Finally, A Carrot Cake Victory

Bob and Debra

Debra Deyan with her late husband, Bob after winning the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Audio Publishers Association.

Today, my friend Nicol Zanzarella (audiobook reader and actress extraordinaire) and I decided we needed to take our friend Debra Deyan, owner of Deyan Audio, out for a belated birthday lunch. Deyan Audio records audiobooks and has won so many Audie Awards (the audiobook equivalent of the Oscars) it’s almost unfair.  Deb and Nicol are amazing, and two of the most driven, dedicated people I know, so getting together with them is always a treat for me.

I decided to surprise Deb with “Fran’s Clearly Superior Carrot Cake” for Deb’s birthday because it’s her favorite.  I called this blog, “Finally, A Carrot Cake Victory,” because last time I wrote about my carrot cake, it was a cake-off with my friend, Joan, and I came in second.  Well, I was vindicated by the popular vote this time around and couldn’t have been happier. Honestly, my self-esteem clearly needs so much propping up sometimes!

We went to a  restaurant in Burbank called Market City Cafe. As soon as we walked in, the waitress was so sweet, she asked if she could put the cake in the refrigerator for us!  How many places do that? Usually they give you the stink eye for not buying their dessert!

Then we sat on the patio and talked for a few hours, which was wonderful.  As we were wrapping it up, our fabulous waitress (I think her name was Alexa, but I could be totally wrong)  got the cake out and put the candles on it for me. (All I had was the 22 left from my daughter’s birthday, so I brought them because who doesn’t want to be 22 again?)

Fran's Carrot Cake

Fran’s Clearly Superior Carrot Cake, it’s almost healthy!

Alexa brought it out lit and ready to go.  (I’m so mad I didn’t get a photo of any of this!) So, since our waitress was so nice I told her she could have a slice.  She was eating it in the back where another server saw. She asked if he wanted a bite, and he dismissed it, saying his grandmother’s was the best.

He begrudgingly took a bite, and became a convert. He liked it so much, he came to our table and said, “Who made the cake?” I said I did and he said it was better than his grandmother’s, but he would never tell her that. Honest to God, for a baker that is the highest compliment you can get! I was beaming.

Then, because we were sitting outside, a woman walking past, who apparently had just eaten there, asked if it was the restaurant’s cake. We said no, then she asked if she could have a piece. (Gutsy, but kind of funny!) Then Alexa asked if I would share the recipe and if she could have a piece to take back to her boyfriend. It was kind of like a feeding frenzy, minus the sharks. I wondered who else might come along and want some.

I took the opportunity to hand out a few of my blog business cards, where my carrot cake recipe lives, and enjoyed basking in the warmth of cake adulation. When you get fantastic feedback on something you’ve made — it feels like applause and totally makes your day. Sitting with an accomplished actress and a business tycoon could make a person feel a little insecure, but the accolades propped me right up. I completely understand why my mother loved food praise. It was her moment on stage, every day.

Maybe that’s why I cook so much, I’m just starved for attention. Well, today I got it and it was great! Now you know how shallow I am. The link to Fran’s Clearly Superior Carrot Cake is above, but in case you missed it, I’m posting it again. There seems to be a demand.

Fran’s Clearly Superior Carrot Cake

(This would never exist if it wasn’t for Donna Tunno’s Award Winning Carrot Cake recipe, with which I took some liberties.)

Carrot cake recipes

Donna’s neatly printed card, smeared by many bakings, then my adaptation underneath.

2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1 cup chopped toasted pecans (Toast about 10 min at 350, but watch them carefully, so they don’t burn. As soon as they’re aromatic, take them out.

3 c. grated carrots (press them down with your hand so they’re densely packed but not totally squished)

1 20 oz. can drained, crushed pineapple (process it if you don’t want small chunks of pineapple in your cake but I like the small chunks)

3/4 c. canola oil

2 c. sugar

4 eggs

1 cup toasted finely chopped pecans to press on the sides of the cake (These MAKE the cake!)

I always toast my pecans first, toasting them adds a whole new layer of flavor – trust me! That way they have time to cool before adding them to the batter. I toast them whole, then chop the ones I put in the cake by hand, so they’re not too fine. I put the second cup of toasted pecans in the food processor and finely chop them and set them aside.  Then, I put my pineapple in a strainer and let it drain.  Then I peel and process my carrots, then set them aside. (This cake is some work, but the accolades are worth it.)

Combine all dry ingredients:  flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in one medium bowl.  Combine oil, sugar, eggs and drained pineapple in second large bowl.  Add dry ingredients to the oil mixture. Blend in carrots and pecans.

Flour and grease two 9″ cake pans and divide batter into pans.   Bake at 350 for 40 min to an hour (test with toothpick starting at 40 min.) And here’s a tip from a friend whose cakes were always so moist. After you take the cake out of the pan, wrap it in plastic wrap, so ask it cools, it retains the moisture. This cake is moist anyway, but that makes it even more moist

If you make cupcakes, they only take 20 minutes, but test them with a toothpick first. If it comes out dry, your cupcakes are ready. Donna’s recipe is for a bundt cake, but I like baking two layer cakes because of the additional cream cheese in the middle. Once the cake is cool, ice it and press the chopped toasted pecans all around the sides.

Fran’s Cream Cheese Frosting 

1 8 oz. package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1/2 c .butter

1 lb. confectioners sugar

4 Tbsp. half and half or whipping cream

Pinch of salt (to taste)

1 to 2 tsp. vanilla

Bring cream cheese and butter to room temperature.  Mix well in an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add confectioners sugar, vanilla, half and half and salt. Be sure to taste to see if there’s enough salt.  When thoroughly combined, apply to cooled cake.  Then decorate with dots and enjoy!  So what if the kids laugh!

The Carrot Cake Off

Pretty much every baker in the United States has a carrot cake recipe.  Each one is convinced that hers/his is the absolute best. Clearly, this can’t be true because mine is actually the best.  It wasn’t always the best, but I’ve finessed and finessed it and now I’d put it up against anyone’s carrot cake recipe, even Joan, the queen of cakes.  (My sister-in-law, Donna is going to have a nervous breakdown over this because my recipe is a variation on her recipe and she’s convinced hers is the best.)  Continue reading