 well-greased 8-inch cake pans. Set them aside.
Mix together the dry ingredients, except the nuts, in a medium-sized bowl. Set it aside. Then mix together the oil and sugars in a large bowl until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the coconut milk and vanilla extract and mix until blended. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until they are just combined. Stir in the shredded carrots, crushed pineapple, and nuts.
Evenly distribute the cake batter between the 3 cake pans and bake them in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes, then shake the pan slightly to loosen the grip of the cake. Allow the pans to cool for another 20 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans.