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March 26, 2018
This is about...
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        EASTER IS ALL ABOUT THE BUNNY. And bunnies are all about the carrots. AND IN OUR FAMILY, when I was growing up, EASTER WAS ALL ABOUT CARROT CAKE. It was a religious holiday in my house, but for my sister and me, IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE SUGAR. That morning, ALL WE EVER LOOKED FORWARD TO WERE THE LITTLE BASKETS OF CANDY HIDDEN all around the house by the “EASTER BUNNY.” We’d scour both floors looking inside and behind every curtain and door. And somehow, we would always miss one or two baskets, hidden in plain sight—tucked behind a drape or hanging high up on a curtain rod. That frustrated us, but cracked up our parents.
        AFTER SITTING RESPECTFULLY, STONE-FACED IN CHURCH, WE’D ALWAYS HEAD OFF TO GRANDMA’S FOR DINNER. By the time we arrived, my sister’s and my blood sugar levels were flying off the rails---we loved it! And although the leg of lamb, homemade rolls and dumplings were delicious, we always made sure there was still room for more sugar. Every year it would either be a huge strawberry short cake or an equally huge carrot cake, and the mandatory bowl of homemade tapioca pudding which my grandma always made for my Dad.
        UNFORTUNATELY, I NEVER GOT HER RECIPE for carrot cake, but I’ve come up with one that I like even better. IT WAS EVEN FEATURED IN THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS A FEW YEARS AGO---THAT WAS COOL! My version reduces half the oil and has raisins, walnuts and pineapple which adds an extra tart, sweet, moistness. Covered in a thick layer of cream cheese frosting, it’s the perfect finale to a sugar-laden holiday. Still, depending on how fast our blood sugar dropped, there might have been a few more pieces of candy before bed—those were the days.
        These are great cupcakes too. You’ll get about 30 from this recipe. You can easily cut it in half. ADDED BONUS: If you have a lot to make for your holiday meal, you can freeze these layers, or the cupcakes way in advance, and just frost them the day of, or even one day before.

LESSONS Learned:
1. Even though it may be tempting to use a food processor to grate them, hand grate the carrots through the large holes of a box grater. The food processor makes the carrots too wet.
2. Really squeeze all of the liquid out of the canned crushed pineapple. 3. Make sure to line the cake pans with parchment for easy removal. You don’t want the layers to break.
4. Freezing the cake works really well. Double wrap the layers in plastic wrap and then place in freezer bags or wrap in foil. You can even frost the layers frozen.
5. Unlike a buttercream frosting, you want to beat this cream cheese frosting just until it becomes creamy and becomes a little lighter in color. Overbeating it will make it curdle. Been there, done that.

Peace, Love and Cupcakes CARROT CAKE

For the Cake:
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup mild flavored oil, I use cold pressed safflower oil
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup unsweetened crushed pineapple, squeezed dry
3 cups grated carrots, about 3-4 large carrots
1 cup raisins
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

For the Frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
18 ounces (two 8 oz pkgs plus ¼ of another) full fat cream cheese, softened
6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Jelly beans or other Easter candies for decoration (optional)

Make the cake:
        Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
        Butter or spray with cooking spray two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans. If using the 8 inch pan it should measure at least 2 inches high. Cut 2 parchment circles to fit the bottoms and butter or spray the parchment again.
        Place a strainer over a medium size bowl, and sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt through it. Set aside.
        In a large bowl, with a wire whisk, combine the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Whisk in the pineapple until well incorporated. Switch to a large spoon or spatula and stir in the flour mixture until completely combined. Add the carrots, raisins and walnuts and mix until evenly distributed.
        Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans, and bake for 35-45 minutes until the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, the center is springy to the touch, and a tooth pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack. Flip right side up and cool completely.

Make the frosting:
        In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and the cream cheese, just until combined. On slow speed, add the confectioners’ sugar one cup at a time. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until creamy and a little lighter in color. Do not overbeat, or it will curdle.

Assemble the cake:
        Remove the parchment from one of the bottom of the layers. Place the layer, domed side up, on a cake plate. Scoop half of the frosting into the center of the cake. With a spoon, or spatula, spread the frosting close to the edges, but not over the edge—it will spread out when the second layer is added.
        Center the second layer on top of the first, again domed side up, and spoon the rest of the frosting on top. Spread that frosting slightly over the edge and decorate with jelly beans or other Easter candies.
        Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 12-16 servings.      YUM!
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